is it okay for Christians to worry?
Updated: May 5
I thought about waiting to post this article... but I felt it was fitting to release it late at night when many of us are up fretting about things we can't control.
Things like pandemics. Lost jobs. The deaths of people we love.
The Christian community is on fire in a good way right now. I'm seeing a lot of great stuff about prayer, trusting God, and peace in Jesus popping up in my email and on my social media feed and I'm loving it. But I think with all this faith talk comes a pressure to not be afraid. I've even read comments from people saying that if we are true believers of Jesus, we shouldn't be afraid of anything. I've also seen the opposite approach taken- people telling others to be afraid of God and "repent while they can". For someone who is trying to navigate their relationship with God all of this commotion is just downright overwhelming.
Someone reading this might disagree with my suggestion of embracing worry. They will tell me about how the Bible ridicules those who act fearfully. There are plenty of verses in scripture that scorn a coward. Someone will quote verses such as Matthew 6:34 which says "let not your hearts be troubled" or Psalms 27:1 that tells us that, "with the Lord as our light who shall we fear?" I'm not arguing that the Bible discourages us from acting on fear, instead, I'm advocating that the feeling of fear is normal and to be expected. The scriptures of Matthew and Psalms are not telling us that we won't be afraid, rather they are telling us what to do when we are afraid. They are a source of encouragement that we can fill our minds with when we are afraid.
Many of my concepts of God began from childhood. My views on worrying are no exception. In Sabbath school, there was a lot of talk about bravery and boldness for Christ. Throughout all these discussions I felt tremendous pressure to never worry. Even the hymns we were singing told us to simply "take it to the Lord in prayer". As a kid, I looked at characters such as Daniel, David, Esther, or the three men in the fiery furnace and I was completely, utterly baffled. Why weren't they afraid?
As I study scripture today I've realized that they were.
Daniel was afraid of the lions, David was intimidated by the giant, and the three young men were worried that they would probably die. Being a Christian is not about being fearless. Being a Christian is about making a conscious decision to move beyond your feelings of anxiety and worry and persevere in life despite the risks.
Individuals reach out to me fairly often and tell me that they admire my faith. They ask me how I know God is real. They hear about my brother who has an incurable illness or the time I was in an abusive relationship and they ask me how my faith got so strong that I could endure such pains. Many people today are looking to the church, to the Bible, and even to Jesus wanting to believe in it all but feeling that their fears and worries are proof they can never measure up. People look at me and they ask the same question I asked those Bible characters, "Why aren't you afraid?"
I am afraid.
I am afraid of losing someone I love, like my dad who is in a high-risk category, to this virus. I'm afraid of the inevitable and permanent changes in my life that are occurring. I am afraid of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to someone who might reach out to me for encouragement during this difficult experience. I'm afraid of the economic repercussions of everything the government is doing right now. In these scary moments, I wrestle with God. God, am I a bad believer because I am worried? Am I a disappointment to you because I feel afraid? As I ponder these things I realize that being a "good" or faithful Christian has never been about not being afraid- rather it is about what we do with that fear.
Many people think that deeper faith in God comes from signs and wonders. My friends who are atheists tell me that if they could just have one dream or hear one voice from the heavens, then they would know that God was worth believing in. Then they would choose to trust the unseen. We as a human race have allowed our fears, anxieties, and worries to trap us into believing that we can never be faithful if we are afraid or if we doubt. The devil whispers in our ear that we aren't true believers because we feel insecure. My dear reader I have come to believe that the best Christians are the questioning, fearful ones.
Our fears reveal to us our need for a Savior. The strongest Christians- the real movers and shakers of the church both now and in the past aren't the fearless ones. Instead, they are the ones who cry out to God saying, "I am afraid but I'm trusting you anyway!"
Esther said, "If I perish, I perish."
The three young men said, "Even if our God doesn't save us we won't bow down."
David tried to wear Saul's armor before going to meet Goliath.
Being a follower of Jesus does not mean you get a worry-free life, but it does mean you get a purposeful life. Look at what Esther did for her nation. Look what David did to Goliath. Look how those three men impacted Nebuchadnezzar. We are living in a time when your worry can push you to go beyond the things you would normally do. It's time to allow your anxiety to bring you to your knees. It is in our lowest moments- through the tears and the pain that God sometimes uses us for our highest purpose.
I wish I had the time to tell you about when I pounded my fists on the steering wheel after being cheated on. I wish I could show you the place on the bathroom tile floor where I curled up when my brother was in the hospital. I wish I could express with words the burdens I carry for the people I love who want nothing to do with me. Yet somehow, in our weakest moments when we feel we just can't carry on, we receive immeasurable strength from God that we never knew was even possible. We are capable of so much more than we know when we admit our helplessness and begin to fully rely on God, fears, and all.
If you are feeling afraid- you're doing something right. Now get out there and find out what God is calling you to do for the world. You are called, you are chosen, and you are faithful.