The Prayers of a Righteous Person A Bible Study by Jack Kelley "The prayer of…
Worry and Anxiety
By David L. Goetsch
Are you a worrier? Do you worry about money, family problems, your health or that of a loved one, the future, the past, your job, the weather, or other factors? Does worrying cause you anxiety, making you restless and unable to concentrate, sleep, or function well? If you answer “yes” to these questions, you have a lot of company. Many people — Christians included — worry about regrets from yesterday, problems of today, or the uncertainty of tomorrow. Some worry about all three. As sinful people living in a broken, fallen world, there is no end to the list of things we might worry about. Hence, anxiety from worrying is common among Christians.
Before going further, it is important for you to understand that worry and anxiety are not the same thing. The two are closely related, but different. Worry is a feeling of apprehension about what is going to happen in a given situation and fearing the worst. Am I going to lose my job? Is the bank going to foreclose on my home? Is the doctor going to give me bad news? Is my teenage son using drugs? These are examples of questions worriers might ask themselves.
Anxiety is a natural human reaction to stressful, upsetting, or even dangerous situations. It is brought on by worrying in a cause-and-effect relationship. Anxiety can range from mild to acute. An individual dashing off to his bank hoping to make a deposit before a check he has written bounces is experiencing mild anxiety. This same individual pacing back and forth in the waiting room while his wife undergoes a dangerous surgical procedure is experiencing acute anxiety. Acute anxiety can be debilitating. People suffering acute anxiety often struggle to function; they cannot concentrate, do their jobs, sleep, eat, or even tend to their personal hygiene. Therefore, it is important for Christians to know how to overcome worrying and anxiety.
William had always been a worrier. As a schoolboy he worried about grades, as a teenager he worried about his peers opinion of of him, and in college he worried about completing his degree. Now a civil engineer, he worries about getting his projects completed on time and whether something might go wrong with one of his designs.
Before becoming a Christian, William sought the help of a secular psychologist who told him: “Worrying about something won’t change it.” While that bit of advice is true, it offered William no alternative — no way to overcome his penchant for worrying. William knew worrying about something would not change the outcome, but he didn’t know how to stop worrying. Further, although worrying won’t change an outcome, it will change those who do the worrying. It can turn them into anxiety-filled emotional wrecks unable to function.
Although he worried constantly, William never felt anything beyond mild anxiety; at least until recently. Rumors his company might shut down filled William with dread. As a civil engineer he could probably get another job, but how long would that take? If his current employer went out of business, William would lose his seniority, medical coverage, retirement savings, and ability to support his family. With a son in college and a daughter one year from matriculating, William could not afford to lose his income, even for a brief period of time.
Worry over losing his job filled William with acute anxiety. His stress level rose to the point just getting through the day was a challenge; he was barely able to function. If things didn’t change for the better and soon, William would lose his job whether the company shut down or not. His anxiety was so acute he could barely do his job. That’s when his wife suggested he seek counseling from their pastor. William and his wife had been baptized by Pastor Ramirez just two years earlier when they joined the church. Both found his sermons enlightening and comforting. William agreed to call Pastor Ramirez.
Pastor Ramirez was aware of the rumor about William’s company closing; several other members of his congregation worked at the same company. He came right to the point. “William, to stop worrying and start functioning again you are going to have to undergo a complete change of mindset. At the moment, you are focused entirely on keeping your job, but jobs are worldly things — they come and they go. You have no control over whether your company shuts down or stays in business. But you do control the focus of your life. To stop worrying, you will have to make putting Christ — not your job — at the center of your life.”
Pastor Ramirez told William when Christ is at the center of our lives and our overriding goal is to honor him and please him, Christ will provide for our needs. He had him turn in his Bible to Matthew 6:32-34 and read: “For the gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
“William what I am about to tell you may sound harsh, but it is true. Allowing yourself to be overcome by anxiety shows a lack of faith. Faith involves laying your burdens at Christ’s feet in prayer with the full expectation he will provide. Think about the message in Matthew 6:26 where we are told to look at the birds. God provides for them, and you are certainly of more value to him than the birds. Stop trying to control life. Instead, turn your life over to Christ and trust him to get you through this situation that is monopolizing your every waking minute.”
Before William left his office, Pastor Ramirez read Philippians 4:6-7 to him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The pastor told William when he prayed, rather than ask God to keep his company from closing down he should pray God will provide a way for him to provide for this family.
Once William focused on trying to please God rather than control a situation over which he had no control, the anxiety melted away. Further, rather than focus exclusively on himself, he started praying for his fellow employees who were in the same boat with him. He became a calming influence among the employees at his company, encouraging them and praying with and for them.
Then one day, a welcome memorandum was circulated among the employees. William’s company had been purchased by a competitor that intended to not only keep the plant in business, but expand operations. William thanked God for providing, and led a Bible study before work in which a number of his co-workers joined him once a week to pray and put Christ at the center of their lives. William and his co-workers from the Bible study committed to turning in the best performance possible for their new employer, but not just to impress their employer. Rather, their higher goal was to honor the God who provided for them.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com