Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy?

When you're anxious, where do you turn? What's the first place in Scripture you think of to take a friend who's consumed with worries?

I'm guessing for many of us, it's Philippians 4, with that classic verse 6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

But let me ask you: Really? To quote my pastor, "How's that working out for you?" You're worried, and so you read, "Don't worry." Worry is sin. Stop it

Thanks. Got it. I'll just stop, then.

OK, to be fair, this verse does give us some helpful alternatives: Instead of worrying, pray. Take it to God. Give thanks. Yes! These are good things! Of course they are--all Scripture is God-breathed and useful, and this familiar verse is truly a wonderful one, especially when read in context. But I would suggest that the first place to go when you're worried is not a verse that says "do not be anxious." The law is powerless to change our hearts!

Instead, we need to dig a little deeper. WHY exactly am I worried? I would suggest that at bottom, it's some form of unbelief. Perhaps I don't really believe God is sovereign and in control. Or perhaps I absolutely believe He's powerful, but I don't really believe He's good and loving. Or I don't really believe He is all-wise (I believe I know better what should happen, and I'm afraid He's going to do otherwise).

We'd never *say* we think this way, but our worry betrays us--functionally, this is what we believe: God is not powerful enough to do anything about this. God doesn't really love me, isn't really for me. God doesn't really know what's best for me in these circumstances. 

If this is the real problem, then the real solution needs to go a whole lot deeper than "Don't worry."

So I open the Word, but I don't go to the law. I go to the psalms and prophecies and epistles that tell me who God is; I go to the stories that show His character in action. I read about how powerful He is, how all of His purposes stand, how no one can thwart Him, how He is mighty to save. I read about His merciful goodness, how He works in all things for *my* good, how He is FOR me, how His compassions never fail. I read about His unsearchable wisdom, how His thoughts and ways are far higher than mine, how He works in ways the foolish world calls foolish.

And as I see Him and trust Him, worry is displaced by worship.

To try and battle my anxiety with law is self-focused. I'm still concentrating on me, on what I should do or not do. And I am weak, and I will inevitably fail to do or stop doing these things. But to battle my anxiety with gospel is to turn the focus from myself to my Savior.

When I turn my attention from my worries to the cross, where Jesus secured my greatest need (forgiveness from sin and reconciliation with God), I can rest and I can celebrate. I realize that I don't have to worry because if God would go to such infinite lengths and immeasurable costs to justify me and adopt me as His child, of course He can be trusted to provide for my much smaller and easier-to-meet needs. I am awed by what He has already done and encouraged by what He promises to do--and for these incredible realities, I can give joyful thanks.

"Stop it"? Or "run to the cross"? I know which one I need to hear, which one can truly change my heart.

Powerlessness a Nine-Year-Old Can Recognize
Grace is Like Manna


Danielle said...

"And as I see Him and trust Him, worry is displaced by worship."

Great line. Great reminder.

Danielle said...

And for me, Ps. 119 pretty much takes care of worry. Reciting that empowers my heart to trust God.

Danielle said...

I meant Ps. 103 . . . not sure what happened there. :)

Amy said...

haha, that makes more sense! I thought Ps 119 seemed a bit odd, but I thought, well, it talks about the wisdom of God, hoping in His Word, I'm sure there are gems there.

103 is much more obvious :)

Susi aka Sinead said...

Thank you so much for this. I get upset every time I hear someone say "worry is sin" and they refer to that verse that God didn't give us a spirit of fear. In my opinion that puts even more guilt on people. We don't need more guilt, we have enough of that already (at least I do). We need the gospel. Thanks for a lovely and encouraging blog post!!

Briana Almengor said...

This was excellent. Sound counsel. My friend, Danielle, kindly directed me here today. We just learned that my hubby will be out of a job come June 30th unless, of course, God provides something else in the meantime.

We are experiencing much grace and overwhelming encouragement from the Body. COnsider your post as a part of that. Thanks for writing it.

Sandra Andrews said...

amen and amen.