One of the greatest struggles I had in building my relationship with God over the last four years is overcoming worry. When I accepted Christ’s sacrifice for me and decided to follow His direction for my life, I was overwhelmed with worry, fear, depression and anxiety. I desperately needed the peace He promises. But I struggled to find this rest as my family and I went through some tremendous trials. During my Bible study one day I came across this verse:
Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”
It was hard for me to fathom how God could expect me to live in this world and not worry about anything. The only way I thought that could happen would be to stop caring about people. That wasn’t going to happen and it certainly wasn’t consistent with the person God is and the kind of person He wants me to be. Surely God understands if we worry about our loved ones, people who have not accepted His gift of salvation, world events that we have no control over. But these words come from Paul, who suffered greatly. He faced death numerous times, endured torture time and time again, had many friends who suffered and died, and was pursued endlessly by powerful people who opposed his message. Yet Paul exhorts us through his words to the Philippians that we are to be anxious about NOTHING. Paul didn’t provide us with a list of things we are allowed to worry about. He says we are to be anxious about NOTHING. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. NO THING. NOTHING.
There is only one way to worry about nothing: absolute trust in God. When I am faced with a struggle, I come up with a solution that I want to see. It’s generally a quick solution because the sooner the issue goes away, the sooner I can quit worrying. I know how I want things to turn out and I go to God asking Him for those results. Then I become anxious when I see even a slight possibility that things might turn out differently than I have planned or when nothing seems to be changing. As I provide God with solutions, the absurdity of what I’m doing hits me and I have to switch gears. I begin to focus on turning the situation over to God, but still I often worry whether or not I will be able to handle the outcome He might choose.
Each time I’m faced with a new struggle, I face the challenge of totally trusting God. I have to remember that He will work it out in a way that accounts for many things I cannot possibly consider. He can account for every possible consequence for every individual and for eternity. My limited view of life leaves me wanting answers that don’t include any kind of suffering or pain. I don’t consider answers that will benefit someone I am harboring hard feelings for. When I trust God’s answers, I can know He is able to take all of this into account and bring about good. My view is too limited to even begin to accomplish this.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
I love reading the Old Testament. I get really frustrated with the Israelites as I read of their constant lack of trust in God during their time in the wilderness. They worried about what they would eat and drink and expressed their displeasure with Moses for taking them out of Egypt where they had plenty, conveniently forgetting how they had suffered there. They were fearful of the approaching Egyptian army and they feared the inhabitants of the land God promised them. I question how they could ever worry about anything after the miracles they had witnessed – the parting of the Red Sea, God leading them by fire at night and the cloud by day, water pouring out of rocks and manna falling from the sky. I sometimes think that if God would perform one of these miracles today, it would be easier to trust Him. But if it didn’t work for the Israelites, I have to understand it wouldn’t work for me, either! As I read these stories, I also have to remember that I have the advantage of reading about these things centuries after they happened. I am no different from the Israelites when I face the trials He allows in my life. I have to trust what He is going to do and I have to keep in mind that it might not look like I want it to look. That’s the tough part.
There are several things about God that I keep in mind. God is outside of time. He is able to work in my life as if He is reading about it centuries later. He is omniscient so He knows what the consequences will be of everything that He allows in my life. He orchestrates all of it so it works for good for all those who love Him who are involved even in the smallest way, not just the people and things I am aware of.
Even when the solution God provides is difficult, I can rest assured God is still taking care of me. As the Israelites’ wandered in the wilderness for 40 years as punishment for their lack of trust, God provided everything they needed. As long as I remind myself that what He is doing takes into consideration everyone who loves Him and that He is preparing all for eternity, I am able to free myself from the anxiety I experience when I cannot see or understand the reasons for the difficult things He allows into my life.
God’s timing is vastly different from mine. More often than not, God’s plans require a lot of patience. My most earnest prayer is that my loved ones will accept Christ. As I watch things in the world unravel, I am convinced that this world has just about tested God’s patience to the limit and He will soon bring it to a close. This leaves me with a sense of urgency for those who haven’t accepted His gift of salvation. There are days when I plead with Him to let me see some progress and there have been times when He shows me how someone has become more open to Jesus or they ask a question that indicates they are thinking about something we have discussed. But, again, He didn’t provide a list of exceptions that I’m allowed to worry about, not even others’ salvation, nor did He say He would relieve my worry through visible evidence. He will relieve my worry through faith and trust in Him and I must be patient.
The Philippians verse also tells us that we are to be thankful. Giving thanks allows us to focus on God’s goodness. It reminds us that He has cared for us in the past and will continue to do so. Thanking and praising God as we petition Him for help in getting through trials changes our attitude and should help us realize that He truly cares for us.
1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
My husband has head knowledge of Jesus but is not a committed follower. We were talking about money and I reminded him that it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye despite his methodical, careful management. I told him that if God wants me to live in a box, I’ll live in a box. He said “But I don’t want to live in a box.” In a misguided attempt to help him understand something about God’s nature, I tried to assure him if that were God’s plan, it would happen no matter what we do and we can rest in knowing that God would take care of our needs while teaching and refining us. It wasn’t a well-timed conversation – like trying to teach someone geometry before they’ve mastered basic math – but it reminded me how thankful I am that I can trust God’s plans for me, no matter what they look like. I wish my husband could find this peace.
Luke 12:22-25 – “Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
Even my Christian friends often approach a struggle with their own plan in mind. I try to find ways to remind them that God might have something different in mind for them. Perhaps they will not be healed of a health issue, perhaps they will not get that job they desperately want, or maybe a family matter won’t be resolved in the way we believe would be best. But they can still trust that no matter what happens God will use it for good. God wants us to bring the desires of our hearts to Him and we are to be persistent and bold with our requests. But we have to remember God is part of all answers, even when we don’t like them or understand them. Too often we celebrate His presence when the answers look like we want them to look but chalk up His more difficult responses as unanswered prayer.
Mark 14:32- 36: “ Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
Does this mean we will never have a minute of worry? No, I don’t expect that. After all, we still live in a broken world and we still care about other people. Even Jesus, God in the flesh, experienced great anxiety on the night of His arrest. On that night Jesus was deeply distressed and exceedingly sorrowful. He turned to God in fervent prayer, asking God three times to take the cup from Him. But Jesus yielded to God’s will. Unlike us, Jesus knew what God’s plan would demand and how difficult it would be yet He still trusted in what God was doing, knowing what that plan meant for every person who ever lived. This should be our example during our struggles.
I want to be as confident in God’s plans as Jesus was at Gethsemane; to live as if I can see through to eternity and rest assured that God’s plans are always the best for everyone involved. I know I can approach God with my requests time and time again but when I convince myself that is the only acceptable answer, I invite worry and anxiety into my life. I must always turn it over to God in the end and let Him work it out His way. I must learn to lean on Him and trust that He will get me through those answers He provides that are painful or that I don’t understand.
The payoff is huge: Philippians 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”