When I looked at my planner this week, with its hourly breakdowns, I was instantly overwhelmed by the blur of multicolored due dates and deadlines, the highlighted obligations and meetings, the scribbles in the margins, and even the penciled-in social gatherings that were bound to be erased and replaced with something else. But you know what else I noticed? In between the class work and the projects and the gym classes and the meetings, all noted in their respective colors, there was something I didn’t fit into my schedule.
Instead of putting the most important thing into my daily life, I had let my relationship with Him be pushed out of the way, crossed out, moved down the line, written over and forgotten. Instead of choosing to make Christ my priority, I squeezed Him out to fill my day with so many other things.
I was allowing anxiety and worry to become my ruler, rather than letting the King of Kings guide my life. This idea of anxiety, fear and worry becoming an all-consuming reality is certainly not a stranger to me. It has become an almost-welcomed friend to many others.
We let anxiety, fear and worry become a controlling constant in our lives.
And this constant reveals some pretty hard-hitting truths about where we, as Christians, are putting our trust, hope and focus.
Anxiety reflects a concern with worldly issues and not a trust in guaranteed eternal promises.
1 John 2:15-17 tells us that anyone who loves the world does not have the Father in them.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” –1 John 2:15-17
The things of the world will pass away, but the things of the Lord remain forever. So is making good grades or being involved in your community or even the want of a marriage or a future family necessarily a bad thing?
NO. Of course not.
The issue comes when we allow those things to become idols, consuming our minds and our lives.
Back in high school, I wanted to make good grades because I wanted to make my parents proud, to get a scholarship. Which is great. But the issue came when I began seeking the approval of people: my parents, my teachers. I was searching for fulfillment in those grades and the praise I would get from them. When I get to Heaven, I won’t hand over a laminated copy of my resume and a cover letter. God will not care whether or not I made the Dean’s list fives times or if I was the president of my sorority.
In 1 Corinthians 7:29-35, Paul encourages the people at the church of Corinth to remain unbound to a spouse. He does this not to restrict those people, but to promote a life free from the anxiety a marriage can bring so they would live intentionally for the Kingdom. If I, if we, spend all of our time focused on grades, worrying about exams, fearful of the future and of the decisions that come with it, we aren’t focused on our actual purpose: to make the kingdom known.
Anxiety means that you’re more focused on your own insecurities and less on God’s capabilities through you.
When I worry or am fearful, it’s because I doubt my own abilities. It’s because I don’t think I can do it. Fun fact: I am capable of next to nothing. On my own. A verse I always wrote on my arm during sporting events was this:
“For it is not that we are qualified to do anything on our own; our qualifications come from the Lord.” -2 Corinthians 3:5
The first thing to notice in this verse is that I am not capable. You are not capable. Sans God, we are nothing. Literally. The second is that God has made me who I am. He has qualified me in unique ways to carry out His mission. And He has done that in a way different from how He formed you. So God won’t automatically make you an Olympic athlete, the perfect spouse, or a straight A student. But He has given you unique gifts and abilities, and the ones you feel like you don’t have won’t make you any less equipped to do what God has planned for you.
Anxiety indicates that we’re not trusting in God’s plan.
When we worry about our grades, it’s because we are anxious about what will happen if we don’t do well on a test. When we stress about being in a relationship, we, or at least I, worry that I will be single for the rest of my life and never get to have a family. We worry about not getting the score to get into our dream school or not picking the right city to move to or not getting the promotion we hoped for.
Ultimately what it all comes down to is convincing that those decisions or closed doors will impact God’s plan and God’s purpose for our lives. Fun fact: God’s plan doesn’t hinge on your next career move or the score on your final next week.
I read a book called Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung during my senior year of high school. It was full of wisdom and truth regarding God’s plan for our lives and His will. God’s ultimate will is that we would glorify Him in all we do and that we would make His name known. I battled with that idea for a while when I was making my college decision — going here would screw things up or if I went here I wouldn’t be able to do this and so on and so forth. In reality though, I was not going to disrupt God’s plan for my life by going to one school or another school. While God cares about decisions we make in our lives because He cares about us, He cares more about whether we are glorifying Him.
Worry is indicative of an independent heart that chooses to reject and put itself in charge.
Proverbs 3:5 commands us to lean not on our own understanding, and yet how often do we do that?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
I love being in control. I love being able to have influence over my circumstances. I heard a sermon recently that said that when we experience hardships, we are told, as Christians, to know God — to know that He is good and perfect and sovereign and all of those things. But when we worry, we actually say, No, God.
No, God, I’ve got this. No, God, I don’t need your help. No, God, You can’t handle this.
Saying no to God and choosing to worry is our way of saying that we don’t need Him and again reflects our lack of trust in God’s plan.
Fear, and by extension anxiety or worry, demonstrates a doubt in God’s love for us.
1 John 4:18 tell us that perfect love casts out fear.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
The only truly perfect love is God’s love, the love He so graciously pours out onto us unconditionally. When we choose to abide in fear and worry, we choose not to dwell in the freeing and comforting love of Christ.
And finally, y’all, worry is useless.
So, so, so useless.
I was doing some research on worry, and I stumbled across this quote, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Personally, the only thing I’ve ever found a rocking chair useful for is to pass the time while you wait for a table at Cracker Barrel.
A couple months ago, my mom had to go in for a mammogram. The next day she got a call from her doctor saying they needed her to come in again because something didn’t look right on her results. I asked if she was worried about it, because whether I would admit it aloud to her or not, I was. She said of course she was concerned, but her worrying wasn’t going to change anything. She went back in for another test, and everything was fine. It would’ve been fine had she worried or had she not. And if there was something wrong, her concerns wouldn’t make any issue just magically disappear.
Matthew 6:25-34 puts it simply: seek first the Kingdom and don’t worry about tomorrow.
I think if we all lived by these words, the Kingdom would get so much glory. And that is an exciting truth. Friends, stop penciling Jesus in the margins of your planner, and put Him in bold at the top of every day.
Seek first the Kingdom, and don’t worry about tomorrow.