Do you ever worry? A better question is probably, “What do you worry about?” Worry can come from many sources – our health, finances, relationships, the future, etc. There are many things to worry about that are real and relevant to our lives. To “worry” means to fret, to fear, to be afraid, to be anxious or to be overly concerned. Worry is simply ‘negative meditation’ or ‘negative imagination’. One worry feeds another so much that it becomes impossible to think of anything other than the risks and threats that could lie ahead. The more we worry, the worse we feel; and the worse we feel, the more we think in a worried and anxious way. We lose our joy worrying about things that may never happen, or that turn out not to be as bad as we had imagined, or things that were never that important to begin with. Worry rarely helps.
Once again, as we turn to God’s Word as recorded in the Bible, we have lots of good advice and encouragement for finding freedom from worry. Jesus tells us not to worry nine times in his sermon on the mountain (Matt.6:25-34). He doesn’t want our minds to be preoccupied with the cares and concerns of life. The “worries of this life” (Matt.13:22) can become like thorns which choke and strangle the life out of God’s word, causing us to be unfruitful.
How to STOP Worrying
Specify your worries. The first question you should ask yourself is, “What am I worrying about?” Specifically define your worries clearly in writing. Make a list. Writing them down gets them out of your head. Be clear and specific. Admitting and defining your problem is the beginning of the answer. Confess your worries and confront them. Don’t deny their existence or run away from them. If you do you’ll never conquer or overcome them. Accurate diagnosis is 50% of the cure. When fears and worries remain nameless, it becomes almost impossible to deal with them. They tend to grow to unrealistic proportions. Much of our anxiety is usually not specific, but more a sense of unknown and uncertain possibilities that may lie ahead.
A study was done on the things people worry about. Here are the results:
40% of the worries people had never happened or will never happen.
30% of the worries were things in the past for which nothing could be done.
12% were worries about health and worry actually worsens your health.
10% were petty or minor worries.
8% of the worries were about anything substantial or legitimate.
Of that 8%, half, or 4%, of all worries, were out of their control. The other 4% concern something a person could do something about.
Therefore, research tells us that 96% of what we worry about is irrelevant. It’s not worth worrying about!
Don’t worry about the unimportant. Don’t fill up your life with worry about trivial things. Ask yourself, “How important is this thing I’m worrying about”? “Will this matter in five years time?” Put your worry in a long-term perspective. “How bad or dreadful, really, is this thing I’m worrying about?” Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. “How much is this worry worth?” Don’t spend more worry on it than its worth. You need your energy for more important things.
Don’t worry about the unlikely. Don’t waste your energy on problems that don’t really exist. Most worry is not only bad for you. It wastes time and energy. Many people lives are filled with tragedies that never happened.
Take action on your worries. The next question to ask is yourself is, “Is there anything I can do about it?” If “yes”, work out what you could do, or how to find out what to do. Make a list. Turn worries into actions. Do something about your worries and fears.
There are two types of things not worth worrying about: those that you can do something about and those that you can’t. Turn your worries into problems; then solve them. The antidote to worry is purposeful action. You can’t worry about something if you are working to take care of it. Worry is useful if it makes you sit up and take notice OR if it motivates you action. All other worry is pointless.
Take some action to address the situation causing your worry. Any further worry is unproductive, so drop it.
Offer up a prayer to God. Paul tells us … “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7. NIV) The Message Bible translates these verses this way: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Place your trust in God. “Is there anything you can do about it?” If “no”, then stop worrying and place your trust in the Lord (Prov.3:5-6). Co-operate with the inevitable and things beyond your control. Yes, there will be dark days, storms of life and unanswered questions. However, responding to life’s situations is your choice. No one can do it for you. It is an issue of trust.
Learn to live with uncertainty. Uncertainty is difficult to handle when the situation is uncontrollable or you can’t predict what will happen. There will always be things beyond our control; however, God is in control. Your life is not controlled by fate, accident or chance. Even the people and circumstances around you are under the domain and sovereignty of God. Nothing happens to you without God knowing and permitting it (see Rom.8:28). Let this motivate you to put your trust completely in God.
Why shouldn’t we worry? It’s bad for us and does us no good – unless it leads to action. It takes away our joy. What a worry worry is! The only thing we should worry about is worry itself – like the only thing we should fear is fear itself. But most of all, worry tends to get us focused on our own needs, rather than the needs of others. We become so preoccupied with our own concerns and problems that we are of no use to anyone else. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us what to do instead of worrying – “Seek first the kingdom of God”. Get busy advancing God’s kingdom. God has called us to make a difference in the world – to reach out to others in need; to serve and help; and to share the “good news” about Jesus.
1. Reflect back on your life and consider various things that you have spent considerable time worrying about. What happened? Was the worry worth it? How did things turn out?
2. Read Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus taught on worry. If Jesus were speaking this today, what would be some of the common worries he might have mentioned?
3. Think about how taking positive action helps conquer worry. Consider how prayer helps conquer worry.
4. Reflect on the concept of ‘trust’ in God. How does this help conquer worry? Read Proverbs 3:5-6. What is the promise? What are the three conditions to the promise?
5. Finish by praying specifically focused on things that you are currently concerned about.