What’s the big deal about worry?
Sometimes it’s difficult to see why feeling anxious or being worried is so crippling for certain people; for Christians especially it’s often all too easy to say “just get over it. Trust God!” But worry that endures over time literally rewires the brain, creating neuropathic ruts through which the same problems travel again and again—and sometimes we don’t realize we’re going back and forth down these tracks, wearing a system into the brain, until it’s too late. Until it becomes a habit, a thought process, a pattern.
And that’s exactly what the Devil wants to see happen to us. He knows how crippling it can truly be.
I’ve experienced firsthand how worry takes someone out of the game. When my anxiety is at its peak—when I’m “high-octane”, as my family calls it, meaning I’m shaking and hyperventilating and focusing all my effort on not throwing up as my brain does the gold-metal long-jump from worst-case-scenario to even-worse-case scenario—I wouldn’t be aware of a spiritual occurrence if it exploded in the middle of my living room. When anxiety rules my life, I am not present, primed to hear God’s voice or ready to engage His people. I am not able to fulfill my calling when I am myself filled with worry.
I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. Even among Christians who place faith in the Father, worry, fear, and anxiety can and do in many cases run rampant. The question is really not whether we’ll face worry as we go through life—whether we’ll be confronted with things, big or small, that steal our peace. That’s a given.
The real question is whether we will cultivate the methods for coping with these things so that we tackle them and bring them into submission—not the other way around.
What is Worry?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines worry as “mental distress or agitation resulting from concern, usually for something impending or anticipated.”
Worry, or “anxiety,” is something a lot of people struggle with. It ranges from concern about present or future things to actual mental health issues which require medication or therapy. One medical study purports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. as of 2019, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
That means that most of us probably know one or more people who deal with either generalized or aggressive anxiety. This author is one of them!
Most people who struggle with anxiety, or worry in general, will tell you how strange a feeling it can be. For many, it really does circulate around “what ifs”, but it’s not as simple as “not thinking about these things.” Intrusive thoughts and fears for what tomorrow will bring can be crippling. And they can certainly make us less effective in living for Jesus.
What Does the Bible Say About Worry?
Luke 12:22 – Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.”
Matthew 6:27 – And which of you, by being anxious, is able to add one cubit to the measure of his life?
Psalm 94:19 – When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought me joy.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and then, (being in union with Christ Jesus), the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts.
How Can I Become Less Anxious?
While those with an anxiety disorder should seek treatment, whether naturopathic or pharmaceutical, so that they are not fighting an uphill battle against a chemical imbalance in the brain, there are things everyone can do to help decrease their worries and anxieties—whether they have a diagnosed disorder or not.
Prioritize: Many of us struggle with worry and anxiety over what the future will bring as we see the world decline around us in various ways. But there is comfort to be had when we prioritize our hope and promised future above the state of the world. While the things happening around us, to us, and in us can be troubling or downright scaryat times, Jesus-followers are fighting a battle that has already been won. Whatever comes of us in this life, our future with Jesus is secure. This may not remove all the fear or trouble from today, but it certainly can help lessen our worry over what the future holds. As the saying goes, “I have no fear of what tomorrow holds, for I know Who holds tomorrow.”
Dwell on the promises of God: Scripture is full of places where God and Jesus promise to be with us to the end of this age, to never leave us or forsake us, to work on our behalf, to guide, guard, and protect us. While that doesn’t mean we will be free of adversity, there is comfort in knowing we do not walk through this alone.
Offer it up in prayer: We all have things we worry about, but Jesus told his disciples that worrying would not add anything to their lives. Instead, we are to bring our concerns to God in prayer, petition (asking) and in thanksgiving (for how He has taken care of us and will continue to do so). The burdens of our fear are often too big for us to carry alone, which is how we end up in panic and despair. But if we are vulnerable and humble enough to share those anxieties with God, He will lighten the burden. He is strong enough to carry it all.
Meditate on Scripture: Not just the verses about anxiety, cares, and worries, but Scripture in general! The more of God’s Word we hold in our heads and hearts, the less room there is for invasive thoughts. These pieces of Scripture also serve as spiritual swords in our hands to block the blows of anxiety when they start raining down on us.
Decrease screentime: I’m not just talking about the effect of blue light on one’s melatonin and serotonin levels. With so much information at the tips of our fingers, with one click we can become aware of conflict in the more remote corners of the world that our ancestors would’ve had no clue about. While it’s good to be informed so we can pray for things and help where we can, an oversaturation of knowledge about all the pain, loss, disease, and suffering in the world can absolutely wreck our peace. We need to be careful how much we seek these things out, especially if we’re not in a position to help alleviate that suffering. Are we devoting as much time to uplifting things as to the dark side of the world? If not, we’re just asking for our anxiety levels to increase. We’re better off stepping back and focusing our time and energy on places we can help out.
What is something you are currently holding onto worry about? Take time to pray and give that matter up to God!