“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom
I love that quote – it is so full of wisdom. But it also challenges me, because I know that I can allow worries about future events to overshadow my present.
While the Bible is full of instances of God telling us not to fear (he says it in various ways more than 350 times), most of us struggle at one time or other with fear or anxiety.
What is it about worry that means it affects us even after we profess that we trust in God and are seeking to serve him and look to him for all our needs?
It is reassuring that God knew that the human heart has a tendency to fall prey to worry. That’s why, I think, he reminds us so often not to fear!
We can worry about so many things. How we are going to pay our rent/mortgage, what a meeting at work is going to be like, dealing with teenage children’s hormones, getting enough sleep… So why is such a ‘natural’, everyday thing as worry so deadly for us?
Worry affects us physically. There is research that shows it can weaken our immune systems, cause depression, heart disease, muscle tension, memory loss, respiratory disorders and digestive conditions.
But worry does more than that, it also affects us spiritually. When we allow fear to overtake us it also pushes out faith and, as a result, we start to feel cut off from God’s presence.
My church’s monthly book study group is continuing to work its way through Joanna Weaver’s Having a Mary heart in a Martha world, and we have just met to discuss her chapter on worry and anxiety. She has a great way of describing how anxiety can be seen like a fog that blocks out our view of God:
“While physical fog may seem dense and almost solid, scientists tell us that a fog bank a hundred feet deep and covering seven city blocks is composed of less than one glass of water. Divided into billions of droplets, it hasn’t much substance. Yet it still has the power to bring an entire city to a standstill… So it is with anxiety. Our mind disperses the problem into billions of fear droplets, obscuring God’s face.”
One of the things I found so useful was how Weaver defines the difference between worry and concern. She recognises that our world is full of struggles and pain, and that there are many legitimate concerns we face every day. But while a concern is specific, and about a legitimate threat, a fear is often general and unfounded. Allowing our minds to be full of worry means that we can start to obsess about a problem and see more problems as a result (worry breeds more worries). We also can forget to turn to God – he seems to be last place we look to for the answer. With a concern, however, we look to address and solve the problem, and involve God in that process. Weaver quotes pastor/teacher Gary E Gilley:
“Worry is allowing problems and distress to come between us and the heart of God. It is the view that God has somehow lost control of the situation and we cannot trust him. A legitimate concern presses us closer to the heart of God and causes us to lean and trust on him all the more.”
I can recognise how I respond when I allow fear or worry to take a hold in my heart: I feel panic literally rising and overtaking me and I cannot concentrate on anything else. The problem or difficulty blows up out of all proportion and I find it hard to talk to God – or anyone close to me – about it. I become totally irrational, can get angry or tearful and lose sleep. Can you recognise the symptoms of worry in your own life?
This is part of an article that was first published on Christian Today. Tomorrow I will look at how we can let go of worry.