When Concern Turns into Worry

Chuck Bartlett

The Lord made it clear that His followers should not worry (Matt. 6:25). They are told this demonstrates a lack of faith. As Jesus put it, “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (verse 30).

That being said, we can read many times in the word of God about people who have things weighing on their minds. For example, was it not worry when the apostle Paul said that he had a deep, daily concern for the church (II Cor. 11:28)? Was Martha just concerned that her sister was not helping prepare food for Jesus, when she asked the Lord to Mary to help her (Luke 10:41)? How do we know if these are just a minor concerns or the sort of worries Jesus spoke about? To answer this we must dig a deeper.

A certain Greek word comes up repeatedly when warnings are given about worry, anxiety, etc. This Greek word is used Matthew 6:25 (where Jesus said not to worry) and also in Luke 10 to tell Martha she was “careful” and troubled about many things. This same Greek word is also used to instruct the brethren to not to be “anxious” for anything in Philippians 4:6.

More than we like to admit, we easily fall victim to worry and stop walking by faith. As previously discussed, Paul warned Christians to not be anxious. He then told the brethren to pray with supplication and thanksgiving as a way to avoid anxiety.

But what about Paul being concerned for the churches on a daily basis – how is that any different? We must first recognize that Paul’s daily concern is depicted via a different Greek word. When read contextually, we see that the apostle was stating that he regularly had a care for the brethren on his mind. The definition of the Greek word we translate as “care” here includes the idea of distraction. The point is that Paul was distracted with care for the brethren but not debilitated by it. Martha, for example, was also distracted in Luke 10. However, she was anxious, and this is what Jesus found issue with.

     Being concerned about something does not mean we have stopped working for the Lord. Allowing concern to turn into a bad attitude or to stop caring for the Lord, however, is wrong. People who allow things to eat them up inside are not turning to God for help and comfort. Consider the following situations:

Two people will soon undergo serious surgeries. One person is very concerned. She goes to God in prayer and leaves her concerns with the Lord. She understands it is out of her hands. She is mindful of her example with others and exhibits strong faith. She does not seek their pity and tries to stay positive.

The other person soon undergoing surgery is a Christian but becomes very preoccupied with the situation. He does not think of God and fails to pray.  His worry causes him to focus on negative possibilities. He expects others to try and encourage him but always ends conversations with a pessimistic outlook.

So what solution can we offer to someone who is a “worrier”? The answer is simple – do what you can and walk by faith (II Cor. 5:7). When a problem comes up, do what you can to fix it. When it is out of your hands, accept the situation and trust in the Lord. If I am concerned someone is upset with me, I will go to them and clear it up. If I am worried someone is upset with me, I may avoid them and stop letting my light shine.  Let’s make sure we know the difference between concern and worry. 

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