What’s the Problem with Worry?

Because worry is so pervasively embedded in our culture and our daily experience, it’s easy to dismiss it as benign, when done in moderation, or simply as a widespread bad habit. It’s socially acceptable even among Christians who occasionally become aware that our worry is excessive and sort of apologize for it without repentance: “I know I shouldn’t worry so much.”

Yet we are called to live and think differently. The fact is, worry is destructive. And a look through Scripture shows us that worry is sinful–a rebellious activity that creates distance between us and God. Voluntary worry grows from a spiritual problem, which ultimately cannot be overcome merely through an act of the will–the solution is rooted entirely in who God is. God has repeatedly told us not to worry, not only in the well-known words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6 but also throughout the Old Testament and in the epistles to the early church.

We say we know we shouldn’t worry, but we don’t seem to give much thought to why worry offends God. Yet understanding the theology of worry is critical to true transformation. And I hope, as we think that through, it will encourage you to turn away from worry–an activity that is destructive not only “in excess” as our culture defines it, but in any amount.

Rejecting worry starts with recognizing why worry offends God and accepting our proper relationship to him, to the future, and to the people and things he has placed in our care. Then we must practice doing what he has told us to do.

So if you’re worried, as many of us are, and you want to change that habit, how do you do that? You can try to just stop worrying, but simply changing a behavior doesn’t address the true source of the problem. For real and lasting change, you also need to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom 12:2). Of course, that transformative process is conducted and guided by God and his Holy Spirit, not by us. But we can choose to welcome and cooperate with that work, or we can choose to fear, resent and resist it.

We can be transformed not just because we choose to behave differently, but because God changes our very hearts and minds. And as our mindsets change, our behavior will too. As you seek to welcome this process of transformation in your life, try making yourself more receptive to God’s influence. Surround and saturate yourself with the truth about God: who he is and why he is trustworthy and who you are in relationship to him. Ask God to change the way you think about him, about yourself, about everything. He loves to do this sort of thing, so get ready.

As you understand more of who God is and how he reveals himself to us, another important step is necessary: you must believe what God says. This is much easier said than done. Even though we believe in God and theoretically believe he is all-powerful and loving, sometimes it’s hard to really believe he is in control of the world we live in, he will never leave us and the people we love, he is aware of absolutely everything we need and capable of providing it, he knows us better than we know ourselves, he is far more powerful than absolutely everything and everyone who scares us, and he has a great plan and a great view of realms and reasons we can’t even imagine. Our lack of belief shows itself in our lives when we behave as if everything is up to us.

It’s important that we admit our powerlessness against much of what worries us. People often speak of “giving it over to God,” essentially asking him to take over management of things we’ve been working on after we’ve flubbed them up. This idea is a bit of a charade. We don’t really have the power to assign work to God. Admitting our powerlessness is not really about handing things over to God as much as acknowledging what is already true–he already holds these things that worry us. We don’t truly have the power to give them or take them away from him. It’s an illusion. The future is already his, and all power belongs to him.

Do you really trust God? Do you believe that he is always good and that he always acts in your best interest (by his definition), for his glory? That he is more powerful than you can imagine, so powerful that he “laid the foundations of the earth” (Job 38:4)?

This post was excerpted from Chapter 2 of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. If you want to read more, you can find the book here.

Taken from Anxious by Amy Simpson. Copyright(c) 2014 by Amy Simpson. Used by permission from InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.

1 Comment
  1. Caleb Suko says:

    It’s so easy to pass off worry as something that’s no big deal, however, I’m reminded of Jesus’ teaching on worry in Mat. chapter 6. He certainly thought it was a significant problem.

© 2014 Amy Simpson.