Several years ago, my brother was killed in an airplane crash. The crash was believed to be caused by a bomb planted on board the plane. Terrorism was suspected. Since that day, my mom has been gripped by worry every time my other brother and I travel. No one would fault her based on what our family experienced.
I come from a long line of worriers. Although our faith is important, we never talked about how to live worry free. We managed worry. But as I began to study worry in Scripture, I realized that worry should not be managed. It should be totally eliminated. Jesus was very specific about worry. In Matthew 6:34, He stated, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (New International Version). Would Christ ask us to do something that was impossible for us to carry out?
You might be thinking, "Okay, but doesn’t everyone worry — especially because of hard real-life experiences?" Worry is one of the easiest things to do; especially considering the world in which we live. We can worry about anything — nuclear war, unrest in the Middle East, overwhelming bills, a rocky marriage, wayward children, aging parents, and even what to wear! From major to minor concerns, the potential for worry is ever present. Nevertheless, justified or not, "give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you" (1 Peter 5:7, New Living Translation).
Worry is enticing because we believe it serves a purpose. We may falsely assume that worry stops bad things from happening, prepares us for the worst possible outcome, or shows compassion. Although we may "feel" like we are doing something, worry does none of these things. Rather, worry takes a toll on our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual lives. Worry strangles the joy out of life.
Worry can impact our physical health. It causes stress hormones to be released, which consequently damages our bodies. Worry also causes cardiac activation (regardless of whether the source of our concern actually takes place). In addition, high levels of worry can cause coronary heart disease, lead to unhealthy habits (such as smoking and drinking), and result in an early death.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6, New International Version). And in order to worry, we have to give up our faith in God’s ability to protect our best interest. In essence, worry is the antithesis of faith.
So how do we stop worrying when everything around us tells us that we should? We begin by:
1. Letting go of the idea that worry is useful. When we truly believe that worry has no place in our lives, we embark upon freedom.
2. Engaging our will. In Luke 21:14, Jesus urged the disciples to "make up their minds not to worry." This indicates that we must make a choice not to fret or be fearful. Worried thoughts will frequently come to your mind. When they do, don’t try to suppress them. Instead take fearful thoughts captive by speaking the Word of God: Isaiah 40:29-31 promised that God "gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless"; Philippians 4:19 promised that "God will supply all my needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus"; Hebrews 13:5 promised that God "will never leave me or forsake me"; and so on!
3. Understanding the true character of God. Sometimes, we assign attributes to God that reflect our experiences with untrustworthy people. When this happens, doubt and worry creeps in. Thus, we must consistently renew our minds and expectations with the Word of God (Romans 12:2). Faith can trump worry when we know (and sincerely believe) who God says He is.