Stop Being Pummeled by Worry

Do worries ever keep you awake at night?

Do you ever find yourself feeling afraid about what the future might hold?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by pressures weighing down on you?

Do you ever try to escape from the pressures in your life through alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, pornography or television?

Do you find yourself feeling cynical or depressed about life?

Do you find yourself acting irritably toward others?

Do you struggle with high blood pressure, ulcers or chronic illness? 

Unaddressed or mishandled anxiety causes severe damage to our soul and to our health.  In the book Anxiety, Disorders and Phobias, Dr. Aaron Beck points out, “Worrying is costly.  It can lead to health problems, impaired concentration, and much wasted time.”  Charles Swindoll puts it more harshly: “I have never seen a gravestone that reads, ‘He died of worry.’  But some of them ought to read that way.”  Corrie ten Boom adds, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.” 

How might we best address our struggles with anxiousness?

Philippians 4:6-7 offers this prescription: “Do not worry about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”

At first sight, this counsel does not appear to be very helpful.  How often has anyone’s anxiety ever been alleviated simply by someone telling them not to worry about it?

But when we dig more deeply into these verses we find wisdom and help.  To understand the counsel of these verses, it helps to understand a bit about ancient Greek grammar.  When Paul wrote these words, there were two ways he could have expressed a prohibition: he could have used the aorist subjunctive form of the verb or the present imperative form of the verb.

The aorist subjunctive form was used to prohibit a particular act from even beginning.  For example, I might say to you, “Don’t hit me!”  An aorist subjunctive form of “don’t hit” would imply, “Don’t lay a hand on me!  Don’t throw a single punch in my direction!” 

The present imperative, on the other hand, would be used to forbid the continuance of an action, especially an action that is already in progress.”  For example, a boxer in the ring who is losing the fight might throw up his hands and shout, “Don’t hit me!”  This time he would be implying, “I can’t take anymore.  I give up.  Please stop what you have been doing to me.”  

That’s the difference in what we find here.  This verse is not saying to us, “I forbid you from ever having a worrisome thought.”  The verse is calling us not to keep getting punched around by worry, not to keep on loitering in anxiety.

But how do we stop loitering in anxiety?

Philippians 4:6 offers us an alternative to the continual pummeling of worry.  It tells us, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Rather than holding within us worries that keep punching away at us, we are invited to present our worries to God in prayer.  And verse 7 follows this invitation up with a promise: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

These verses paint a picture of anxiety banging at the door of our soul, screaming at us to let it in.  I can’t take the incessant knocking and screaming, so I give in.  I open the door.  I allow anxiety to invade my soul and to set up his home within me.  But Philippians 7 reminds me that with the indwelling Spirit of Christ in my soul, I have a Guard who can protect me from the attack of anxiety.  Presenting our requests (our prayers) to God is like going to the Guard and asking the Guard to handle the one who keeps pounding on the door.  After many years of habitually opening the door to anxiety, I am often inclined to squeeze past the Guard and to open the door to worry, but I am far better off when I step away from that habit and ask for help from the one who has come to guard my heart. 

Advertisement

One response to “Stop Being Pummeled by Worry”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: