I’m embarrassed to admit a recent battle with worry. One night I woke up thinking dreadful thoughts about issues I’m dealing with. I thought about all the terrible potential outcomes. Soon I was in a cold sweat. It was hard to get back to sleep.
Was this experience involuntary? Was it a panic attack? Was my experience just a normal part of being human? Was it unfortunate but understandable?
I’m not sure I can answer all those questions, but here’s something I do know. God’s Word clearly says: “Don’t worry about anything.” (Philippians 4:6a NLT)
Some might disagree about worrying being a sin. But what is sin? It is disobedience to God. The way we know we are disobeying God is through the Bible.
This is the Bible’s teaching. It’s very clear: Christians are not to worry.
So how can we do that? How can we win over the sin of worry? To some degree fear is involuntary. So wasn’t it understandable that I woke up worried?
I believe the answer is that all are tempted to worry in different ways. My fear was involuntary and natural. It was a temptation to worry.
The question is what we do with our involuntary temptations.
Jesus was tempted, yet didn’t sin: “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
We can be tempted to worry but not do it.
Here are 3 tips to win over the sin of worry:
01. Don’t nurse it, fight it.
To be human is to face temptation. Again, it is not a sin to be tempted. The question is what we’ll do with the temptation.
The Bible says to “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)
I have a deceased family member who would spend many hours in worry. It seemed like a hobby, a favorite pastime.
Why was it such an obsession? I’m not sure, but here are some potential reasons people like to worry:
- Perhaps they feel a duty to worry, as if it could help somehow.
- Perhaps people feel that there’s nothing wrong with worry (they don’t know or ignore God’s instruction not to worry.)
- Maybe they want to figure things out, so they obsess over something going round and round without solving or solutions.
- Some might feel worrying is a way of caring and not worrying means not caring.
It’s good to think through issues and potential solutions. Then we should work to solve the issues.
I did this with some of the issues I was fearing recently and it was quite helpful. I wrote them down and then wrote “God’s perspective” beside each of the concerns. I was really encouraged to by thinking through God’s perspective on my concerns!
But worry means thinking there might be a threat and yet doing nothing. That’s where God’s instruction hits home, “Don’t worry about anything.” (Philippians 4:6a NLT)
So the first step to overcoming worry is to stop making excuses and fight worry.
Caveat: Some have anxiety disorders and other issues that make dealing with worry especially difficult. They should seek help from medical doctors and professional Christian counselors. I did a podcast that might be helpful on the topic Can a Christian Take Brain Chemistry Medications?
02. Fend off worry with Scripture.
The best way to fight a temptation is with Scripture. When Jesus was tempted during His 40 days in the wilderness, He responded by quoting Scripture. (See Matthew 4:1-11.)
So fight worry by memorizing and quoting Scriptures.
I’m not talking about just Scriptures that tell us not to worry, but also Scriptures that comfort, heal, reassure and give peace.
Here are some examples:
- “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)
- “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)
- “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)
- “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10 KJV)
- “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 KJV)
The other night when I woke up worrying, I began to quote Scriptures. I soon fell back asleep, resting in God’s promises.
03. Turn issues over to God in prayer.
Philippians 4 instructs us not to worry as cited above, but it doesn’t leave us hanging. The rest of the passage gives us God’s prescription to overcome worry:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)
Do you get the picture? Replace thoughts of worry with prayers and thanksgiving.
We can and should pray honestly about issues of concern. But after lifting them up to God, we must then practice thanksgiving by thanking Him for all the good things we can think of. These might be related to the issue of concern, and they might not. It doesn’t matter—just start thanking God for all kinds of blessings!
Then practice, on a day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute basis, the next verse:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)
Do you get the picture? All day every day meditate (think, focus) on good stuff, positive stuff. This verse says to focus on things that are:
- Of good report
If you live this way each day, you will be less tempted to worry.
In conclusion, I cannot guarantee you’ll never be tempted to worry. But I can guarantee that if you follow these tips, you’ll be able to overcome through the power of God’s Word, prayer and His Spirit.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)
For more help understanding what the Bible says about worry, fear, joy & happiness see these resources on my website:
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