The most frequently uttered command in the Bible is: “do not be afraid.” Whether it’s God speaking to Abram, Moses, Elijah or the shepherds at the time of Jesus’s birth, the pages of scripture are littered with this invitation to live life in all its fullness without the crippling burden of worry.
Crippling is an apt description, because ‘worry’ comes from the Old English verb ‘to strangle’, which later developed into the Middle English for ‘to seize by the throat and tear’. Pretty realistic descriptions – metaphorically – don’t you think?
I’m convinced that if God is so abundantly clear about not worrying, it must be a reality for modern-day Christians to experience freedom from this. Here are three ways that I think could be helpful to eliminate this detrimental habit from our lives:
1. Turn your eyes upon Jesus
In the words of an old hymn, when we turn our eyes upon Jesus, the things of earth will grow strangely dim. They won’t disappear, but you’ll start to see things differently. It’s unwise to be delusional and pretend that everything’s going to work out exactly how you want it to every time, but it’s equally unhelpful to always think that the worst is going to happen.
Remind yourself of whom your God is, what He has done, and what He is capable of. Ask Him to show you how He sees your worries and your situation from the perspective of heaven. Ask God what you need to do in the situation and trust that He’ll do His part.
It’s mind-blowing to think that we always consider the worst possible outcome. Why do we not let ourselves think about how a situation might just turn out ok, or – dare I say it – better than we expected?
2. Actually give them to Jesus
Saying and doing are completely different things. We talk about giving our worries, fears, hopes and dreams to God, but I think we always cling onto them anyway because we love being in control.
This can be really difficult and one thing that may be of use is to ask God to change your heart – ask God to make you want to give things over. It’s a process – not an overnight thing – and wrestling with God is biblical and healthy.
If it helps, do something practical to denote this. This could mean writing specific worries on a balloon and then letting it go, or writing them down on small bits of paper and (safely) burning them.
Do this process with one or two close friends and have them keep you accountable to make sure you’re not letting these worries seize you by the throat and tear away at your peace. I think it’s wise to say that counselling could be a good option for some who feel as though they’re bound by such anxiety, and again this is something that was never meant to be tackled alone.
3. Don’t let worrying define you
If you’ve ever called yourself a worrier or said to yourself that it’s just in your nature and you can’t help it, then you’re buying into a lie. While you may have a tendency to do so, it’s not your identity and never will be. Life in all its fullness is a wonderful promise made by Jesus Christ and, even in our 21st century lifestyles that are full of potential things to worry about, this promise can shine brighter and shout louder than anything else.
“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 6:34 (The Message).