The pressures of our times have many of us pastors caught in the web of the most acceptable yet energy-draining sin in the Christian family: worry. Hey . . . don’t look so pious! Chances are good you awoke this morning, stepped out of bed, and before doing anything strapped on your well-worn backpack of anxiety. You started the day, not with a prayer on your mind but loaded down by worry. What a dreadful habit! (It happens to me far too often.)
The stress from worry drains our energy and preoccupies our minds, stripping us of much-needed peace. Few in the pastorate are exempt. We fret over big things and little things. Some of us have a laundry list of concerns that feed our addiction to worry. Anxiety has become a favorite pastime that we love to hate. And worse, we’re passing it on to our children (and in my case, grandchildren). As they see the worry on our faces and as they hear it from our lips, we’re mentoring them in the art of anxiety. Let’s not go there.
As always, Scripture has the answer. Paul wrote this while under house-arrest:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7)His prescription for anxiety can be boiled down to this six-word principle:
Before moving on, read those six words again slowly, several times. Notice that the remedy to worry involves a choice. He’s not asking you to exist in a state of denial. “Don’t worry; be happy” fails to appreciate the seriousness of your concerns. You worry because the problems you face are difficult to solve. Furthermore they have ongoing consequences if you don’t find a resolution. God doesn’t expect you to suddenly stop caring. Instead, He offers an alternative to the pointless and exhausting habit of worry.
Before this day is done, you will have another occasion to choose between worry and prayer.
Determine now what you will do. Decide now that when the crisis arises, you will transform worry into prayer.