Worried? You've Got Options

by Randall Merrill on

Articles 6 min read
Matthew 6 Matthew 13:22

"If there is one thing that is consistent about our world today, it is change. We are feeling the tectonic plates shift beneath our feet so often that it is beginning to feel commonplace. The temptation to worry is extremely strong.

But worry is a choice, and we have other options.

Jesus counteracts our tendency to worry with a clear command. In Matthew 6, He says “Do not worry” several times. In Matthew 13:22, Jesus teaches that worry chokes out the Word of God. While the Word of God is truth, worry is based on a lie. Picture these two forces in direct opposition to each other. They are fighting for our minds, for our very lives. Worry is seeking to choke out the truth, and the truth seeks to counter the sinister message of lies. When we worry, we are giving the lie permission to prevail in our minds. 

But what is the lie? Let’s go back to Matthew 6, where we find the “don’t worry” commands. In verse 31, Jesus says, “Do not worry . . . saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear for clothing?’ ” The lie is saying, “God is not up to meeting my basic needs.” But there is a future orientation to the worry, which is why He says, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” (v. 34) So the lie is saying further that, in spite of God's track record of caring for us, He's not up to maintaining it. The lie is saying, “God is going to drop the ball, and drop me with it.

Now, let's look at the bigger picture here in Matthew 6. In verse 26, Jesus says (paraphrasing), “Your heavenly Father cares for the birds, so He will care for you.” In verse 32, He says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Now, flip these two statements around and you will see The Grand Lie: “God can’t help me, and besides, He doesn’t really care about me!” 

So . . . The battle is over the capability and the care of God. Think about it: When we worry, we are saying that God is impotent, and doesn’t really care anyway, which leads us to the following conclusion: Worriers serve a puny, uninvolved God. When we worry, we might as well be carrying a giant sign that says, “My God is a teeny-weeny, distant God.”

But we have options. I want to briefly present you with a few alternatives to worry.

Alternative One: Act

If you know of something you can actually do to help the situation, by all means do it. This will help to take your mind off of your worries and may well improve your situation.

Alternative Two: Seek God 

One of my favorite Bible stories is found in 2 Chronicles 20. In the story found there, King Jehoshaphat hears that a huge confederacy of armies is approaching Jerusalem. His response? “He turned his attention to seek the Lord.” (v. 3) This means more than just a quick “help me” prayer. He sought God. Desperate situations call for drastic action, and Jehoshaphat cleared everything off his schedule to seek God. One of the reasons we get so anxious is because we haven’t shut everything else out in order to seek Him. It is a two-phase action: Shut everything else out, then seek Him. Don’t look anxiously about you. Don’t run around to others, dumping all your worries on them. That wears on people and it wastes your energy. But you can leverage the entire process by taking that same energy and channeling it toward seeking God. Worriers are so close to having it right; they just need to redirect their energy. But it starts with a shift in focus.

Alternative Three: Look Around

If we’re not careful, we’ll miss a key strategy in countering worry that is found back in Matthew 6. Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air” (v. 26) and “Look at the lilies of the field.” (v. 28) Since this was an outdoor sermon, He was probably pointing as He was speaking. Here is what He is saying: “God has placed evidence all around you that He is capable and He is caring. Open your eyes, look around, and see for yourself!”

In the narratives of the Bible, the word behold is often a key word. It usually moves the camera angle to something new, to a different vantage point. In many cases, it points to the activity or the provision of God. Example: In Exodus 16, God’s people are complaining about a lack of food, so He provides manna for them so that they can eat in the wilderness. In Exodus 16:14, we read, “when the layer of the dew evaporated, behold! On the surface of the desert there was a fine flake-like thing . . .” So what is happening here? This “behold” moment diverts their attention from their present hunger, to God’s provision for that very hunger. And this is just what we need when we are tempted to worry—a diversion, a “behold!” God has put reminders of His care all around you. Think of all the jams you were in before, and you're still alive! Think of how faithful He has always been to meet your basic needs. How soon we forget. Lift up your eyes and behold!

Perhaps the most important thing to behold when we are worried is the Bible itself. Years ago, I heard a visiting pastor share a story that I will not soon forget. He was making a hospital call, visiting a woman who was frantic with worry before her surgery. He told her what the Bible said. No change in response. He reminded her of certain biblical principles. Still no change. Then he got his Bible out and actually began to read it. All that talk about the Bible had changed nothing for her, but when she actually heard the Bible, she completely settled down. She needed a diversion. That is the power of the truth, and it is only the truth that will counteract the lies about God’s capability and His care. If you are overcome with worries right now, pick up the Bible until the truth begins to push back against the lie, until God's peace surrounds you and overtakes you, just like it did with the lady in this story.

Times like this will test us, but we have the truth close by, closer than we know. We don’t have to give in to worry. We don’t have to let lies run our lives. 

We have options. Let’s use them.

About the Author

Randall Merrill (M.Div., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the president and CEO of Elevate Chaplains and Care Coaching, a firm that pours God’s love into people in the workplace.