LOOSENING THE NOOSE OF WORRY
BY JOHN W. MOORE
The personal pressures of life and the collective concerns of a people during civil unrest are often overwhelming. Problems in our nation, challenges in our homes at work, and issues within the church can be a bit overwhelming and unsettling. Add to this the daily grind of life, and we can easily experience periods of melancholy and distress. There are bills to pay, health to sustain, children to raise, relationships to maintain, and things to settle, repair, or do. All of this can cause stress and anxiety, resulting in a maelstrom of worry.
The old English term for worry had reference to being choked or strangled, and for many this accurately describes the feelings which accompany stress and anxiety—the feeling of being strangled by the cares of the world. Sadly, worry can rob us of valuable energy and time. It can prevent us from forging ahead or being effective. It can cloud our thinking and harm our physical and mental health by dominating our lives and keeping us from maintaining a proper emotional balance. But it doesn’t have to be this way, because God has provided a relief mechanism and strategy for overcoming worry. A part of that strategy is found in Philippians 4:6-10, where Paul commands us to be anxious in nothing—it is in effect God’s way of helping us loosen the noose of worry.
First, in order to overcome our worry we must pray right (v. 6). Indeed, there is peace in prayer. It causes us to reflect upon the spiritual and to learn to dependency upon God. We can find relief in prayer knowing that God cares and that He actually calls upon us to cast all are cares upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7). By making our requests known unto God, we can obtain a peace that passes all understanding (Phi. 4:7). Through prayer we can have confidence, knowing that He rules the world and makes provision for His saints. If our lives are righteous then we can know that our prayers will be heard (Psa. 34:15) and be effective in conquering despair (Jas. 5:16).
Second, we must think right (v. 8). Many of our worries are the result of faulty thinking. We sometimes worry about the past, which is unchangeable. We sometimes worry about things over which we have no control and over things that will never happen (See Matt. 6:25-34). But mostly we worry because we have failed to keep things in perspective. Thinking on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy will rid us of the negatives that seek to suffocate. The power of positive thinking will help us to become the master of our circumstances (Pro. 23:7) as displayed by the apostle Paul when he was unjustly imprisoned. Despite his miserable condition he nevertheless used it for the good of the kingdom by converting others to Christ (1:12-13). He made up his mind to be content in whatever state he found himself (4:11). He rejoiced (4:10) because he controlled his thoughts instead of allowing his anxiety to control him. Instead of being strangled by his situation, he used it to the glory of God by relying upon the strength that comes from Christ (4:13). He looked upon his tragedy as a means of serving God, saving souls, strengthening others, and furthering the gospel of Christ (Phi. 1:12-14).
Third, worry can be conquered when we live right. Paul said, the “things which ye have both learned and received…do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9). Peace comes when we live according to God’s will, especially as understood within the dictates of Philippians. Not only will God bless our lives by our proactively working to do His will, but we will also eliminate the ramifications and consequences of sinful behavior. The sluggard worries about his next meal. The thief worries about prison. The fornicator worries about sexually transmitted diseases. All sinners worry about death and hell. The church is divided and anxious (as it was at Philippi) when we are filled with pride and derelict in serving others (Phil. 2:1-11). But, when God’s children live right, all things will work together for good (Rom. 8:28). Our steps will be directed by the Lord (Pro. 3:6) and we will learn to focus on what is really most important.
Praying, thinking, and living right will allow us to relax the tightening effects of worry. These God-given techniques for helping us to deal with the mental battles of life are effective and infallible. They will produce mental stability and spiritual soundness and keep us from strangling ourselves with the cares of life.