How Worry Hurts Us—And Faith Can Heal

Our society is frantic with worry. You’ve probably noticed.

Worry is expected of responsible people. We equate worry with good citizenship and awareness. We actually pressure each other to keep worrying. We are expected to remain on emotional “high alert” as evidence that we care about the world around us. Other people want us to worry because it makes them feel better about themselves or because there is profit in fueling our fear. Whether we realize it or not, we are under pressure to conform to a self-feeding culture of worry.

We are also surrounded by good, legitimate reasons to worry. Our world is full of people and things to be afraid of, our lives are full of people and things we could lose tomorrow, and our built-in limitations keep us from seeing what we so desperately want to see, the answer to all our “What ifs”–the future.

But worried is a soul-sucking way to live. And worry cannot fuel an abundant life.

The fact is, worry is destructive. And a look through Scripture shows us that dedication to worry is a rebellious activity that creates distance between us and God. Fear is normal and healthy. So is anxiety. We couldn’t live long without either. And the involuntary anxious process that comes from an anxiety disorder–getting stuck in our natural and usually beneficial anxious response–is merely the product of a biological process gone overboard. Too much of a good thing, if you will. But most of us don’t have that problem–we choose to worry.

Here’s the thing: Despite what we might tell ourselves, worry is not productive action. It doesn’t help anyone. With it we can fool ourselves into believing we’re helping someone by “building awareness” or “standing with them,” empathizing, or even praying. But when we worry we don’t actually do anything meaningful. In some cases, worry may even distract us from ways we might offer real help. And while we can fool ourselves into believing we’re helping ourselves, ultimately worry hurts us too.

How? Here are 10 ways worry hurts us and our relationship with God:

1. It expresses a lack of true trust in God (and sometimes in other trustworthy people)–and in turn, it reinforces the idea that we can’t trust God. It can undermine both beliefs and acts of faith.

2. It expresses an inflated sense of control–and possibly an unwillingness to acknowledge the limits to our control and power. It both expresses and reinforces that idea that everything is up to us.

3. It tries to usurp God’s place in the future and our place in the present–it can cause us to try to determine what the future holds, while we become discontent with the fact that such knowledge it unavailable to us. It undermines our understanding of God’s sovereignty.

4. It reflects an inappropriate sense of ownership over the people and places God has called us to steward–it’s easy to believe the people and things that matter most to us belong to us. But stewardship, by definition, is not ownership.

5. It inserts the noise of our own thinking between God’s voice and our hearts–it can drown the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit as we listen only to our own turmoil and our efforts at solutions.

6. It elevates our concerns above God’s–it can cause us to miss what God is doing, or calling us to, in the situations that worry us.

7. It keeps us focused on fear and scary possibilities–in this mindset, it’s easy to overlook the likelihood that things will not turn out as we imagine. In these moments, our thoughts often suffer under the delusion that God’s love and power have left the building.

8. It keeps us stuck with our own solutions, or the ones we can imagine–we limit ourselves and can fail to seek the wisdom of God and people who are wise and willing to help.

9. It limits our faith by limiting our imagination–we tend to focus on the possibilities in a future or a world without God.

10. It gets in wisdom’s way–worry keeps us focused on solutions that will relieve the pressure or make us (or someone else) feel better, rather than what is truly best. Sometimes this kind of thinking produces tragic results.

What we believe about God powerfully informs the way we worry. And our beliefs determine whether our faith has a positive or negative impact on anxiety. Our faith in a God who loves us, is near to us, and is bigger than what scares us can calm our anxious thoughts and heal our worried minds.

One of the reasons God tells us not to worry is because it hurts us, the people around us, and our relationship with God. As I did in my book Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry, I invite you to choose faith. I invite you to believe what is true about God, and about yourself, and to see how that loving relationship can transform your emotional habits.

© 2018 Amy Simpson.