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Three weapons against worry

By Bradley T. Trask

It promotes sleepless nights, threatens our serenity during daylight hours, chisels lines on our faces and nurtures numerous maladies. What is this culprit that seeks to harm our minds, souls and bodies? Many have identified it as anxiety, fear or panic attacks. Jesus Christ called it worry.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the lessons from our Lord illustrate that, when it comes to worry, people have changed little through the centuries. In Matthew 6, Christ challenges His audience in five areas related to worry:

Finances. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (v. 19, NIV).

Food. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink” (v. 25a).

Fitness. “… your body” (v. 25b).

Fashion. “And why do you worry about clothes?” (v. 28).

Future. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (v. 34).

Christ challenges us to identify worry over any of these areas in our lives. We might hesitate for fear of finding something unpleasing to God and nonproductive to our Christian walk. But the objective is not to bring condemnation, but freedom.

Someone wisely said, “Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.” Charles Swindoll said, “Worry pulls tomorrow’s cloud over today’s sunshine.” One might respond, “You don’t understand my life. It’s plagued with mistakes, obstacles and uncertainties. Doesn’t that make it natural for me to worry and fear?” Jesus’ counsel to us, regardless of our past or present circumstances, is to replace worry with trust.

Consider three by-products of worry and three strategies that will assist in combating worry.

Worry demonstrates faithlessness
It is impossible to trust God and worry at the same time. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus states three different times, “Do not worry.” Christ understood and endeavored to convey to His followers that when we choose to worry we are in essence saying, “God, we don’t trust You enough to rely on You.” Worry is calculating life and its challenges without placing God in the equation. It demonstrates our lack of faith in Him to work on our behalf. The writer of Hebrews states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrew 11:6). For followers of Jesus Christ, faith and worry are mutually exclusive.

Worry produces fruitlessness
Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27). Worry will contribute nothing positive to your life. The medical community links worry to attacks on our emotional and physical well-being. Dr. Charles Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic, wrote: “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the digestive system, and the entire nervous system. I’ve never known a person to die of overwork, but many who died from worry.”

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Mark Twain stated, “I have worried about a great many things in life, most of which have never happened.” A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan concluded that 60 percent of our worries are unwarranted; 20 percent have already become past activities and are completely beyond our control; 10 percent are so petty that they don’t make any difference at all in regards to our lives. Of the remaining 10 percent only 4 percent to 5 percent are real and/or justifiable, and half of those we can do absolutely nothing about. So, according to this study, only about 2 percent of our worries are valid.

The U.S. Bureau of Standards states that a dense fog extensive enough to cover seven city blocks, 100 feet deep, is composed of one 8-ounce glass of water divided into 60,000 million droplets. One 8-ounce glass of water, spread out, can shut down an airport. Worry is just like the fog; it can render your life fruitless and ineffective.

Worry leaves us fatherless
Twice within this passage (Matthew 6:26,32) Christ states that we have a Heavenly Father who cares for us. When our focus is on circumstances, events and people rather than on our Heavenly Father, worry will consume us. The great preacher George W. Truett said, “Worry is a mild form of atheism.” When we worry, we act as if we have no Heavenly Father.

A ship was sailing from Liverpool, England, to New York. The captain of the ship had his family with him when the ship found itself in a terrible storm. In the midst of the storm the captain’s 8-year-old daughter was awakened and inquired of her mother, “What’s the matter?”

Her mother replied that they were in a terrible storm. The captain’s daughter quickly asked, “Is Father on deck?”

“Yes, Father is on deck,” the mother replied. Without hesitation the little girl lay her head on her pillow and went back to sleep. Likewise, we must remind ourselves that in each storm of life our Heavenly Father is on deck.

Strategies to combat worry are straightforward. There is no cure-all for worry, but these steps can effectively reduce the worry in your life.

Learn proper perspective
When facing a crisis or challenge in our lives we must resist the temptation to focus solely on the situation. Instead, we should train ourselves to concentrate on our Heavenly Father. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). If we continually dwell on difficult situations, our perspective easily becomes distorted. Conversely, if we will place our focus on Jesus Christ during difficulties, proper perspective will be the result.

Live for today
Each of us can only live today. As much as we may desire to revisit the past and plan for the future, both continually elude us and even distract us from maximizing “today.” Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Jesus himself modeled this concept as He lived His life on earth. Christ knew that the cross awaited Him; however, a preoccupation with the cross did not interfere with His day-to-day activities and relationships. Nor was He hindered by the negative response to His ministry, which plagued Him for approximately three and a half years. Instead, He exhibited the importance of living today. He understood that each day presented unique opportunities, and to embrace worry concerning the past or future events was a deterrent to accomplishing the tasks that “today” represented.

Each of us faces difficulties regarding our pasts and challenges that await us. We are all tempted to worry rather than trust God. However, if we desire to emulate Christ, we must follow His example and live today while trusting God for the strength that will be needed to overcome the past and face the future.

Leave your worry with Him
Jesus said, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). When Jesus Christ is not first in someone’s life, he or she will naturally be fearful and worry. There are
individuals who have accepted Christ, but failed to recognize the importance of leaving worry at the feet of Jesus. Conversely, the believer who leaves fears and worry at the feet of Jesus discovers that Jesus wants to be the burden bearer of our lives. Understanding this concept will enhance an individual’s life and liberate him or her to live a life that is worry-free.

I combated worry after a near-fatal van accident. In February 1981, I was traveling through rural South Dakota with my basketball team from North Central University. We hit an ice patch, which caused the van to roll several times and sent me out a side window and through a barbed wire fence. Then the van landed on top of me. God miraculously spared my life; however, after the accident I could not ride in a van without literally feeling physically ill.

In December of 1981, I joined my family on a cross-country trip to visit my sister for the holidays. While en route (in a van) we encountered a snowstorm. My stomach churned and my mind raced as the van slid and careened over the icy roads. Fear overwhelmed me. Then God spoke to my heart and asked me, “Brad, don’t you trust Me?” I reflected on the severity of the accident earlier that year, and how God had spared my life. In spite of His provision, this fear had a stranglehold on me. This realization caused me personal pain, because I recognized that my relationship with God was flawed.

On those icy, snow-covered roads I applied the three-step strategy against worry and God instantaneously removed this fear from my life. I slept peacefully for the remainder of the trip. To this day, I have not experienced the physical or mental anguish concerning vans.

Are there areas of worry within your life that need to be eradicated? If so, be honest with yourself and transparent with God. Regardless of the type or size of the worry you face, your Heavenly Father is able to calm your fears and give you His peace.

Bradley T. Trask is dean of ministries at North Central University (Assemblies of God) in Minneapolis, Minn.

Adapted with permission from Trusting God: Strength and Encouragement For Troubled Times, compiled and edited by George O. Wood, Hal Donaldson and Ken Horn (Springfield, Mo.: Onward Books, 2002).

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