Worry—feeling uneasy or troubled—seems to plague multitudes of people in our world today. It’s human nature to be concerned about the bad situations in our world and in our personal lives, but if we’re not careful, the devil will cause us to worry beyond what’s reasonable.
Like a rocking chair, worry is always in motion, but it never gets you anywhere. So why do we struggle with it? Worry can keep you from finding peace and lasting happiness. In part seven of the Don’t Eat the Yellow Paint series, we look at how to spot and defeat worry, and how the peace of God brings you happiness.
Something To Talk About:
Consider these five ways to help you avoid worrying:
- Refuse to worry about anything: The word worry means “to be torn in two.” And that is exactly what anxiety does—it tears us apart. Someone has said that people live their lives between the regrets of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow. The result is that we live with tension; we cannot sleep and we cannot enjoy the present moment. Worry causes us to work against ourselves and hinders our fellowship with God. Jesus explained why we should not worry. First, He says that we should not worry because of who we are. “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:26). If He takes care of the birds, will He not take care of us? Second, we should not worry because it is useless. “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (v. 27). By entrusting ourselves to our Heavenly Father, we no longer have to be “torn in two” by the events of life. They have been transferred from our hands to His, and with that, we can be content.
- Talk to God about everything: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Christ Is Our High Priest. So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:13-16.) God wants every follower to talk to Him. Abut anything at any time. All we have to do is start talking. Is that all there is to how to talk to God? In a sense, that’s it. But we also need to listen to God. We’ve all been engaged in a conversation with someone who wanted to do all the talking, haven’t we? While God wants to hear what we have to say, He also wants us to listen to Him.
- Thank God in all things: Are you thankful no matter what? Perhaps you have lost your job in the hurricane. Or you may have lost your health or a loved one. Such circumstances can be tremendously difficult. But even so, we all have much to be thankful for. Look with me at the story of a man who had every right to be bitter—but wasn’t. The next footsteps in the corridor, he knew, might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20) Paul was an example of always giving thanks no matter the circumstances. Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation. We too should thank God in all things and in all our circumstances.
- Think about good things: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8) Paul invites the Philippians to focus their thoughts – individually and collectively – around those things that are honorable, just, true, and commendable. What would it take for us to do the same? As individuals, what would it be like to practice thinking about what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable? How might that shape how we interact with those around us? And what might it mean for us in relation to our families and friends? And what about our churches? Paul recognizes that what we spend the most time thinking about shapes, over time, who we are. And so he invites us to raise our sights so that we may be inspired – and transformed – by what is best in this life, for as we do this we will experience ever more fully the peace of the God who created and gave us all those good things in the first place.
- Be content with anything “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Philippians 4:11 Paul had every reason to complain, because he was wrongfully imprisoned. Yet in his letter to the Philippians, he didn’t blame anyone or grumble. Instead, he kept rejoicing in Christ because that’s where his focus, affections, and devotion lay. He chose to focus on what God is doing through the situation. Paul saw how the Lord used his imprisonment for the greater progress of the gospel (Philippians 1:12). In essence, we could say that Paul evaluated his circumstances through a God-centered lens. The result was joy and contentment in every situation.Contentment is not a word that is viewed positively in the world today – often it is seen as a form of weakness. But contentment is not a weakness. Paul says“ For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Paul went through seasons of lack and seasons of abundance – but whatever season it was, he learned how to be contented and thankful in Christ, who was his daily source of strength.
- What were some of your silliest worries you had as a child growing up?
- Are you prone to be a “worry wart?” On the scale from “not a care in the world” to “anxious 24/7,” where do you naturally tend to fall?
- If worry is misdirected imagination, what are some spiritual disciplines we might undertake to tame our imagination? Name one or two practices you already exercise that would help in this process and one more that you don’t currently utilize that might help “take every thought captive.”
- Worry cannot change the past or control the future. It only makes us miserable today. Why do we spend so much time worrying about things? Since worrying is a learned behavior, how do you believe it can be unlearned?
- Summarize the benefits of talking to God about everything?
- What “things” does Paul want us to do so we can experience God’s peace instead of worrying?
- Is being thankful really our choice ? Can we actually decide that we will be thankful people? Where has being thankful ranked on your list of required Christian qualities up until now?
- We rarely think the source of our problems is tied to our lack of being thankful. How do you think being thankful and praising God is the solution that will help us experience God’s best in our situations?
- In what ways is Philippians 4:8 a reality for you? What would you have to give up to start thinking more consistently with Philippians 4:8? Is it possible to change without first changing your thinking? Can you name some improvements in your life that do not first involve changed thinking? If you were going to make small changes in managing your thoughts, what would they be? How could you use Philippians 4:8 to help discipline your mind?
- Where’s the balance between being content and yet trying to better your situation or solve certain problems?
- How does your life change when you are truly content?
- What can you do this week to be more content?
Take one thing home with you:
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”– Abraham Lincoln
The pursuit of happiness is real. We all want to be happy, right? After all, life’s better when we’re happy, healthy and successful. But at he same time we all seem to have this spirit of discontentment, with wanting more. We are convinced that all of the negativity would go away if God would just give us the desires of our heart. But here is what we miss. If we don’t learn to be happy while we’re waiting for what you want, we’ll never be happy when we get what we want. When we stop focusing so much on what I want, and focus my gaze on what God wants to do in and through me, contentment follows. Paul tells us in Philippians 4, to make intentional choices to be content with my present circumstances—stop making happiness a destination and began making it your way of journeying through life.