Sometimes worrying is one of my favorite pastimes. Perhaps this is the case because worry can be the easiest thing to do, much like breathing.
That said, in my experience, most people I know worry about something at least once in a while.
The word worry comes from an old English word, which means to strangle. The image of equating worry with being strangled is spot on in my view. It connotes that when we are really ramped up, it can be hard to breathe.
Isn’t it interesting that one of the most common phrases we hear now in our culture is, “no worries.” From the number of people who say “no worries” you would think no one worries about a thing in the US.
Scripture addresses the topic of fear over and over and Jesus repeatedly spoke about worry and anxiety. Jesus said, “Through it all, do not be anxious. Do not fear. Do not worry. Trust me. Stand firm in your trust in me and in your perseverance to put one foot in front of the other.”
After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Paul and others shared Jesus’ “fear not” message. One such example is found in 2 Thessalonians. Here we find some great counsel of how to respond to worry. That counsel to each of us? Slow down. Stay in the here and now. And stand on what we know.
Slowing down and staying in the here and now, while not always easy, is precisely the opposite of what happens when we worry. Worry is all about sped up future focused thoughts. Slowing down and focusing on the now combats worry and helps move our thinking to the present moment.
And when we slow down and stay in the here and now, we need to fill the vacuum of space that is created with something else, other than worry. Paul, Silas and Timothy in their letter encouraged people then and therefore each of us now, to fill that void with what we are told throughout scripture.
In other words, when we stop focusing on the future and pay attention to the now, space is created for other thoughts. Paul advises we fill some of that space with the foundational teachings of our faith. Here is a sampling of such teachings, great antidotes to worry and sped up future focused thinking.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7). Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. (Isaiah 41:10). I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fear. (Psalm 34:4). Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6).
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in God’s house. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come and get you so that you will always be with me where I am. (John 14). Everyone that believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3).
When we let go of worry and instead focus on the now and words of scripture, we slow down, think more clearly, act more wisely, and calm down.
It is interesting to point out that one word in the Bible used for worry in Greek actually means to be “thrown out of a natural state”. In other words, God did not give us life to live in a state of worry. It is not natural.
Another way to look at worry is to envision worry much like a thief. Worry is a thief that shakes us at our roots and shifts our attention to focus on what is wrong or awry. It is a thief that is running rampant throughout this nation.
Worry is a thief because it diminishes our trust and distracts us from the One we should be keeping our eyes upon. Worry is a thief because when we are faced with an obstacle, it causes us to focus on the obstacle instead of the One who can get us through it. Worry is a thief because it puts our attention on the dam before us, instead of the openings, that are often there.
Worry is a thief because it gets us to focus on what might happen next, instead of on the promises we have received from God through Jesus. Worry is a thief because it can rob us of life.
Wherever you are with worrying this day, I invite you to join me in praying and turning that worry over to God where all our worries belong to begin with.