It often begins as a small remark about someone’s health, a scary experience with a food allergy, a stressful day of travel with kids, an economic crisis or reports of crime in the news. Something in us grabs ahold of a passing remark that elevates legitimate concerns to full-blown, action-quenching, logic-robbing WORRY. And for some reason it seems to be an epidemic among moms.
I call worry the “mother” of sins because it is one of those qualities that runs rampant in mommy circles. Not only is it common, it’s often somewhat reasonable. It’s excused away. We worry ourselves sick and call it “concern” or being “responsible.” But here’s the thing—real worry goes beyond being aware and concerned for your family’s safety and well-being. It can cripple you from engaging with people. It can adversely affect your health when it robs your peace of mind, interferes with sleep and leaves you with no appetite.
For the non-Christian, I would say that worry has gotten the best of you when:
-Most of your conversations are negative and focus on the hopelessness of your country, your political system, or factors that you cannot control.
-Your peace and contentment is based in how much of your life you can control.
-You obsess over “research.”
-You don’t participate in things that interest you because of what “could” happen or go wrong.
For the Believer, worry reveals selfishness, a lack of trust in the Lord or willingness to relinquish control to Him. Worry as a verb is defined as “(to) give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” In its most extreme form, worry evolves into fear. Lou Priolo has written a helpful booklet about fear and how to recognize when it has gripped you in a paralyzing, sinful way. I think many of his points can be applied to worry as well. Below are what he claims are characteristics of sinful fear/worry.
-Fear (worry) is sinful when it proceeds out of unbelief, or distrust, in God. When you worry because you do not believe that God can or will do what he has clearly promised in his Word, your fear is sinful.
-Fear (worry) is sinful when that which produced the fear is attributed more power than what the Bible allows. When you believe that what you worry about has more power than God, your fear is sinful.
-Worry is a problem when it is so paralyzing that it keeps us from fulfilling our biblical responsibilities (loving God and neighbor as the Bible commands).
-Worry is a problem when it reveals selfishness rather than love and sacrifice.
Healthy, loving concern seeks the best interest of others. Worry doesn’t mean you can’t plan for emergencies. But worry does turn our focus inward and so distorts reality that we are blind to the needs of others. This must be one reason why Jesus himself forbade it when he preached the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew, verses 25-34.
To you moms out there–you dear ones love your children so much that most of you would lay your own lives down for them. I believe that is exactly how we parents are supposed to feel, and if the time ever comes for us to make such a sacrifice, it would be a noble and loving one indeed. The fact is, we are not promised easy lives, and although most of us reading this are probably not going to face life or death decisions for ourselves or our children, there may come a day when something terrible happens that is beyond our control. But if it does, I guarantee no amount of worrying would equip us for it. Why waste the precious and glorious moments of this life in sinful worry that prohibits us from enjoying the Father’s blessings?
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6: 27, 34)
Recently a friend gifted me a dainty gold-link bracelet with a mustard seed encased in resin. Matthew 17:20 was attached to it, which reads:
“…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I love this little mustard seed on my wrist, because it is a daily reminder that even the smallest amount of real faith in Jesus is more powerful than our fear and worry. How many of us camp out on our fears and worries instead of exercising the power that God has provided, has promised in His Spirit to tell our fears to go? To command those mountains to move. To respond in belief when the world’s worst case scenarios and bad news tempt us to sit in crippling fear?
When I look at this mustard seed on my wrist, I’m reminded that the Lord is faithful to reward my trust in Him, and that a seed, though buried underground and invisible to the human eye, much like my faith, always grows when its watered and nourished by One who cares.
Adrienne Gross is a writer based in North Carolina. She is a lover of travel, fitness, wine, good conversation and quality time with her friends and husband and three young children. You can find her blog at presentlysite.blog or on Twitter at @adrienne_gross.