What could help us not to be seriously disturbed by unhealthy worrying?
LIKENED TO A ROCKING CHAIR, worry, oftentimes, keeps people moving but never getting anywhere. Because many tend to worry even about things that are not really significant, worry is also said to be “the advanced interest paid on troubles that seldom come.”
Indeed, worrying is not in any way beneficial, for as our Lord Jesus Christ rhetorically asks, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27 New International Version).
Unfortunately, worry grips and overpowers many of us. Worrying about anything usually puts us under stress. And the more we worry, the greater the stress builds up inside us, and this, as medical experts testify, can lead to emotional as well as physical breakdown. Therefore, not only does the tandem of worry and stress never add a single hour to one’s life, but worse, it even negatively affects our health, diminishes our strength, and shortens our life span.
Causes of stress
Some of the things that gobble us up in the “worry and stress mess” are changes, criticisms, and concerns.
Unavoidable changes in relationships, manners of doing things, familiar environments, and lifestyles—such as those caused by the loss of loved ones, money reversals, and needed resettlements—can bring about worry and stress.
So do negative criticisms that add insult to our insecurities and tear down our sense of self-worth. A blast of destructive criticisms leaves us bruised and troubled and makes us feel unwanted. Stress thus results from our effort to rebuild our self-esteem.
Now, to these add concerns—our basic needs, the deteriorating status of our health, the status of our careers, unrealized dreams, troubles and frustrations—and the ability of our body and mind to absorb pressures is tested further.
When two or more of these things overlap—that we have too much to do in too little time, too much responsibility to take with our inadequate resources and strength; when we deal with overloaded schedules, conflicting appointments, and overbearing deadlines—our inability to take more is sometimes expressed in the breakdown of health, leading to increased blood pressure, headache, ulcer, or other minor diseases. These, in turn, would become a major ailment, if the stress is not relieved.
Responding to stress—the Christian way
So how should we, Christians, respond to stress and things that may cause us to worry? What should we think and do to somehow cope with life’s strains and not fall apart? Among other things, what could help us not to be seriously disturbed by unhealthy worrying?
One of the things that can serve as an antidote to stress and worry is our recognition of our true worth as members of the Church Of Christ. Fully understanding the important truth that it is we who have a solid relationship with Christ, being parts of His body (Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:32, 23), can help us deal with worries when changes threaten to disrupt our life. For even with a new set of people around us, new environment in which to reside, and new tasks to perform in this life, the fact remains that we are the “branches” connected to the “vine,” which is Christ (John 15:5), having the privilege to ask and receive from the Father in His (Christ’s) name (John 15:16).
Furthermore, inevitable changes would not be that fearsome for us if we believe that “all things work together for good to [us] who love God, to [us] who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 New King James Version). Stress, therefore, can be dissolved by true optimism—that no matter what happens, God reigns, and He cares for His people, and that for us, the best is yet to come.
The same is true of criticisms. Our ultimate worth is not based upon our ability to play ball games like a star player, pass a test with an “A,” or accomplish a task in the workplace better than others, but upon the fact that we are God’s children (Rom. 8:14-16; 16:16). This means that even if we do not make the most crucial free throw in basketball history and thus receive the loudest boos, the ones who truly love us, and especially our most caring Father, will still be there for us.
We may not be the top choice to play for a team, or even totally fail to make the cut, but the fact remains that we, true Christians, have been chosen by no less than the Father, as the Bible proves that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4 NKJV) to serve Him. Hence, while our divine election as the children of the Almighty Father definitely encourages us to bring out the best in us in our earthly endeavors by doing with all our might whatever our hands find to do (Eccles. 9:10 NIV), it nonetheless reminds us that, come what may, we remain to be truly successful, for it is we whom God considers as His “chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12).
By always taking these into account, our self-worth will never be truly wounded, for with or without other people wanting us, God certainly cares for us (I Pet. 5:7). Our true value is based not on other’s criticism or approval, but on the fact that though we, members of the Church Of Christ, were helpless and sinners and thus worthy of condemnation, Christ died for us and purchased us with His own precious blood (Rom. 5:6, 8; Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation).
As regards the various concerns in life that cause stress, Christ Himself counsels us what we should think and do so as not to be anxious about them:
“This is why I tell you: do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn’t life worth more than food? And isn’t body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds flying around: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it? And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have! ‘So do not start worrying: “Where will my food come from? Or my drink? Or my clothes?” (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things’.” (Matt. 6:25-33 Good News Bible)
Christ invites us to live life rightly by living out our real reason for being—“be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.”
“Being concerned above everything else with the kingdom of God” does not mean, of course, that we should not be concerned at all with our present life. In fact, the Bible itself admonishes us to use our hands for honest work (Eph. 4:28) or work to earn a living (II Thess. 3:12).
Nonetheless, the Savior instructs us to give a precedence to the matters that concern the spiritual—“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33 NKJV). In other words, God can make us anything good we want to be, but we have to surrender everything first to His hands, placing His will—that is, obeying His commands—on top of our priorities.
The apostles’ advice
Hence, for us who have submitted to God’s will to enter His nation in these last days, the Apostle Paul has this advice on what we should do when we are in need, instead of worrying:
“Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.” (Phil. 4:6 GNB)
Therefore, by accomplishing God’s purpose for our lives through faithful obedience to His will (Eccles. 12:13), not only do we allow Him to shape our life, but also we “Let him have all [our] worries and cares,” inasmuch as “he is always thinking about [us] and watching everything that concerns [us]” (I Pet. 5:7 Living Bible).
This article was originally published in the Pasugo: God’s Message magazine, January 2009 issue.