The Source of Worry

We’ve been looking at how Philippians 4:6-7 helps us deal with our tendency to worry with a correct view of prayer. This third installment will begin to deal with the source of our worry.

As we saw last time, the adversity in our lives will either be an inducement to worry, or an invitation to prayer. The choice between those two ways of living is made long before the crisis arises.

Since we’re more inclined to bring major crises to God in prayer, let’s take a less major situation that occurs in daily life.

Have you ever misplaced your car keys? When I lose my keys (and it doesn’t happen often), the last thing I naturally feel like doing is to pray. I’m proactive! I want to find my keys, not pray about it. And in my logical mind I’m rationalizing, “The more time I spend praying about the keys, the less time I’ll have to actually find the keys.”

But here’s the real issue: When I pray about something as annoying and frivolous as losing my car keys, it doesn’t put the keys into my hands any faster. What it does is far more than that.

When I pray: first, it calms me down; second, it gives me God’s perspective on my problems; and third it reminds me that He’s in control and I’m not… and that’s no small thing.

So, I may be late for a meeting, which for me is a big deal. It’s okay. In the long run, that’s a very small problem for any of us to have. And most people are gracious enough to allow for the little annoyances that define what it means to be human.

Don’t wait for a major crisis to go to God in prayer. Go to Him at all times. Be anxious for what? “Be anxious for nothing, but pray about everything…” Anything big enough to make you anxious is big enough to be a prayer concern.

Sometimes our “worry list” is longer than our “prayer list.” When difficulties arise, we have a choice to make. Because the adversity in your life will either be an inducement to worry, or an invitation to prayer.

The decision you will make when crisis comes your way is being cultivated right now by the patterns and principles that govern your life.

But what about the source of worry? Where does this worry and anxiety come from?

You may be intrigued to learn, as I was, that “worry” is not necessarily an internal condition… at least, not exclusively. It’s also an instrument of external affliction.

Webster defines worry as something imposed from without, “to afflict with mental distress or agitation: to make anxious.” Do those tactics sound familiar?

Based on this definition, it can be seen that worry is oftentimes a choice weapon in the adversary’s arsenal. Satan uses worry to afflict, to distress, to agitate, and to make God’s people anxious.

The enemy doesn’t want you to pray; he wants you to worry. He wants you to spin your wheels and get nowhere. But God says, through the apostle Paul, that the answer is to…

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Here’s my paraphrase of these verses:

“Don’t worry about anything. Always pray with pleading and thanksgiving and tell God exactly what’s on your heart; and in so doing, God’s marvelous peace will guard your hearts and minds [from Satan’s worrisome afflictions] through Christ Jesus.”

This guarding takes place through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in prayer is a lens which discerns the providence of God through the murky haze of circumstance. The adversity in your life will either be an inducement to worry, or an invitation to prayer.

In the next blog we’ll consider the amazing effect of this kind of thankful prayer!

Until then,
Pastor Kevin


Be Anxious for Nothing

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Phil 4:6-7]

In the previous blog we began considering the struggle we all have with worry even when we have a belief in God’s sovereignty and faith that He hears and answers prayer.

In this and following blogs, I want to go further in our study of Philippians 4:6-7.

The first thing we learn from these verses is that: Adversity in life is either an inducement to worry, or an invitation to prayer.

Even though we may know this instinctively, worry can be so automatic that prayer is the last thing on our mind. And sometimes just knowing the right answer isn’t enough.

A few years ago I was about to take a flight out of Dallas and I was feeling nervous about the trip. There were some health concerns and travel connections that were troubling me.

In the car, on the way to the airport, I explained to my friend (who was driving me) the matters on my mind. I thought it would help to just talk about my fears out in the open. Unfortunately, I was with one of those dear Christians who was heavy on doctrine but light on compassion.

After I shared my [very real and, I think, legitimate] concerns with him, he glibly rattled off the verse, “Be anxious for nothing…” Instead of a comfort, those words sounded like a dismissing rebuke. He had taken a beautiful verse of Scripture and had shaped it into a dagger.

For some people it’s easier in the face of problems to press “play” on the well-worn tape recording of stock answers in our head, than it is to really apply truth with tenderness and clarity.

When someone is sick and you have the medicine they need, don’t just read them the prescription. Apply the medicine!

