How do we stop worrying?
Have you ever known someone who constantly worries about everything? Have you ever been that person? Is it really possible to stop worrying?
Several years ago I had a friend who was always worried about something. It didn’t matter what was going on in his life, even if everything was good. He still worried. He still imagined all the things that could go wrong.
The interesting thing is, most of the things he worried about never happened. I used to tease him that he wasted all that effort worrying about that stuff and that he could have spent his time, effort, and emotional energy on something more productive.
He knew he had the problem, but he just couldn’t stop himself from worrying. He would shrug his shoulders and say, “Well, I guess I’m just a worrywart.”
But I must say, over the last few years he has grown a lot spiritually and doesn’t worry nearly so much as he used to. He’s trusting God more in all areas of his life when he doesn’t know what’s going to happen.
How to stop worrying so much
There are lots of ideas in the Bible that help dissolve the tendency to worry so much.
The first thing I think of is something that applies to almost any situation you’re in, but it’s especially appropriate if you’re worried about something.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5, 6 NLT
Another favorite is
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6 NLT
That’s a pretty tall order and not always easy to do, but it is possible to stop worrying so much.
And one little hint there: gratitude. Tell God what you’re grateful for. That helps dissolve worry.
Jesus’s remedy to stop worrying
It’s not really a surprise that Jesus gives us the perfect remedy for worrying. In fact, he gets right down to the root cause of worry in our lives and removes it.
The interesting thing is that the remedy for worrying is also the solution to basically all the problems we may have. I talk a lot about this on The Bible Speaks to You Podcast. It’s the cornerstone and focus of Jesus’s ministry, the fact that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
As I so often say, this kingdom of heaven is not some far off, esoteric realm that’s hard to find. It is here and now. Jesus keeps telling us this. Why don’t we believe him?
So, even though this isn’t a new idea and you’ve probably thought about it a lot, let’s just ponder for a minute the implication of what it means that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Well, there are certain and necessary consequences. Because the kingdom of heaven is at hand, there is no need to worry about all those things you worry about, because in the kingdom, your heavenly Father is taking care of you and giving you absolutely everything you need. I’ll repeat, it’s not way off in the future. But here and now.
Let’s be honest. How much time do you spend worrying about not having what you need to get through life? It’s more than I want to admit sometimes. Maybe you’re worried about not having enough money to pay the bills. That can be like a dull roar in the background, just barely audible, but still drowning out what God is telling us.
Fear and worry
It’s called fear. Fear that God will not take care of us, fear that we won’t have what we need, whether it’s money or anything else. Fear that maybe God doesn’t love us anymore, if He ever did, or won’t help us because we’re not worthy and have made too many mistakes.
So, how do we get rid of this fear? There are lots of Bible verses to quote on this subject, but a Bible verse all by itself is not the answer. It’s what the idea in a given Scripture does to your heart. It’s about opening our eyes to see that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. When you see and feel the presence of God’s kingdom, you don’t just hope He will take care of you, you know it and see it already.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about why we shouldn’t worry about having all we need to eat and wear, or whatever it is. It’s because in the kingdom of heaven, there are no worries about what to wear, having enough to eat, or being able to pay your bills. You have everything you need at every moment. God Himself is an endless supply for all you need. Jesus keeps telling us this kingdom is here and now. Isn’t it time to trust him on this?
She had no food in the house and no money the day before Thanksgiving
There are so many examples of how God has met people’s needs. You’ve probably had many yourself. I’ll share the experience of a friend of mine, Eunice, from many years ago, before the age of credit cards. Her husband was a successful builder, most often of churches. Thanksgiving was just a few days away and there were multiple building clients that should have made payments but hadn’t. There was no cash flow and no money in the bank.
Eunice didn’t even have any money to buy groceries and there was no food in the house. They had been scraping by for several weeks, because clients were not paying on time. Eunice told me, she went to the cupboard once more the day before Thanksgiving, hoping to find a can of forgotten food she could prepare for her husband and three young boys for the next day. Nothing.
She turned to God in prayer. It wasn’t a desperate plea but a deep, earnest prayer affirming that God would take care of her family. It wasn’t so much about whether they had a traditional meal on the fourth Thursday of November. She felt God’s love for her family and knew He would care for them. She felt the presence of His kingdom. And she quit worrying.
