Winning the Worry War
By Jill Briscoe
I am a worrier. Yes, I know. I'm a Christian and Christians aren't supposed to worry. To give you an idea of how long this has been going on, our eldest son's first words were, "Oh dear!" That was well over 40 years ago. I'd been a Christian worker for many years when he said that, and I was a missionary to boot!
I can understand perfectly why people who don't know Jesus worry. They have no anchor for their soul or anyone to hush their fears to sleep. They have no one to pray for them, support them in their darkest hour, or assure them that there is a heaven to go to, a Christ to take them there, and a Holy Spirit to permeate their souls with a peace that passes understanding like believers in Jesus do. Even though I became a Christian, I found to my great disappointment that I simply had a whole set of new things to worry about!
At first, I worried I would lose my friends if I told them about the Lord. Would I have the courage to stand for Christ at my university? How would my newfound faith affect my relationship with my boyfriend? Later, when married and in full-time Christian work, I worried my kids would grow up to reject God. I was hoping that knowing Him, reading the Bible, and praying would stop the things I worried about.
I searched the Bible to see if it would promise me a trouble-free life. Sadly, I found no guarantees. In fact, Jesus said to His disciples "You will have trouble" (John 16:33). And Paul reminded believers having a hard time, "To you it is given on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His Name" (Phil. 1:29). So I have fought a lifelong battle with worry. What do I worry about now that I have been a Christian all these years? All the things I worried about at the beginning — family, relationships, church, and the world!
I still worry about the past I can do nothing about and, likewise, the future. I worry about the present that I can do something about, that I won't be able to do anything about it! I worry about my family and their families, too; and because we have 13 grandchildren, you can see I have plenty of worry practice!
I worry about the talks I have to get ready for. I worry that I won't have enough time to prepare, or material to teach, or that the talks won't be interesting and keep people's attention. I worry about the world in turmoil, the travel we do, and whether terrorism will win the day. I worry about our friends around the world who live in dangerous situations for Jesus' sake.
If I worry enough, a little voice tells me, maybe God will see all that worry and be pleased with me for being so concerned that He won't let anything I'm worrying about happen! Wrong! I have come to realize bad things happen to good people, even God's people—or especially God's people! However, I have also learned that worry concerns Him. It's not His will for His children to worry their lives away. He has something so much better in mind for all of us. In fact, He explicitly forbids us to worry! "Do not worry," He tells us in Matthew 6. Seeing I am an expert worrier, let me share a few of my life lessons with you.
Worry is one of the devil's gifts.
The devil wants me to worry. In fact, just as God is concerned when I worry, Satan worries when I don't! Fear and worry are the tools of his trade. He stands by day and night to help us worry about something. Anything! He is sick with worry if we aren't sick with worry. He knows if we worry we don't trust, and He can't stand us depending on God. That drives him crazy! God has not given us the spirit of fear, "but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7). If the devil's gift is a spirit of fear, since when have we accepted gifts from the devil? God wants us to win the worry war and deal with our fears. He wants us to trust and rely wholly on Him.
As I read the story of the disciples paralyzed with fear in the storm at sea, I realize that "the mother of all storms is allowed by the Father of all comfort" in order to reduce us to size, show us our need for God, and send us running into His saving arms.
Others learn what we are learning as we respond rightly to the things God allows to happen to us.
While suffering in prison, Paul said, "The things that have happened to me have fallen out for the good of the gospel." The brothers under persecution saw how the Lord encouraged Paul and gave him boldness in his difficult circumstances, and so they were encouraged to be bold themselves. Sometimes we can preach a louder sermon by how we handle trouble than by leading a Bible study about it. I have found that misery leads to ministry.
Paul says in 2 Cor. 1:3, "All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel!" God comes alongside us when we go through hard times. Before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. He is the God of all healing counsel. So, what do we do as believers when the storm comes? We need to learn certain things about God and help others know, too.
He is in control of what He allows.
He is bigger than the things He has made. He controls the duration, force, and impact of the wind and the waves that swamp us. Remember it is His storm! Jesus, in other words, is awfully good at stilling storms. Luke 8:23- 25 tells us, "A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in and they were about to capsize. They woke Jesus: 'Master, Master, we're going to drown!' they said."
"Getting to His feet, He told the wind, 'Silence!' and the waves, 'Quiet down!'" They did. The lake became smooth as glass. Then He said to His disciples, "Why can't you trust me? What has happened to your faith" (J.B. Phillips)? They were in absolute awe, staggering and stammering, "Who is this, anyway? He calls out to the winds and sea, and they do what He tells them!"
He talked to the storm like a parent to a tantruming infant, "Be still now" or "Stop that!" Remember, it's His storm! God walks on water, and He says, "As I live by the Father so you are to live by me." In other words, He alone has the power of making the storm of little consequence. "Immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading" (John 6:21). He knows the outcome because He knows the end from the beginning. So, He is cognizant of all that is happening; He allows it to happen.
He will work in the circumstances for our spiritual good and His glory.
In other words, He enables us to rise above it in our minds and walk on water. He wants to establish trust. The storm can be the means to that end. We can't worry it away; we can't trust it away, but we can trust Him in it when it doesn't go away. This way, the storm becomes of little consequence. We grow in God and faith, and He gets the credit!
So, what is the storm of worry that has you drowning? Is it a storm of criticism? Paul knew all about that. He essentially said, It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don't even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I'm not aware of anything that would disqualify me.
Paul was not living his life controlled by what others thought of him, but by what Jesus thought of Him.
He reveals all we need to know to overcome worry.
God does not always give us all the answers as to why He allows the storm in the first place. There is not always an easy answer and sometimes it's better to accept mystery than a bad answer! Sometimes, we need to give up the insistence of having to know why. Just accept the healing and the help God offers. Respond rightly to trouble—and that right response is trust.
Fear and faith cannot live together.
A tormenting fear married to an absence of faith immobilizes you until you stop rowing. You give up. Let Him take over and you'll find yourself walking over the storm instead of sinking beneath its waves.
He wants us to trust Him with a financial crisis, a bad marriage, a sick child, with a difficult relative or coworker, with a family conflict. He wants us to rise above personality conflicts. He wants us to overcome what is overcoming us in the matters of family, church, or personal pain. He wants us to take courage and walk through the storm. Trust Him. I have learned that in the end, if you trust, you don't worry; if you worry, you don't trust. Take courage. How, you ask? "Courage is fear that has said its prayers!"