Anxiety, like anger, is a natural part of life, which, if used right is a good thing. A moderate degree of anxiety will move us to make plans based on what we can foresee. Too much anxiety, however, like anger, is not a good thing. In fact, it can be downright debilitating, robbing us of the strength and resolve to deal with our problems realistically.
As human beings we are capable of worry because we are able to consider our future. But because we are not blessed with perfect insight as to what will be tomorrow, we often dwell obsessively on what may or may not happen until we are paralyzed with fear or other symptoms.
“For millions of people, worry disrupts everyday life, restricting it or even overshadowing it entirely. An estimated 15 percent of Americans suffer from one anxiety disorder or another. These include generalized anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder or flat-out panic attacks.” (Psychology Today).
Jesus addressed the issue of anxiety or worry in Matthew 6:25-34. To succinctly summarize his teaching – “Don’t do it!” He said that his disciples were not to worry about what they were going to eat, drink or wear. These are the most fundamental needs of the human body, and yet he says that we are not to worry about any of these necessities of life. It is enough that one be concerned enough to get up and go to work in the morning, but we are not to spend the night before tossing and turning on our beds with our minds filled with “what-ifs.”
Why should we not worry? There are numerous good reasons for not worrying. Jesus gives some in this text in Matthew and there are other scriptures that contribute to our understanding of why we should not do so.
Worrying does absolutely no good.
We can’t change anything by worrying about it. Jesus illustrated this by asking, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27). We can’t lengthen our life or add a cubit to our height as the KJV says. And we can’t add to our supply of food, drink or clothing by worrying about them. God, by his general providence feeds the birds and adorns the flowers and provides for us by the working of his law. We comply with his law of labor and feed ourselves or we go into business, buy, sell and make a profit so we can purchase the necessities of life. When we become unable to provide for ourselves, God’s law of love provides for us through the love of our family and our brethren.
Worrying is not good for our health.
Worrying can destroy one’s health. When the mind is continually weighed down with negative thoughts from stress or worry the chemistry of the brain becomes unbalanced and one becomes ill – mentally. Depression is the illness and is as real as any other kind of illness. The suffering from depression is as real as from a bacterial or viral illness – just different. But this is an illness that could possibly have been avoided by simply not worrying. “Anxiety leads to depression, but a good word encourages.” (Proverbs 12:25 CEB). There are situations where worry may not be the cause of the problem, but if we know that anxiety could cause it, why worry?
Worrying shows a lack of trust in God.
Jesus said as much in the sermon on the mount. He asked his hearers to consider how God provides for even the grass of the field and reasons that if he cares for even the most insignificant plants, “will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Their lack of faith was the reason for their worry. When one does not consider God’s power and providence he shows that lack of trust by worrying. His worry is the same a saying, “I do not believe God can or will help me.” One cannot justify his lack of trust in God by saying that he is too sinful for God to help because Jesus had just said in this same sermon that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45).
Paul gives this advice about how to deal with anxiety…
“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Worry causes us to focus on the wrong things.
When we are focused on God and on his love for us – on the wonderful gift of his Son whom he gave for us – on his marvelous grace which saves us, we will neither have time nor the inclination to worry about anything. Even in hard times when it seems God is not there for us, we know he is and that he hears every cry we utter, every prayer we lift up, every tear we shed. Jesus said that instead of worrying we should keep our minds focused on the really important things…
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33).
If we seek his rule and seek to be right before him we will have enough to occupy our time and our minds. When we do not seek his sovereign rule for our lives and seek to live in relationship with him our focus is on the wrong thing. We are considering only ourselves and what we are certain we can’t do. If we could do anything about the things we worry about then why would we worry. And if we could do anything about the things that only God can do then we would be god – and we aren’t!