I have multiple answers to the question I ask in the title of this post. Here are a few: “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” “not necessarily,” “maybe,” “sometimes,” “possibly,” and “it all depends.” Not everyone, of course, will agree with my answers – but some will.
It is true that the Bible warns us about the danger of worry, fear, and anxiety. Most of us have probably heard the report that the Bible says “fear not” 365 times – one for each day of the year. I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. We might be reminded that the Bible also tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).
One of the best known and most loved passages about worry and anxiety is Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34. In this passage Jesus tells us “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (verse 25). Later in the passage Jesus tells his followers “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (verse 34).
Those are some powerful words of instruction from Jesus that all of us should accept and do our best to put into practice. I certainly try to; but the truth is I still struggle more than I would like with anxiety and worry. My sense is that most readers would also admit they too at least occasionally worry as well.
My mom was a worrier. I remember while growing up how she worried about my brother and me. I don’t know that I inherited it from her, but I clearly saw it.
During this time in which we are currently living I see, hear, and read about so much that we may be prone to fear and worry about. I won’t be specific, but there are some things a majority are anxious about and other things not as many fear.
I’ve preached multiple times from the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ teaching about worry and anxiety. I not only try to challenge and encourage those who are listening to put Jesus’ teaching into practice, I try to do so myself.
In my study of Jesus’ teaching about this matter two of my favorite preachers and teachers say the same thing that troubles me. John R.W. Stott and Chuck Swindoll both declare in their writings about the Sermon on the Mount that “worry is incompatible with [Christian] faith.” Upon first reading, many Christian readers who struggle with worry and anxiety may question their faith.
I do not believe for a minute that a Christian who deals with anxiety and worry is lacking in faith or is not a Christian. I’m not even sure I would say anxiety, fear, and worry is a sin. I would suggest that some worry, fear, and anxiety is legitimate. However, as Christians we know we need to exercise our faith and grow in trust.
I think it is important to note in the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus calls us to faith he also tells us we will deal with trouble: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I also think it is good for us to be reminded from time to time of Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I think Dr. Gary R. Collins gives us keen insight into all of this in his book Christian Counselling first published [I think] in 1988, “According to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging and trying to deal with the identifiable problems of life. To ignore danger is fooling and wrong. But it is also wrong, as well as unhealthy, to be immobilized by excessive worry. Such worry must be committed to prayer to God, who can release us from paralyzing fear or anxiety, and free us to deal realistically with the needs and welfare both of others and of ourselves.”
In addition to others things going on in our nation and the world that I may be concerned about, one other item on my agenda is knee surgery in the morning. I have every confidence that it will be fine, but I am a little anxious.
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photo credit: anokarina <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/30760976@N04/33677358153″>“The corollary to white innocence is white passivity, the feeling that what one’s ancestors did was so messed up that it couldn’t possibly make a difference where one eats a barbecue sandwich.” ―Lauren Collins</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>