She had been praying for quite some time this way when the doorbell brought her back to earth. Her next-door neighbor had brought a turkey and several bags of groceries and asked if Eunice could use them. She had just received a phone call and would have to leave town that afternoon to take care of some family business and wouldn’t be back for a week or two. She had no idea that Eunice had no food in the house. It was a blessing for both women.
And to top it all off, she wondered if Eunice could use a gallon of milk. It would spoil by the time she got back. Well, that was exactly what three growing boys needed. And her neighbor went back to her house to bring it.
Eunice was absolutely amazed at the immediacy of God’s provision for her needs. There was still awe in her voice when she told me this story 30 years after it had happened. When she caught a glimpse of what was true in the kingdom of heaven – that we have all we need – and that this kingdom is “at hand,” her needs were met instantly.
And by the time her family had eaten all that food, some of her husband’s clients paid their bills and things were fine.
Jesus says we can stop worrying
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not just saying “Don’t worry that you’ll have enough to eat, or the clothes you need.” He reassures us why we don’t need to worry because God already knows what we need and is supplying it this very moment.
So, why do people worry?
Basically, it’s because they don’t know God or they don’t trust Him. They think they have to manipulate events, circumstances, and people to get what they want and need. It’s all on their shoulders. You can have faith in God, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’re trusting Him in every situation. But when you know and understand that God loves you, that He knows your needs even before you ask Him, you can trust Him to take care of you.
Jesus presents us with a better approach to a meaningful life than racing around trying to accumulate the material things we think we need. He says something quite extraordinary and contrary to human logic,
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NKJV
I’ve read that verse so many times, so I looked it up in the Amplified Bible
But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right–the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. Matthew 6:33 AMP
Jesus’s solution to stop worrying
The world says we must use our human will and determination to make things happen, to get what we want in an endless hunter/gatherer mentality of human toil and effort. Jesus turns this approach upside down and tells us to search for God and his kingdom before we do anything else.
But it’s not just a time element of what comes first. It’s also a priority factor. What is more important to you: finding God’s kingdom here and now, or just getting your human wants and desires taken care of?
What thoughts and actions need to change in our lives so that we put God first, seek His kingdom and righteousness, and do His will before dashing fretfully or arrogantly into the world, thinking we are responsible for our own well-being?
If you’re like me, the list of things that need to change in my heart to always seek God’s kingdom first and foremost has more than a few items. I’ll make a deal with you. Let’s each pick one thing off that list to tackle. What thought or action can you change from worrying about having everything you need to seeking God’s righteousness and complete control in your life?
How do we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?
One place to start is to send your heart on a search party into the Scriptures for everything the Bible says about God’s kingdom and His righteousness. This is going to take you more than five or ten minutes, but you can start with that. It will take a lifetime actually.
The Psalms are full of insights. One of my favorites is
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalm 145:13 NKJV
This one verse reveals so much that we need to ponder and live in our lives.
Another heavy concentration of insights is in the parables Jesus tells of what the kingdom of heaven is like. Each parable gives at least one clear idea of what this kingdom is. So read over or think about some of these parables. Make a list of the qualities and attributes of the kingdom. Then, ponder them quietly in prayer and live them in your daily life. I know, that’s a tall order. But we can take one step at a time.
Parables show how to stop worrying because they show us the kingdom
For example, take the parable of the tares of the field. You can read the parable in Matthew, Chapter 13, verses 24-30.
A farmer plants wheat but an enemy plants tares (darnel, an undesirable weed) among the wheat. The problem is that darnel leaves look almost exactly like wheat leaves. The workers didn’t realize there were weeds among the wheat until it had grown a while and the seed stalks appeared. By that time, the roots of the wheat and darnel were so intertwined that if the darnel was pulled out, it would rip out the wheat too. The farmer says to leave it all until the harvest when the reapers will harvest the tares first and burn them. Then the wheat will be harvested.
What does this have to do with the kingdom? Jesus explains in verses 36-42.
The wheat seeds are the children of God’s kingdom sown by Jesus. The tares are the children of the “wicked one.” The harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are the angels.
