Should you be worried?
Well, if you’re like me, and in this regard I feel confident that you are, you have many reasons to worry. And you probably spend a lot of time and energy worrying–but you haven’t admitted it yet. My new book, Anxious, is written for people like you: people who aren’t convinced worry is a problem in their lives. People who don’t even know they’re imprisoned and so can’t envision freedom. So let me start by saying you are worried. And now I’ll tell you why.
As I write this, I’m keeping one eye on my backyard, where a small lake has formed after two days of relentless and sometimes violent storms. I’m praying for the rain to stop and the waters to recede. I’m thinking about my friends and neighbors who have basements full of water and boats floating down their suburban streets, and I’m worrying that my house will flood as well. Ironically, just a few months ago, I was worried about a drought that threatened not only the local area but most of the nation’s agriculture.
A quick glance at the news will remind me of a thousand other, bigger reasons to worry. Terrorism can and does strike anywhere, at any time. We face a growing global nuclear threat. Climate change, which might have something to do with the droughts and floods literally in my own backyard, is making our natural world less predictable–and we don’t know where it will lead us. Unemployment and economic recession threaten the well-being of so many families. Public rhetoric is brash and angry. Religions and worldviews clash bitterly. Diseases spread globally. Animals face extinction while nonnative species thrive in places they never should be living.
The news is bleeding with stories of mass murder, gun violence, genocide, war, rape, suicide and other forms of violence. The World Health Organization tells us fifteen thousand people die each day from injuries of all kinds. That’s one person every five seconds. In many parts of the world, gender-based discrimination wages war against women and girls. And my own preteen and teenage girls, like all American kids their age, stand at the edge of a world brimming with more choices than they can possibly make on their own, a world that places very few limits on what they can do but would happily consume them–that is staged to lure them into self-destruction, addiction and lies that promise greater freedom among the yawning, gleaming, pretty teeth of cruel traps.
So do we have reason to worry? You bet we do–about all this and more. And our culture tells us worrying is not only justified; it’s the right thing to do. If you aren’t worried, you are either (1) dead, (2) comatose or (3) seriously out of step with our culture.
But while our culture tells us one thing, God tells us another. He tells us not to worry. And yes, he is fully aware of all the reasons we think we should worry. He tells us to expend our energy instead on exercising faith in him and his character. Embracing faith is the one human choice God values most–above showing kindness, trying to be good and following all the rules. One cannot love God–the greatest commandment–without exercising faith. Faith is what turns our ordinary acts of love into acts in service to God. Faith is the one thing without which he tells us “it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
Unless you’re a tremendously unique person, you worry. And because of the environment we live in, you may not even recognize it. Worry is a rebellious choice we usually don’t take very seriously. But it is serious. Willful worry amounts to rejection of God’s character and damages our capacity for the life he calls us to. A close look at Scripture shows us worry has always been a frequent point of correction between God and his people because it undermines that very faith he requires and rewards. Worry is still chronically undermining the faith and courage of Christians in this age. It is rooted in a theological misunderstanding of who God is, the nature of life in this world and our place in the universe. Overcoming worry starts not with a list of therapeutic steps but with a reorientation around the truth about God, who is not threatened by what scares us.
© 2014 Amy Simpson.