Worry is so common among single people that for most of us, it's a lifelong battle to get it under control.
And yet, for Christians to fret about their future shows a lack of faith in God. It's almost as if we pray for God to help us, then we think we'll give him a hand by fretting about it, too.
When you recall all the events you've been anxious about over the course of your life, then how they actually turned out, was all your distress justified? Did it affect the outcome? Was it, looking back, completely needless?
Rationally, we all agree that worry isn't good for us. So why do we keep doing it?
Because God is invisible, it's hard for us to remember that he's in control. How much easier life would be if we could actually see God moving things around, putting people and circumstances together, working out our problems for our ultimate good.
But there's something else at work, isn't there? If we're completely honest, we have to admit that we want to be in control.
We want to run our own life. And often, we think we know what's best for us more than God does. Seeing it in print and admitting it is painful, but it's true. From Adam and Eve down to today, we want to do our own thing, our way.
Everybody worries; even people who should know better. Take Jesus' 12 apostles. They became afraid when a storm overtook their boat (Jesus was so unconcerned about it that he was happily snoozing away), they fretted that there wouldn't be enough to feed the 5,000, and in the most heart-rending account of fear in the New Testament, they were so distraught that they'd be arrested too after Jesus' crucifixion that they hid in a locked room. If anyone should have been able to trust Jesus, these eyewitnesses to his miracles should have.
Jesus had to constantly tell people not to to be anxious or afraid. Yet 2,000 years later, we're more apprehensive than ever.
When trouble strikes--or even before it strikes--we worry because it feels like we're doing something. We don't like feeling helpless, that our life is out of our control, so stewing about our problem gives us the false sense that we're somehow helping the situation.
Many years ago, doctors believed that this kind of anxiety caused stomach ulcers. Recently it's been proven that ulcers are caused by bacteria. But it is true that worry can cause physical problems ranging from headaches to irritable bowel syndrome to hypertension and coronary disease.
There's no question that all of this unrest is a serious problem, but how do we get it under control?
We speak of our cares as if they have powers of their own, as if they are in charge of our thinking, and not us. But here's an eye-opening truth:
Your runaway thoughts only have as much power
as you are willing to give them.
Even though they may seem to have a life of their own, your anxieties are produced by you, not some outside force. They originate in your mind, and they need your permission to run rampant.
"But I can't help it!" you say, "I can't control these runaway thoughts."
Ah, that's where prayer comes in.
When Jesus was tempted to lose control in the Garden of Gethsemane, what did he do? He prayed. His example shows us that we should do the same thing. Prayer occupies your mind with thoughts of God and his protection, instead of self-destructive "what if?" thoughts.
Worry is negative. Prayer is positive. Worry tears down. Prayer builds up. Worry forgets God. Prayer remembers God.
Sometimes memorized prayers can be the most useful because they keep your prayers from simply degenerating into panic.
Reading the Bible also can be helpful during times of trouble because God speaks to you--individually, personally--through the Bible.
We often try to do God's job. We need to let him do his job so we can give our best effort to our job. Our job is to do everything humanly possible in the situation, then to pray and ask God to do what isn't humanly possible. Do you think God ignores a prayer like that? Not on your life!
As Christians, we have an advantage over nonbelievers. We have God's real and present help whenever we ask for it--and we should act like it. You'll find it extremely useful to remember how God rescued you in the past. Your answered prayers from the past are the best confidence-builder for God's care for you in the present and future. No matter what happens to you, he'll never let go of your hand.
Someone once remarked, "Work as if everything depended on you, and pray as if everything depended on God." Prayer and worry are incompatible. You can't do both at the same time. And you have control over which one you choose.
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