We have a great capacity to worry and be anxious. There seems to be heightened anxiety in our world today.
There are real things to be concerned about and then there things we worry about that we make up.
If you are currently worrying about something, take a few minutes and honestly reflect on whether you are creating something to worry about. Is it based on truth or rumors and innuendo?
I wonder why we create things to worry about. Aren’t there enough real things to worry about?
One of the early Christian preachers told a church not to worry. This seems to be trite advice.
His name was Paul, the church was in Philippi and Paul was the founding pastor. He tells them not to worry. It wasn’t trite advice; there were real things to worry about.
Paul was in jail for no good reason and he could be executed. Yet he tells them not to worry.
Two of the key leaders of the church were fighting and causing discord that threatened to divide the church (see Philippians 4:1).
And Paul tells them not to worry.
The government was harassing them. They were in the midst of suffering from injustice and facing an unknown future and Paul writes to them from jail, saying,
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” — Philippians 4:6-7 The Message
Paul says their first response should be to pray.
Personally, I find it easier to worry, or at least it is my first inclination. Is prayer your first response to anxiety, to troubles, to difficulties, to injustice and to an unknown future? Or is to worry?
Paul doesn’t just give some trite advice, saying, “Do not worry.” Paul tells them what to do to help them to not worry. Paul gives this advice, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.” Is praying your first inclination?
I like to think that one of the members hearing Paul’s letter read in church is a jailer — the jailer who years earlier stood guard over Paul and Silas; whose life was saved by Paul; who became a believer in Christ.
I like to picture him sitting with his wife and children in church. Most likely he is worried about all the things going on in the church and in his life. And then the light goes on in his mind. He says to himself, “Prayer is the key. It is the key that will unlock my anxiety, my worry.”
A jailer knows about keys, locks and iron bars. The jailer’s mind is racing, he recalls that on that night long ago when he was guarding Paul and Silas, they were singing hymns and praising God and then there was the rumbling, the shaking and the crumbling of the walls. The doors are thrown open, the chains are unfastened and they were freed from any worry about an unknown future.
“Prayer isn’t just the key: prayer causes the earthquake that shakes the foundation of our worries and throws open the door and unfastens the chains of anxiety.” Instead of worrying, pray. It is in prayer that we let God know the problems causing our worry. And God is greater than our greatest problem.
Dr. Jeff Miller is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Killeen.