My friend was more or less reading me the prescription, which I knew quite well. What I wish he had said was, “Let’s pull over and just tell God about this.” That’s applying the medicine. That’s the remedy prescribed in God’s word.

We will always have adversity to face in this life. At the moment of choice, adversity will either be an inducement to worry, or an invitation to prayer.

To worry is natural, but it’s a habit that can be broken. To pray is supernatural and it’s a habit that must be cultivated. It’s during conflict that the peace of God becomes so real to us.

Peace is not the absence of problems. Peace is the inner persuasion of God’s power in the presence of adversity. The adversity in your life will either be an inducement to worry, or an invitation to prayer.

The choice between those two ways of living is made long before the crisis arises. You can make that choice right now. The way you make that choice is by making thankful supplication the natural pattern of your daily life right now.

Make prayer your first recourse in all situations, not your last resort in a moment of panic. That’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but pray about everything…”

There are some problems that fall on us like a ton of bricks. We’re so overwhelmed by the crisis that it knocks us to our knees. But during those other times of distress, where the problem isn’t so alarming as it is annoying, it’s then that we’re more likely to worry than to pray.

We’ll consider what this application looks like in our next installment.

Until then,
Pastor Kevin

“Prayer Worriers”

It was a horrible feeling back in the winter of 1994. I didn’t want to make the trip at all, especially across the river. But I had to do it.

After all, it was the first day of my new job at a radio station in West Memphis, Arkansas. I told them that I’d take the job. It was a prime shift in the heart of the day.

I wanted the job, but I dreaded the trip. It was miles and miles of heavy traffic at high speeds for a relatively long distance, back and forth each day.

To make matters worse, it happened to be snowing on this February morning, making the trip seem even more ominous and difficult than usual. I began to drive toward the interstate, but the snow was blinding even at low speeds.

I went back home and called the station. I told them I’d need to wait a while until the snow stopped. An hour later, it was clearing. So I drove out again. This time I went all the way. But still, I was fearful and anxious.

Trucks were cutting in and out of lanes. High speeds, slick roads, brake lights, horns honking. I felt my jaw aching because I had been grinding my teeth in traffic, I guess without even knowing it. It was the pressure and tension of the road.

Mile after mile, I could feel the anxiety and worry building inside me. This was not something I wanted to do day after day. As I went to and from work, I prayed to God for safety… but I also did my share of worrying along the way.

One of the great debilitating problems that each of us must battle… is worry.

It’s a menace that drains its victims of their vitality. Our English word “worry” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that means “to strangle”; worry certainly does strangle people physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Roger Babson rightly observed, “Worry is to life and progress what sand is to the bearings of perfect engines.”

In every life there are issues that seem to grind our gears, but get us nowhere. Worry is like rocking back and forth in a rocking chair; it gives us something to do, but it takes us nowhere.

We must be careful that we don’t confuse movement for progress, or mere action for advancement. Worry, like the rocking chair, represents movement and action, but not progress or advancement.

What’s worse, for Christians, worry reveals something detrimental about our understanding of God. It may, in fact, represent a misunderstanding about God.

With convicting insight, Oswald Chambers noted that “Worry is an indication that we think God cannot look after us.” I don’t want to believe this is true about my worry… but it is.  

Now, most Christians would never admit this because we know and believe that God most certainly can look after us. That is, we know that God has the ability to look after us. But we may yet be haunted by the thought that He won’t… and for reasons we may never understand on this side of eternity.

After all, we’ve known of godly Christian people who have endured horrible tragedies in this life. They may even have maintained a rock-like faith that trusts God through the storm. But still they have suffered in ways that are hard to imagine… ways that beggar description.

And we see this and wonder, “Will God ask me to endure that same kind of heartbreaking tragedy… even though I know that He can provide for my needs?”

And so begins a sort of spiritual alchemy in which we mix together elements of faith and fear, elements of devotion and doubt. But they don’t mix well. In reality, one cancels out the other.

Somewhere, we seem to have adopted the erroneous idea that we can truly pray, so as to yield the situation completely to God… and yet continue worrying. Instead of engaging “prayer warriors” who are ready for battle, we’ve engaged a battalion of “prayer worriers”.

As Christians, we have a choice to make. God has given us something to do instead of worry. In the next few blogs, I want us to consider what we can learn from a study of Philippians 4:6-7 that can redefine the way we think of prayer in the face of our worries.

Until then,
Pastor Kevin