Does Worrying Mean I Don't Trust God?
Does my anxiety and worrying mean that I don't actually trust God to take care of me? Am I sinning? How can I stop worrying, it's just what I do? It's a discussion we all have with ourselves. I've had it more often than not as of late, and I'm sure many of you have as well.
The common thought is that God will take care of us, provide for us, and protect us as long as we put our trust in Him. Thus, if we trust Him, we ought to have zero worries. It's a Hakuna Matata-esque philosophy. The common experience, however, is that if we don't make things happen ourselves (or prevent things from happening), they won't come to fruition (or they, sadly, will). Now the issue is how do we rethink this scenario so that our faith matches up with our experiences?
Some passages you may be familiar with:
1.) Matthew 6:31-34 "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (NIV). Also found, with different phrasing, in Luke 12:29-31.
2.) Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
It's clear from these verses that we are to not worry, but rather seek God and His righteousness. Again, there's a disconnect between what we're told (if we take the text literally), and what we experience. One consideration we must make is regarding when we try to do as instructed (i.e. concede our worries to God), but we're psychologically unable to wipe that stress or that worry from our minds.
So who's wrong? Where's the compromise? What gives? What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to handle this?
It's okay to have worries.
If you do a little psychological research, a key phrase appears in nearly every study: "individual differences." No human on this planet is 100% identical to the next - not even identical twins (unless speaking of genetics). Thus, we're all different and we all handle life events differently.
Similar to the way an architect understands that different designs must be built and maintained using different methods, God understands that different people will need to process and react to situations in different ways. Therefore, the "right" way to act in the case of "casting all your worries" will inevitably be different for you compared to the next.
God knows this.
Better yet, He purposefully created us this way and finds joy in the differences of His creation.
Everything psychological is also physiological, and vice versa. This means that for every thought, choice, and reaction a person makes, there is a physical cause and effect. Though what makes up cognition and the (ethereal) mind is yet to be understood, this is the current paradigm. These cause-and-effect reactions composing our thoughts, actions, and feelings cause each one of us to interpret situations differently, because no two minds are identical.
God intended this.
We're instructed to spend time in prayer, giving our worries to God. In other words, we're instructed to share what is on our minds, what's really bothering us as an individual. There are several reasons why this is good to do, aside from the only Being that exists outside of time telling us to. Think of it like confiding in a counselor or close friend. God is the most powerful, knowledgeable, and loving body that exists. If He wasn't, there'd be no reason to worship Him. When you confide in a friend (a secret, a favor, etc.), what are you doing? You are putting your trust, hope, and faith - you're putting a part of yourself - into that person to help carry a burden or share in an experience. This is the same thing you're doing with God when you "give up your worries to Him."
By praying with God and confiding in Him to help you through a situation or to ease your anxieties, you are giving yourself to Him. You are seeking his righteousness and therefore His Kingdom. When God and His Son tell us to do something, it's for our own good. This situation is no different, where God is telling us to confide in the most capable friend we have - Himself.
Aside from having someone to share in our experience, we have thoughts and reactions to certain situations. Many struggle with anxiety on the clinical level, and thus, even though they may trust and confide in the Lord, that person cannot simply turn off the neural connections in their brain telling them to be anxious when there's not a real need to be. Sometimes logic (explaining to ourselves why we should or shouldn't act or think a certain way) and trust are unable to overpower neurology. He understands this. He created this! He is not upset with you.
I find that making to-do lists helps ease anxiety when I can't turn of those neural connections. I also find that prayer does wonders - not a thirty second, "Hey, God, take care of this, please," but at least several minutes of sincere time with my heavenly Father where I explain exactly what I'm feeling, why, and what I think should be done about it - at least several minutes where I confide in a close friend. He always comes through, just maybe not in the ways we would want or expect.
Once I confide in Him, check to make sure my motives are right, and list out all I could reasonably do to alleviate the issue(s) at hand, peace comes over me. Anxiety eases. This doesn't always mean I'm no longer stressed or anxious, and it doesn't mean that I haven't messed up during the process. It means that I have put my dependence in Him, as guided.
I don't want to discredit the power of an anxiety disorder. If you're dealing with anxiety, you've probably looked into counseling, medication, breathing exercises, physical exercise, alone time, hobbies, increasing productivity, etc. If you haven't, I encourage you to do so, or to ask in the comments below for direction. Assuming you have looked into it, but have not incorporated anything, I've found incorporating 2 or 3 physical methods of reducing anxiety, such as those listed above, along with substantial time for prayer and focusing on what I can control does wonders. There's no magical method or cure, but there are little steps to help.
Do I think it's wrong or sinful to have worries? No. However, we are distanced from God when we become consumed by worry, the same as if we let anything other than Him consume us.
Anxiety is a very real, physical issue, not a result of or punishment for (your) mistakes. But by not at least confiding in the Lord for help and guidance you're doing yourself a great disservice.
It's okay to be anxious. It's okay to ask for help and search for peace.