It’s 12:45 am. I shift in my bed once again and sigh, pulling twisted sheets over my shoulder. I have a long day tomorrow, and lots to get done. But this realization is only an intermission in the stream of worries that have seized my mind for the past hours: worries about my upcoming summer job. My future. Grad school. And oh yes, all the details, too.
I am a worrier. I don’t say that flippantly. For years, I’ve overanalyzed situations, tortured my mind with possibilities and assumptions, and expected the worst.
I’ve found it to be such a frustrating problem! While I know that worrying is pointless and harmful, it feels impossible to stop. When there’s a perceived problem on the horizon of my life, my mind’s eye loves to linger. What if I don’t think through all the details? What if something goes wrong? Oh, what can I do?! I feebly try to plan my way out of pain.
Recently, though, I studied Jesus’ teaching about worry in Luke 12. Here, he has just finished talking to a man whose primary concern was his family’s inheritance. Jesus told the parable of the rich fool to show that greed in this life leads to poverty in eternity.
He then turns to his disciples and warns them about worry. Could this mean that there’s a link between selfish greed and worry? Hang onto that thought as you read the passage! His words are incredibly powerful, and have largely shifted my perspective about worry in three ways.
1. Worry ignores God’s provision and promises.
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. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! -Luke 12:22-28
After reading that, doesn’t worry seem illogical? God takes care of the birds and wildflowers. How much more will he take care of those he calls his children? Those he sacrificed his son’s life for?
Worrying requires us to squeeze our eyes shut to God’s history of provision for us and his promises to us. It’s no wonder that our heads start spinning when we think that way!
2. Worry is self-focused.
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. -Luke 12:29-30
Think of the most recent thing you worried about. In all those fateful scenarios you played out in your head, whose safety was at stake? Whose pride? Whose comfort, money, future, health, or happiness? Most likely, it was your own.
It’s exactly what I’ve found in myself. I’m most prone to worry about things in my life going downhill. I know we worry about our loved ones too, but it’s usually the exception to the rule: and even then, we worry about how we’ll be affected!
Worry is a result of selfishness: that disastrous disease we can’t quite get enough of. It’s a result of our hearts being set on the wrong things.
For example, why do I worry about my future so much? Because my heart is set on it. I’ve set it up as what I need to be truly fulfilled. The thought of having a husband, a tidy home, beautiful children, and a job I love is so attractive to me that I become desperate when I realize it might not all work out perfectly.
Worldly plans, concepts, and possessions cannot handle the pressure of fulfilling us, but we keep trying to force it to work. Then, when we detect a crack in our reasoning or a flaw in our plan, we worry ourselves sick over fixing it.
[Self-centered expectations of life + the knowledge that worldly things will never fulfil them = worry]
3. Worry is cured with an outward focus.
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Luke 12:29-34
God knows what we need, and he’s just as tuned into our physical and emotional needs as our spiritual needs. I tend to forget that and assume that I have to take care of those aspects of life myself. In this passage, though, Jesus lovingly reminds us that we don’t have to worry about any of our needs.
Our lives’ primary focus is to be on our Father’s kingdom. How? We are told to invite others into it, invest in it, and set our hearts on it. We are also told to live generously: outside the fear of not having enough. This frees us to build up treasures in heaven that will last!
This is a fascinating way to dissipate worry. The more we focus on and give ourselves to eternal things, the less obsessed we will be with the details and troubles of our own existences. This perspective shift is hard and painful for sure, but we will not know true peace or contentment without it.
The most worry-filled moments in my life are the most selfish and inward-focused. But the most joyful, soul-filling moments are the most generous and outward-focused!
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Look forward to new posts every Monday morning!