Worry is living in the worst case scenario that usually never happens. A recent article in Prevention Magazine indicates worry affects digestion, skin, and memory among others. Famed author Dale Carnegie of How To Win Friends and Influence People wrote a book entirely dedicated to overcoming worry, and its debilitating effects because he saw it as such a common problem among the businessmen he was working with. One estimate is that worry leading to unnecessary stress costs business 300 billion a year in employee production and health issues.
Worry is not a concept unknown to God. When talking about prayer, Paul, in his treaty to the Philippians, starts out with don’t worry (NLT). Jesus tells us directly in his famous and challenging Sermon on the Mount not to worry about the stuff in our lives.
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25 NKJV)
But if it was really that easy to get rid of worry, why is it still such a problem? How can we overcome something akin to the human condition? Is the Bible setting up an impossible standard? Yes, that could be just the case. God is good at setting up impossible standards that we can’t meet. Just a few sections before telling us not to worry, God told us to be perfect. I doubt any of us can do that. It shouldn’t surprise us then when we worry, but it should cause all of us to realize that we need some help. If you are like me, you don’t like to ask for it. How do we quit waking up at 3:00 AM and worrying about…you name it?
We do it just like we do all our other impossible tasks, we show up broken at the feet of Jesus realizing we can’t do it on our own. It is the only way I know of to really start eliminating worry. As much as I admire Dale Carnegie, and even recognize, and try to follow the value of practical steps from the self-help gurus, the only way to do the impossible is with Jesus. One of the greatest examples in the Bible of not worrying is the apostle Peter. I just love it. He is about to be executed like his fellow disciple James. (Most self help books aren’t much help for those chained in prison awaiting execution.) He is chained in prison but is so sound asleep that when the angels wake him he literally thinks he is in a dream. I have two suspicions why: One, people are praying for him. And two, he has seen the resurrected Christ and is firmly convinced of its reality. He knows his destiny and even in this extreme situation he is not worried.
Let’s take a look at another prison scene. Paul and Silas are chained up in the high security section of the prison after saving the soul of a diviner and ruining the economy of her slave masters. But we don’t find them sleeping while locked up in prison. We find them singing and praising God. Worship is a way to overcome worry in directing our focus away from the problem and on God trusting him even when we have no idea how we will be able to provide a solution.
When it is boiled down, worry is fear. But is fear a bad thing? Not necessarily. God tells us to fear him. Maybe a good way of looking at worry is that worry is fear in the wrong place. To fear God, is not the same as fearing man or fearing misfortune. Man is random and unpredictable as is misfortune. When we fear God, we have an active trust and deep reverence for the person who created not only us, but the universe in which we live, and whom we eventually dwell with in eternity.