Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about!
Nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt.
Remember Jesus never fails, so why not trust Him and shout –
You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.
I have often sung this little chorus to remind myself not to worry. But it is hard not to worry about ourselves and our loved ones. We face ill health, accidents, fear of pain, career problems, loss of income, fear of poverty, and worries about all sorts of other sufferings!
Dr. Richard Gaffin preached a very good sermon on the topic of worry. He began with the very familiar Matthew 6:25-34, which says, in part:
“…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?… For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
Why do we worry? Is it normal? Is it a solution, a part of life, a coping mechanism?
3 that lead to worry
Let’s think about these three words: forgetfulness, pride, and ingratitude.
We worry because we forget who our God is. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is our Father.
“He loves me so much that I do not doubt He will provide whatever I need for body and soul. He desires to do so because He is my loving Father; He is able to do so because He is Almighty God” (Heidelberg Catechism, LD 9).
But why do we forget? We forget because our pride gets in the way. We look at life as a circle where we are the center. We ask ourselves: what are my needs, and my desires? We develop a level of expectation as to what we want to have. This pride sets us on a spiral of desire that leads to frustration and anger when we do not get what we want, and worry is one of the results.
What do we worry about? All worrying is about suffering and loss. We do not want anything to happen that we consider “negative.” In every instance, it comes down to being concerned that our desires will not be satisfied.
That’s a pretty harsh way to look at a devastating loss, though, isn’t it? But when we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” we acknowledge that our place is as the clay in the Potter’s hands. We forget that He loves us, and instead we fear that He might not give us what we want. We fear He will decide differently and we will not like it.
The way to be free from worry is to humble ourselves before God. This is, as Dr. Gaffin preached, a “distinctly Christian contrast to the unrealistic outcome of pride.” When we are humble, we see ourselves exactly as we should be, as we are. A humble Christian sees that the God with the mighty arm will work things out. Then we can be free of worry, and stop acting like the unbelievers.
But we forget because we do not spend much time in prayer. Our pride shuts us up inside of ourselves, making our prayer superficial. But prayer is where God reminds us where our hope and faith are. It is a means of grace that He has provided. It is the opportunity to cast ourselves on our God and to be taken lovingly in His arms. He allows us to leave the matter with Him.
Still, we forget and become ungrateful. We are no better than the Israelites, as we often forget all that God has done for us. Unbelievers have every reason to worry because they “bear the wrath of God.” Those who fear death end up fearing life also. They cannot teach us how to live. We, however, as God’s people have the deepest source of genuine thankfulness, and no good reason to worry.
Now, there is also a difference between genuine constructive concern and counterproductive worrying, and we must prayerfully ask our Lord to help us to discern that difference. A pain in the chest should cause concern and provoke a visit to the doctor if not an emergency call. And it is our normal human response to feel afraid or sad or grief-stricken at given times. But the definition of worry is: “to torment oneself with, or suffer from, disturbing thoughts; fret.” We must leave the “what ifs….” with the Lord.
It is the humble, prayerful, thankful Christian who can be free from worry.