I sat in the back pew, waiting for the end of a sermon I wasn’t expecting much from. After all, I knew all this stuff. I had heard this basic message before, and I had read those words from the prophet Isaiah countless times. Besides, I had enough on my mind to keep me from giving full attention to what I was hearing.
We had two houses up for sale–the one we lived in and the one we’d left behind five years previously, right before the bottom fell out of the housing market. We were determined to finally sell one–whatever it took–and live in the other, and I felt completely unsettled. We had sunk all we had into getting them ready for sale, and we were financially quite vulnerable. I was struggling in my job, which I liked but which didn’t feel like the right place for me anymore and increasingly felt like a trap, when a desperate sense of calling was pulling me elsewhere but I couldn’t see my way past the financial obstacles. And everyday was full of the demands, challenges, and worries of everyone who has growing kids, a marriage, and a mortgage. I had a lot to think about.
But then, as the speaker read a passage from Isaiah, something made those words cut right through the clutter in my mind. I was startled, as if suddenly waking from a fast-receding dream. I heard these words in a way I hadn’t before:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
I sat upright, faced with a new sense of awe at this Creator who wields such power over everything that seems so big to us. And suddenly a thought I hadn’t engendered confronted me: If this is the God I’m serving, how can I worry about anything? How can I believe I’m in charge? If he knows how to keep track of all the stars, how can I not entrust myself to his care?
All at once, my perspective zoomed out and I saw a new picture of my life. I’d never realized how worried I was, and suddenly I saw it clearly. I worried daily, almost constantly. I was so used to living with a high level of anxiety, I didn’t even notice it or think it was a problem until it made my heart pound and my stomach churn. I had a sense of responsibility completely out of keeping for someone with a realistic picture of what she can and cannot control. I was constantly frustrated with my limited knowledge of the future–which I could never see. And I had a motivating desire for more control than would ever be appropriate for someone who claimed to be a beloved child of this magnificent God Isaiah spoke of.
The change in my life wasn’t instant, although a new way of thinking began in that wide-eyed moment. So did a quest to discover more about what God’s Word had to say on the subject of worry. I started with the most familiar passages about worry and anxiety: Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34, 1 Peter 5:7. But after seeing Isaiah’s words in a new light, I figured there may be more places in Scripture that address worry less directly. I was right, and I didn’t have to work hard to find them; suddenly it seemed as if every passage I read was related to worry in some way. My morning devotional pointed me to passages. Sermons reminded me of texts I hadn’t read with that perspective in mind. Conversations with others sent me to the Bible to read more. And what I discovered did change my life. God really does care about our worry. He is offended by it, and he has made this abundantly clear throughout his historic relationship with humankind. But he always gives us a reason not to worry. And that reason is firmly planted not in a denial of the world we live in and all the reasons it gives us to worry, but in who our God is.
As I explored what the Bible says on this topic, my view of God began to change, and along with it my view of myself. As these things changed, I grew much more sensitive to the habit of worry in my life. When that habit itself began to change, I realized that the change happened not because I had made an exhausting effort to address a habit through changing my behavior, although I did give this some effort. The change really happened because my theology changed. God had transformed me through the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).
I felt liberated, grateful, and passionate about this change in me. So I did what writers naturally do: I wrote about it.
I’m excited to announce that my book on the subject of worry is now available for pre-order. It’s called Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. The book is scheduled for release in October, but you can read more about it (and order it if you’d like!) here. If nothing else, you have to click over and see the adorable cover those folks at InterVarsity Press came up with.
I’ll have more to say on this topic as the year progresses. Today I’m simply celebrating this book’s approaching appearance in the world and the personal growth it represents. I hope it will help others see their lives, and their Creator, in a new way–a way that shows that despite all the reasons we have to worry, we have one very powerful reason not to. And that one reason is enough.
© 2014 Amy Simpson.