When is it okay to worry? When it has been more than a few hours past the time your teenager said they’d be home? When a huge and unexpected bill arrives in the mail and you have no way to pay it? When you, your spouse or child are diagnosed with cancer or a terminal illness? When faced with a pop quiz in math class?
Over the past few months, a number of folks have given me permission to worry.
“Given your circumstances, it is understandable and even permissible and right for you to be worried and anxious.”
Mind you, they didn’t come right out and say it quite so bluntly but through the questions they asked and the advice and encouragement they gave, what was subtly communicated was that I could and perhaps even should be worried. When I realized this, I was a bit shocked. It dawned on me how I myself have offered permission to others to worry countless times before without ever really realizing it. How did we come to this place where we who know Jesus should ever think it is okay to worry or be anxious?! How many times have I read and even quoted:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
Do I really believe this to be true? How different life might be if we refused to worry! I have no clue how our culture has come to be what it is today but somewhere along the way, being worried and stressed has become socially acceptable among Christians.
“Given the circumstances, it is understandable and even permissible and right for you to be worried and anxious.”
Given the circumstances…
Ok, fair enough. Our circumstances may at times give us some pretty valid reasons to be worried but we who know Jesus aren’t told to live life looking around at our circumstances (“We walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Cor. 5:7). We are beckoned to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Lover of the universe and all who are in it, the One who spoke the world into being and called for light to exist in the darkness.
When I fix my eyes fully on Jesus, all my fears melt away.
Fear. That’s what we mean when we say we are worried or stressed, right? Aren’t they just more palatable ways for us to admit we are afraid?
And why are we afraid?
We worry and get anxious because we aren’t looking at Jesus and even when we do, we don’t have the slightest clue just how much He loves us and how good and powerful He really is. We are afraid and worried because we don’t really believe we are perfectly and eternally loved. Consider 1 John 4:18:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear (worry/stress…), because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
None of us have already been made perfect. All of us struggle with fear and worry. But let us be careful not to normalize worry and treat being stressed as anything other than what it is: sin.
I have heard it said that in Scripture, God tells us 365 times not to be afraid or worried. If this is true, it may perhaps be the most repeated command in all of Scripture. In any event, it is apparent God knows we need to be told this a lot. God doesn’t want us to be afraid or worried but instead, to confidently trust Him and take Him at His word. But we don’t fully trust those whom we do not know. If you find yourself trapped under a pile of stress and worry, spend some quality time with Jesus today. There is no one more trustworthy and tender than He. He offers us His perfect peace and freedom from every fear in exchange for our heavy burdens of worries. Take Him up on His offer today. I dare you!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light” -Matthew 11:28-30