Should Christians Worry
Dr. George Mair, Toronto, Canada, is a Specialist in general surgery. He is well qualified to write on the subject, Should the Christian Worry? His counsel is both spiritual and professional.
We live in days when there is plenty to worry about: in our individual lives, in society around us, and in the world at large. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:1, “In the last days perilous times shall come …” Speaking of these days the Lord also said in Luke 21:25-26, “On earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth …”
How should we cope with these facts? We know the gospel is a spiritual message — a message to get to Heaven by, through faith alone. We know the Bible contains the whole counsel of God; that it is instructions from the Maker to His creatures on how to function properly in this present physical existence. Worry is not a normal, healthy function.
In the classical Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7, the Lord Himself gave a concise but full account of how His followers should live their day-to-day lives. Speaking of worry, He said, it is unnecessary. “Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink nor yet for your body what ye shall put on … Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them… For after all these things do the Gentiles seek and your heavenly Father knoweth ye have need of all these things” (Matt. 6:25, 26, 32).
The world has said that God is dead, they certainly live as if He were, but surely we Christians know that whether it be material needs —He knoweth; whether it be trials… He is able to succour those that are tested; and whether it be national or international confusion, God’s plans are being fulfilled. How could we worry if we remember Romans 8:28? “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” As Paul tries to tell us of God’s power to help us in our daily lives, language seems to be completely inadequate as he piles superlative on superlative in Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
It is Unfruitful: “Which of you by taking thought (being anxious) can add one cubit to his stature?’” (Matt. 6:27). How often have we worried about mistakes, wrongs done to us, and circumstances, all of which we couldn’t change; and yet for days we made our lives miserable, we couldn’t sleep, and we even damaged our health to absolutely no purpose. The stupidity of it!
It is Unworthy: “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will be give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven?” (Matt. 7:9, 10, 11). Worry shows disrespect.
It is Unhealthy: In Matthew 6:34 (K.J.V.) the Lord says, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Although this is perhaps difficult to understand, it is a faithful translation of the original Greek. It seems to suggest that worry in order to have everything cut and dried in our future is harmful. Whether or not you agree with my interpretation here, the fact itself is indisputably true. Worry is harmful both physically and spiritually.
Worry is unhealthy, and at this point I would like to expand my discussion to include the related emotions like fear, hate and anger as they all have the same physical effect. Ask any practising medical doctor and he will tell you that one half, perhaps even three quarters of his patients’ illnesses are produced by disordered emotions. They are known as psychosomatic diseases, and if I were even just to list these diseases they would fill this magazine. They range from headaches, insomnia and mental disease to such seemingly physical diseases as asthma, high blood pressure, duodenal ulcer, dermatitis, and colitis.
Certainly some of these can have other causes. We think of asthma as an allergy, but so often I have seen an asthmatic child brought to hospital again and again because the doctors were unable to find an adequate allergic cause they could deal with. Eventually it became obvious that the cause was emotional upset due to unhappy and quarrelling parents. What then can a doctor do? He cannot remove the cause, only the parents could do that, but often they don’t even want to admit what is going on. So the doctor gives tranquilizers and sedatives. We all know that the use of these drugs today is unbelievable. That in itself is an indication of the amount of emotional upset and worry that is gnawing at our society.
Even duodenal ulcer, although there are physical reasons, is not free from emotional causes. The common saying is, “It’s not what you eat, it’s what is eating you?” Emotional stress and other strains affecting the brain cause too many impulses to pass down the vagus nerves to the stomach to produce too much acid. We try to control the acid and the ulcer with diet and alkalis and surgery to cut the vagus nerves, etc., but we are not really getting at the cause.
Doctors are being faced with more and more problem diseases. We suspect the cause but do not really know how to remove it. We know that in this kind of illness, sedatives, tranquilizers, diets, and even surgery is not an adequate answer. Yet the Bible does have the answer to these practical problems of daily life. How can we expect the world to apply these truths in their lives when we Christians do not apply them properly to our lives? “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).
They say the Bible is old fashioned. Sure, for it was written nearly two thousand years ago, but these medical facts are so up-to-date that they are ahead of our times. With the peace of God guarding our hearts (our emotions) and our minds, we do not need tranquillizers. How much physical disease would we save ourselves!
Worry and its related emotions of fear, hate, and anger is unhealthy. A worried believer is almost a contradiction of terms, for worry must mean lack of faith. Why the worry and fear if we believe that all things work together for good to them that love God? Why the anger and complaints and discontent when it rains on the day we planned to go to the lake? We know God had reasons for permitting it to happen for He knows these details — even the hairs of our head are numbered.
Three times Jude paints a picture of apostasy. In Jude 8 he says, “In like manner these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, dispise dominion, speak evil of dignities.” He shows its effect upon secular life. How typical of our days of sexual degeneration, political restlessness and rebellion! In Jude 12, he says, “These are spots in your feasts of love … Clouds are they without water, trees whose fruit withereth.” He describes ecclesiastical apostasy as a name and a ritual without reality. But I really want you to notice verse 16, “These are murmurers, complainers walking after their own desires …” This is how apostasy affects individual lives. This is so relevant today when people in North America have more material wealth than any time in history but seem more discontented. Worry and discontent are indications of a lack of faith. When Christians behave like that, they are just acting like apostates — like people who once paid at least lip service to the gospel but now reject it.
The Lord said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We are sure that we are saved because He asserts so. We believed the Lord when He said, “I give unto My sheep eternal life and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). We are sure of our eternal security because He says so. We also believe what the Lord said in John 14:27, “My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Notwithstanding all this, we do not always have that peace in our lives. Sometimes we worry, are afraid, are angry, and are discontented because when it comes to day-by-day living we do not have faith.
One of the most reassurring texts in the Bible is Isaiah 26:3, I’m sure that as a boy I saw it in my grandmother’s house. I’ve always been fond of it. Years of stress and strain have been required to make me understand it. Notice the word in boldface type, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he Trusteth in Thee.”