Here’s one idea that has helped me get through many struggles. Even though the tares and wheat are inter-planted, the tares do not become wheat and a stalk of wheat can never turn into a tare.
You are not a tare struggling to be wheat. You may see tares on every side of you and maybe even start to identify with them. And you cannot become a tare if you get stomped on or if you make mistakes and grow in the wrong direction. Because you are a child of God, nothing can turn you into a tare. The angels know the difference and recognize you as a child of God.
What does this tell you about God’s kingdom?
What does it tell you about God’s righteousness and how to stop worrying? Think about it for a minute and let God give you the answers you need. Then live them out in the way you interact with people.
Sometimes we misjudge someone, but we don’t really know what is deep in their hearts. We think they must definitely be one of the tares and should be punished accordingly. But maybe the wind just blew a tare in front of a neighboring wheat stalk and makes it appear to be a tare. Or maybe they only saw tares around them and started thinking like a tare.
Most importantly, when you know you are the wheat, how will this affect your prayers? Will they be self-righteous: “Look at me, I’m a stalk of wheat and you’re not.”? Or will they be fearful, worrying if the reapers will be able to find you amongst the tares? Or will your prayers be an exercise in trusting God’s justice and mercy and ability to save all His children?
The way you seek and see the kingdom of heaven will influence the way you pray. To seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness is actually one of the highest forms of prayer itself.
Taking one day at a time
Immediately after setting this high and lofty goal of seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, Jesus brings us right down to the practicalities of everyday life: Take one day at a time. You’re going to have plenty of challenges every day.
That’s pretty heavy-duty stuff.
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 AMP
He wait a minute! I thought when we follow Jesus, things are supposed to get better, easier, more peaceful. Why does each day have to have so much trouble?
It should not be a surprise: we are always going to have challenges. Or rather, we are always going to have opportunities to put into practice what Jesus has taught us. Sometimes we’re kind of like kids in math class who complain about homework every day, but it’s in studying the principles of math and doing the homework that help us make progress and really learn.
So it is with following Christ. We learn the basics, which are conveniently summed up in the Sermon on the Mount, and then we have “homework” or the every-day-life-work of putting what we’ve learned into practice each new 24 hour period.
It’s not always easy to do everything Jesus tells us, but when we do, we grow stronger. We get closer to him and we know God better.
Prayer and worry
What does all this have to do with not worrying so much? How does it affect the way we pray?
Sometimes we get prayer and worry mixed up. We tell God what we’re worried about and think we’re praying. Somehow, we think that’s enough to get Him to fix all our problems. There are times when it may seem the only way to start a prayer is tell God what you’re worried about. But if you end your prayer with the same worry on your heart, you haven’t really turned it over to God.
Jesus says each day has its own problems to deal with. So… deal with them that day and don’t put them off until another day. Face your fears. Face the challenges and problems each day. Pray about things as they come up. The longer you avoid the current challenges in your life by fretting about the past or worrying about the future, the more problems you’re creating to deal with later.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us to ask for daily bread. Pray about the problems of today. If you’re worried about tomorrow, pray about it today. Put it in God’s hand today, but don’t worry about it today.
I think Jesus wants us to live in a constant attitude of prayer. Not so much in petition mode of always asking God for something. But in the sense of always trusting God, asking Him for guidance, and listening for His voice.
In the kingdom of heaven, there’s nothing to worry about
The more you and I do this, and the more we are conscious of God’s kingdom being here and now, we won’t just be hoping that God will take care of us and provide everything we need. We will experience what it means to “live and move and have our being in God.” (See Acts 17:28 below)
For in him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 NIV
The way to stop worrying, is to seek and find the kingdom of heaven at hand, to experience being in God’s presence. Jesus would not tell us to seek this kingdom if we couldn’t find it. The implication is that we can be conscious right now of heaven’s presence and dwell there.
In heaven there’s nothing to worry about. And that is where you dwell. You have everything you need and God is in complete control.
Photo credit: Massimiliano Sarno
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Proverbs 3:5, 6 NLT
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Philippians 4:6 NLT
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33 AMP
33 “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right–the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.
Psalm 145:13 NKJV
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Matthew 6:34 AMP
34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Acts 17:28 NIV
28 For in him we live and move and have our being