Don’t Freak Out: Overcoming Worry

Worried woman

Meet Erica.

Erica is seven years old.  And occasionally, Erica’s parents need to leave her with her babysitter Hailey.  But Erica doesn’t like it when they do this.  It’s not that Erica doesn’t like Hailey; she actually gets along with Hailey really well.  She just becomes concerned about her parents.

On one particular evening, as Erica’s parents were about to leave her with Hailey, Erica began to beg her parents not to go.  She clung to their waists and held onto their legs like a monkey climbing a tree.  She pleaded with them to stay.  And when her parents instructed her that her immature display of behavior had not changed their minds and that they would be back at 8:00, Erica stomped off angrily.

That night, Erica drove Hailey crazy.  Every ten minutes she would ask when her parents were coming back.  Whenever she heard a noise outside, she would go to the window to see if it was her mom and dad.  And every time the phone rang, she would rush to answer it and ask, “Mom, Dad, when are you coming home?”  Finally, 8:00 rolled around, but Erica’s mom and dad were not back yet.  At this point, Erica really went off the deep end.

She began saying to Hailey, “They were supposed to be back by now.  Do you think they’re okay?  What if they’ve been in an accident?  What if they’re hurt and they can’t call for help?  Maybe we should go out and look for them.  Maybe we should call the police.  Maybe we should send out a search party.  What if they’re dead?  If they’re dead, I won’t have a mom and dad anymore.  And if they’re dead, what’ll happen to me?  Who’s going to take care of me? I’ll be an orphan.  I’ll have to live in an orphanage where the other kids will pick on me.  I’ll have to drop out of school and wear dirty clothes, and I’ll never get to eat anything but cold mush.  My life is ruined all because my parents wouldn’t just stay home with me.”

Hailey couldn’t take it anymore.  She put Erica to bed, but Erica didn’t sleep a wink until her parents came home.

The Problem: Sinful Worry

Admittedly, Erica is a bit of a freakazoid.  (I can say that because she’s a fictional character of my own creation.)  But her problem is one with which people of all ages struggle.  Erica’s thinking is a rather clear example of sinful worry, and her failure to discipline her mind has caused her to spin out of control in a fear-riddled frenzy.

Maybe you’re not a worrier on the order of this fictitious seven-year old, but there’s probably been a time in your life when you’ve allowed yourself to get carried away by this destructive form of thinking.  (For some, that time was earlier today.)  Sadly, many excuse worry as some kind of benign foible, as an embarrassing little habit they wish they didn’t have but that ultimately doesn’t matter.

But take a look at what Jesus has to say about this…

Matthew 6:25
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

Isn’t that interesting?  Jesus doesn’t seem ambivalent about worry.  He seems pretty determined that we shouldn’t worry—so determined, in fact, that He comes right out and tells us to cut it out.

And what kinds of things does He tell us that we shouldn’t worry about?  Food, health, and clothes.  Pretty basic stuff.  But are food, health, and clothing those the only things we typically worry about?  Unfortunately, no.

We worry about all kinds of things.  We worry about the safety of our families and performing well at our jobs.  We worry about our cars breaking down and the mood swings of the stock market.  We worry about being embarrassed by our kids and the perceptions of other people.  And that’s just a start.

But Jesus didn’t get into all of those things.  He simply says, “Don’t worry about your life.  Don’t worry about your food, your clothes, or your health.”  And when you think about it—life doesn’t get more basic than food or clothes or our health, does it?

Ultimately, that’s what Erica was afraid of—that she wouldn’t have a home, that she wouldn’t have clothes to wear or food to eat.

But Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t even worry about those things—the most basic of necessities.  And if Jesus tells us not to worry about the essentials, then He certainly isn’t going to say that it’s okay for us to worry about other stuff.

But why shouldn’t we worry about this stuff?  In the verses that follow, Jesus starts listing answers to that question.

Don’t Worry Because: There Are More Important Things to Think About

Matthew 6:26
Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

He says that there are too many other important things to focus on than “What am I going to eat?” and “What am I going to wear?”

