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One Core Element of Worry and its “Cure”

May 2, 2014

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No one is immune from worry. We live in a scary world where bad things happen and good things are not always guaranteed. Take a moment and consider what you are facing this week. Did you sense a degree of anxiety creep into your heart? Symptoms vary based upon the degree of worry. You may experience a loss of appetite, racing thoughts, sadness, paranoia, temptations to check out or become over-controlling.

Statistics show that the most prescribed medications are those for anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million Americans (about one in six) are suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder. Treatment for anxiety accounts for nearly a quarter of all mental-health care (m.theatlantic.com, Scott Stossel, 12/22/2013).

The core of worry is not easy to diagnose because we are complex beings. Nature, nurture and psychological/spiritual influences are all fair game. Some of us are more prone to worry than others for a variety of reasons. Regardless, we all worry. Sin and suffering are realities and this world is not what it is supposed to be. If you struggle with worry, it is because you are a human being.

What can we learn from Scripture as we seek to respond to our own anxieties? In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus highlights many reasons we worry. I'll highlight one.

As your read the passage, Jesus implies one of the reasons we worry is because we can't control the future. Notice the use of the future tense; what will you eat, drink or wear. Depending on your context, your worries can be more immediate and focus on physical survival. If you are relatively confident that your basic needs will be met, your worries could spill over into what you might call “psychological needs”. Will people like me? Do I measure up? Will my spouse be faithful? Will our kids turn out okay? Will we have enough money to retire? I wonder how and when I will die? The questions can be endless or there may be one or two that grab you and won't let go.

If worry is driven by an uncertainty of the future, consider how Scripture addresses this. One of the broadest themes in the Bible is the future. Christianity's view of history is linear, not circular like many other world-views and belief systems. There is a beginning and an end to human history as we know it. Therefore, the Bible is packed with promises. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is brimming with hope. Promises are about the future. Read all the “I will’s” that God utters through the prophets and apostles. One of the biggest promises in Scripture is, “I am making everything new.” This is re-iterated in the last book of the Bible (Revelation 21-22).

All of these promises, says Paul, find their “Amen” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). What does that mean? Jesus is the first fruits of what is to come. His resurrection is proof, a sign and a guarantee that all of God's promises will come to fruition. This future certainty is supposed to intersect with our lives in the here and now. In other words, if you belong to this God, He's got you covered. He's got your back! Your future is already wrapped up and nothing can change that. If that is true, what kind of future does God have in store for you? Here is one very important part of your certain future. Consider these words from I John 3:2-3,

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

The entire trajectory of your life is ultimately to be conformed into the likeness of Christ. Nothing can stop this from happening. Because you belong to Him, you will one day be like Him in character. Therefore, we can live one day at a time and carry today's troubles. The great hymn writer and pastor John Newton put it this way,

I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of the year—to a great bundle of sticks, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole bundle at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today; and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so forth. We can easily manage our troubles, if we would only carry the trouble appointed for each day. But the load will be too heavy for us—if we carry yesterday's burden over again today, and then add the burden of tomorrow to the weight, before we are required to bear it.

It’s reasonable to worry. Today is filled with challenges. But just take on today’s concerns, not yesterday’s or tomorrow's. You have enough on your plate. You also have one who knows what is on your plate and what you need in order to move forward today. That doesn't mean it will be easy but it does mean you have hope to press into today because you know the end of the story already.