Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.“
Matthew 6:34 (NKJV) – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Parts of this article are excerpted and updated from the chapter entitled “Wipe out Worry” published in the book, The New ABC’s of Life for Children and Adults: Short Stories, Essays, and Poems Promoting Christian Concepts (ABC’s Ministries, 2016). This book may be purchased at the following link: https://www.amazon.com/New-ABCs-Life-Children-Adults/dp/0692703985
Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
What does it mean to worry? To be worried is to feel distressed in the mind; be anxious, troubled or uneasy, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition.
What the Bible says About Worry
First of all, the Bible cautions Christians not to worry (e.g., Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 6:34). Additionally, I found two aftereffects of worry in the Scriptures: unfruitfulness and a shorter life span.
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22, NKJV). For example, I remember a few times when I wasn’t able to go to work because of losing sleep from worrying about an uncontrollable situation the night before. At other times, I went to work after a restless night of worrying. What happened? My productivity for that day was less than my normal performance.
“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature” (Matthew 6:27, NKJV)?
Worry and anxiety are related to the length of one’s life in the phrase add one cubit unto his stature. A cubit is a measurement of about eighteen inches. However, this reference is probably not to one’s actual height but to the length of his life. The term “stature” (Gr helikia) may in this place mean “age.” Thus the idea seems to be that a man cannot add the smallest measure to the span of his life by worrying. In fact, modern medicine would tell us that worry actually shortens one’s life. (Falwell, J., 1997, c1994, Worry or anxiety, KJV Bible Commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
A person who worries excessively and unrealistically for a period of at least 6 months might need treatment for an anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is a medical illness where individuals with the disorder experience trembling, muscular aches or soreness, restlessness, insomnia, sweating, abdominal upsets, dizziness, concentration problems, edginess and irritability.
Worry Experienced First Hand
“A person who says they never worried about anything, never loved anybody,” my grandmother said frequently. This is one of my grandmother’s few misconceptions that contributed to my developing the unhealthy habit of worrying. Needless, to say, hearing Mama’s statement and other similar statements from others in my family, as far back as I can remember in my childhood, I was a worry wart. In grade school I remember worrying about my grades. My over-conscientiousness about feeling the need to always get that “A” continued into high school.
“I couldn’t sleep last night for thinking about the test,” I said on the day of an exam in high school.
“Don’t worry,” a friend said. “You’ll do okay.”
“I hope so,” I said reviewing my study notes.
“You always worry. But then you do better than the rest of us on the test.”
Fast forward about 10-15 years: I sat in the Nashville office of psychiatrist Gilbert W. Raulston, MD. “Do you worry a lot?” Dr. Raulston asked as he made notes on my chart.
“Yes, I do.”
“How does it affect you?”
“Oh, I can’t sleep. I also have a lot of stomach problems. I have reflux.”
“Okay.” The doctor looked up from his notes. “Do other members of your family worry a lot?”
“What’s that got to do with it?” I said. “I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder.”
“That’s part of it,” Dr. Raulston said as he continued to make notes. “Worry also is learned in families.”
“Yes, I guess I did develop the problem honestly. A lot of people in my family worry.”
In my darkest days of fighting depression, anxiety, PTSD, and codependency 25+ years ago, I worried about everything. I even worried about the fact that I worried. One of my biggest worries was wondering whether God could really love me and whether I was a Christian. I doubted my salvation. I remember discussing this concern with a pastor. Here’s what he told me:
“You know one of the most difficult things for people battling depression is for them to believe that God loves them and that they can be a Christian,” the pastor said. “With what you are going through, doubting your salvation is common. Another point that this wise pastor made is that Satan can make a Christian doubt. “If Satan can’t keep you from becoming a Christian, he can sure make you doubt because he wants to keep you from being a witness for Christ.”
Benefits to Overcoming Worry
Peace and contentment are the opposites of worry. Besides avoiding the health problems associated with being a chronic worrier, does freedom from worry or anxiety have other benefits? Let’s see what God’s Word says about worry and peace/contentment.
In my personal experiences I have found greater productivity results as a by-product on whatever I am doing whenever I am content. When I am at peace, I sleep better; thus, I have more energy to do the best work possible. Whenever I am more productive in life, I receive more blessings in life. For example, self-satisfaction and compliments from teachers or supervisors have been by-products on more productive days.
My personal experience is supported by God’s Word:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Tips for Overcoming Worry
What are other options to worrying? One alternative to worrying about a problem or situation is to react with concern. What is the difference between a worried person and a concerned person? Where a worrier often dwells on a situation to the point of obsession, a concerned person thinks or prays the matter through, offers assistance when appropriate, and then moves on with life. While a worrier imagines the worst case scenario, a concerned person looks for a positive solution.
As an alternative to worrying, besides praying, weaning yourself off of worry, keeping a worry journal and offering positive solutions, try relaxing yourself through exercise or another activity you enjoy. This helps to distract your mind from whatever is bothering you. I remember the following conversation with one of my therapists who was working with me on overcoming worry:
“You didn’t become a worrier over night,” psychologist Kathryn B. Sherrod PhD. said during one of our therapy sessions over 20 years ago. “Breaking the habit will take some time. I suggest you set aside a designated amount of time each day that you allow yourself time to worry, and only allow yourself to worry during that time. Gradually cut back on the amount of time you give yourself to worry.”
“That sounds weird to me.”
“Journaling your worries also might help,” Dr. Sherrod said noting my chart. “A lot of my patients like to write out whatever is bothering them.”
“Yes, writing is a good way to relieve stress.” I nodded to agree with Dr. Sherrod. “I have a recovery notebook from where I went through therapy before. My therapist then used to give me a writing assignment at the end of each session to work on between sessions.”
The key to minimizing my worry habit was recognizing worry as a sin. I repented and asked for God’s help in winning the war over worry. By being obedient to the Scripture, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:6-7)., I worry less and have fewer health problems. My trust and faith are in Jesus Christ.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”