Can you think of some things that God would consider important?  Based on what we find in other New Testament passages, I suspect that God wants us to spend our time answering questions like:

  • What sinful habits to I need to root out of my life?
  • What can I do to become more like Christ today?
  • Who needs encouragement and how can I do that best?
  • Who has God placed in my life that needs to hear the gospel?

I believe God considers the answers to those questions much more important than the answer to “What’s for dinner?”

Don’t Worry Because: God Will Take Care of You

Matthew 6:27
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?

Jesus is essentially saying, “Hey, if God takes cares of bunch of silly birds, you better believe He’s going to take care of you.  You’re worth way more to him than animals.”

Just think about some of the ways God has demonstrated His care for us.  He gave us life.  He sustains our existence.  He gave us the ability to think and reason, to experience joy and sorrow.  He gave us His Word.  He sent His Son to die for our sins.  He promises eternal life to all who place their faith in Christ.  And that’s just a sampling.  Based on the incredible ways He has provided for us in the past, we have ample cause to trust Him for answers to the unknowns that lie ahead.

So, why else shouldn’t we worry?

Don’t Worry Because: You’re Not in Control

It may be helpful for you to write that phrase down somewhere.  “I’m not in control.”

Matthew 6:28
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

In other words, Jesus says, “Hey, if you think worrying about different things in your life is going to get you anywhere—forget it.  You’re not going to be any better off.  You’re not going to live any longer.  You’re not in control.  God is.”

Who would you rather have in control of your life?  Who do you think would do a better job of running your life?  You or God?  Any person thinking rationally knows the best answer to those questions.

But when we use our minds to indulge thoughts of fear and worry, it’s as if we’re saying, “Step aside, God.  I don’t like the job you’re doing.  I would do this way better than you.”

Isn’t that where Erica got into trouble?  She thought she was in control.  She thought if she could just keep her parents home, if she could just convince them to stay, then everything would be all right.  But Erica wasn’t in control.  God was.

How to Stop Worrying

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Jesus says, “Instead of driving yourself crazy with worry, seek His kingdom.  Focus on pleasing God.  Spend the time and energy you would have wasted worrying and focus your efforts on things that will bring glory to the Lord.  He’ll take care of that other stuff.”

Sound too simple?  I suppose it does.  But that’s the way it is with most of the Christian life.  The concepts are easy.  The doing is hard.  Still, to make the choice to discipline your mind, to refuse to waste time on emotional tire-spinning, is much easier than continuing a lifestyle in which your thoughts hold you captive.  Pleasing God may require a greater investment of effort at the outset, but the benefits of those efforts will make for an altogether better life.

Matthew 11:29-30
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What are you afraid of?  What do you worry about?  What are you trying to control?  Don’t allow these things to rule your life.  Instead, take a couple of steps to evict fear and worry from your mind in favor of more Christ-centered tenants.

Step 1:  Ask yourself, “Can I do anything to solve the problem?”

If the answer to that question is “Yes,” then you need to quit worrying and get busy solving the problem.  Create an action plan, and carry it out.  If the answer to the question is “No,” then you need to proceed to step two.

Step 2:  Trust God to take care of you.

And you say, “Trust God?  I want to do that, but what does that look like?”  It involves prayer.  It involves meditating on and believing in the promises of Scripture.  It involves choosing to use your mind for more productive things.

When we exercise trust in God, we say, “I have no back-up plan.  All of my hope is in Him, and I believe He’ll take care of me—just as He promises.”  God wants us to live in a way that demonstrates our dependence on Him.  Refusing to worry and exercising trust is part of that lifestyle.

For Further Discussion

  1. What are some common things we worry about?
  2. Why do you think we fall prey to fear and worry so readily?
  3. What are some other ways we can develop a deeper trust in God?
Trey Garner
Trey Garner is the Pastor of Children's Ministries at Faith Church. He has been married to his wife Deb since 2001. They have two children named Noah and Lauren. Originally from Texas, Trey appreciates barnwood, armadillos, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.