I have a confession to make. I struggle with worry—over-analyzing what should have happened, agonizing over what is happening, and fretting about what might happen. I know some people are more prone to worry than others, but I think we all struggle with worry at some time or another. And that struggle may be at different levels. Some worry is as little as what your parents will say about a bad test score; some as big as the fear of loosing someone close to you.
I often don’t even realize it when I am worrying. I’ll be thinking about something I did or said that bothers me and it suddenly becomes something I can’t stop thinking about. I just can’t let go of it. The word “worry” in the verb form actually means “to choke or strangle.” It makes sense. If someone grabs you by the neck, you are only going to be thinking about how to get them off. In that instant, it would be hard to think of anything else, wouldn’t it? In the same way, worried thoughts and emotions are hard to shake. They scream loudly, squeezing our minds and hearts, and it’s hard to move on until the choke hold is released.
I guess my reason for confessing my own worry is that I have been realizing that it is something that doesn’t have to strangle us. Our feelings of regret and anxiety are not from God. In fact, His son died to set us free from them. God has something else in mind for us: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Philippians 4:6,7 says, “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 minds in Christ Jesus.” What’s interesting about this verse is that it doesn’t say, “Present your request to God and He will give you what you want.” It says, “Present your request to God and He will give you peace.” And by giving you His peace, God is allowing you to see things more like He sees them.
For a long time I didn’t understand this concept. I was feeling hurt and confused by God not giving me answers when I thought I needed them. Then I realized that prayer isn’t just about receiving answers—it’s about bringing each situation of life into the presence of God. It’s asking God to show you, in every situation, how you can think more like He thinks and act more like He acts. Sometimes it will be as clear as day what you should do or say. But other times change will only occur by drawing closer to God and becoming more like Him.
That passage in Philippians goes on to say, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8,9) I don’t believe you can just say some words and expect all your fears to go away. Getting rid of worry and replacing it with God’s peace is a fight that happens in your mind. You have to choose to take that worry and see it the way God sees it. To do that, you have to know what His Word says about it.
My best suggestion for overcoming worry is take whatever your worry about most and find out God’s view on it. If you struggle with worry in specific area, then read, meditate on, and memorize Scripture about that area. Do a Bible study on the subject. Put verses up around your room or in your car to remind you of what is lovely and excellent. Fill your mind with God’s view so that it is available to you the instant you need it! To get you started, I’ve included a bunch of verses that will be helpful in the battle towards peace.
“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” Nahum 1:17
“I will instruct you and teach you in the ways you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do: I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.” Psalm 73:23,24
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“So we say in confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let you hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22
“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called to one body; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
This passage (from The Message translation) is great for the “little things” we fret about:
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:25-34 MSG