It’s been said that worry is misplaced imagination. We sometimes invent all kinds of terrible outcomes to problems we face–and we are often wrong about them. Oh, but we are creative! When we allow our imaginations to run wild, we cause more harm than good.
Philippians 4:6 says,
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
An Interesting Contrast
The conjunction, “but”, contrasts being anxious with praying. Think about that contrast. Instead of being anxious, pray to God. This discusses more than a feeling of anxiety. What is being contrasted are not emotions. If anxiety were merely an emotion, what would be contrasted in that verse? Can you truly contrast an emotion with an activity? No. In fact, you can pray to God while feeling anxiety. If you don’t believe that, look at the prayer of Jesus in the garden before His crucifixion. No, Paul is not suggesting that we stop feeling anxiety completely. Nor is he saying that anxious hearts are sinful ones. Jesus was anxious but did not sin.
So what is he contrasting in this verse? Paul is contrasting the recipients of our anxious thoughts– to whom we make our requests.
The Difference Between Worry And Faith
On one hand we deal with anxiety by allowing it to consume us. That is, we worry and fret over things, hoping that by merely noticing and fretting we will solve the problem we face. We speak to ourselves and continue to ask for answers to our difficulties. Isn’t that what worry is all about? Our minds race from one possibility to the next. Sometimes we think it makes us more caring. Perhaps we like the “drama” in some cases. And sometimes we have legitimate concerns.
Instead of worrying, we must take our anxious thoughts to God in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. We need to recognize that worry is when you say to yourself what you should be praying to God.Worry is when you say to yourself what you should be praying to God. Click To Tweet
That does not mean illegitimate worries are OK. If we are stressed and worried because we cannot find our favorite shoes, we have some serious troubles. And if we take such worries to God, that betrays a lack of wisdom. Some anxiety is always wrong, even if we take it to God. But most of us don’t lose sleep over things unless they are legitimate stresses and concerns.
Overcoming Worry Is Not Whistling Past A Graveyard
Sometimes we belittle people (unintentionally) by suggesting that we should never be concerned about anything at all. We’ve all heard (and may have said it ourselves): “Don’t sweat the little stuff. It’s all little stuff.” That is simply not true. There are some “little stuff” we need not concern ourselves about, but not everything should be called “little stuff”. There are too many passages in the Bible showing godly men and women pacing the proverbial floor over dire and grim circumstances to suggest it is improper–and Jesus was no less involved in such anxieties than anyone else.
Too often people take out of context Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:31 where Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or, ‘What shall we drink?’ or, ‘With what shall we be clothed?'”
Jesus is not saying that we cannot be concerned about anything at all. In fact, the Holy Spirit said through Paul (in 1 Corinthians 12:25):
“...the members should have the same care for one another.“
That word “care” is the EXACT word Jesus said in Matthew 6:31, translated there “anxious”. Paul was literally saying that we should be anxious about one another.
The difference between a heart of worry and a heart of faith is not found in the feelings of anxiety. The difference lies in how we choose to deal with those feelings. To whom do you take those feelings? Do you take your anxieties to God? Or do you wallow in them, bouncing them around in your own mind?
Your focus determines whether your anxiety develops worry or faith. Who are you focussing upon?
Your Worry Will Change Something
Make no mistake, worrying will change something. It will not change the situation or the conditions. You will not change outcomes by worry (unless you are part of the cause for the outcome, and in that case you will hurt your outcome). One thing is certain, however: You WILL change yourself through worry.
Worry eats at you, consumes your mind, makes you helpless, and increases your fears. Worry has many psychological and physiological effects upon a person. And it reveals a lack of faith.
Being concerned about situations and people is not necessarily wrong, but why not take it to the Lord in prayer? Prayer changes our perspectives and calls upon the Creator of the universe in His grand might and wisdom to affect a situation according to His will. Prayer improves our faith and opens doors that may never have opened without it.
How much time do you spend in prayer? Is this an area where you could improve? He is there for you, waiting to hear of your anxieties. You’ll feel much better dropping them at His feet.