Replacing Worry (Lessons from Zephaniah)

We live in the midst of a dangerous, confusing world, and it’s getting worse as we move ever closer to the time of Christ’s return.

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matt. 24:6-8)

Our first instinct when things get bad is to worry and panic. This is precisely what we’re told not to do. Easier said than done, though, isn’t it? Worry’s not something you can just turn off — you have to replace it with something else.

No Reason for Fear

Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah, so things were going pretty well at the time for the nation of Judah. Even so, he warned about a time much like our own when things would start looking pretty bleak for God’s people. In the midst of these dark prophecies, though, Zephaniah’s book gives great reason for not giving in to fear.

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”(Zeph. 3:16-17)

Replacing Worry | marissabaker.wordpress.comGod doesn’t just tell us not to have fear. He gives us assurances designed to make fear impossible. “Fear not” because God Himself is with you to save you. “Fear not” because of His steadfast love, which Paul says nothing can separate us from (Rom. 8:35-39). “Fear not” because the Lord delights in you (Deut. 10:15; Is. 62:4).

He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6)

I still struggle with removing fear on a practical level, but abstractly I know fear simply doesn’t make sense for a Christian. The God who created the universe personally guarantees that He won’t abandon you. I always find things I’m scared of less frightening if there’s a good friend beside me, and what better friend could we have to cling to for assurance and stability in times of fear than God Himself?

Live By Faith

We replace worry with faith by consistently turning to God.

Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zeph. 2:3)

Seeking after God and consistently following His commands is the best way to get close to Him, which is the best place to be in times of trouble. No matter what happens, our focus must stay on God as we live by faith.

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matt. 24:44)

Living without fear doesn’t involve burying our heads in the sand and ignoring things that might make us afraid. Rather, it involves a watchful readiness while living in the faith and confidence of our Messiah.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. (Matt. 24:45-46)

Replacing Worry | marissabaker.wordpress.comWhen we stand before Christ at the end of this earth or the end of our lives — whichever comes first — we want to be found “so doing.” Consistent growth and faithfulness will be rewarded.

But what if you’re lacking in faith, and still suffering from worry? Ask God for help. He won’t turn down a sincere plea for help, even if it’s help with our unbelief.

 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8)

Brethren, let us pray for stability in our walk with God — to be grounded so firmly on the Rock of Jesus Christ that we won’t be tossed about with fear. Wavering and worry go hand-in-hand, and we need God’s help to overcome that and “continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast” (Col. 1:23).

Anxious For Nothing

There is something that I find comforting about realizing how well God knows us.

O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether. (Ps. 139:1-4)

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  Psa 139:9-10This is my favorite Psalm. Not only does it have one of the most fantastically poetic phrases in the Bible — “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” — it is also the prayer of a man who is in awe of his God and takes comfort in the close relationship they share. David put his complete trust in God, and shared all his worries, troubles, and fears with full confidence that God would hear and respond.

I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before Him; I shewed before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path. (Ps. 142:1-3)

Throughout the Psalms, we can see examples of David bringing his anxiety before God, much as Peter admonishes us to do when he writes, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). It is certainly not easy to let go of our worries, but that is what we are expected to do.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus spends a large portion of chapter 6 admonishing His followers against earthly anxiety. He says to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” instead of on earth and “take no thought for your life” (6:20, 25). Paul says much the same thing in Philippians:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Php. 4:6-7)

The word translated “careful” is G3309 merimnao (μεριμνάω). Zodhiates says it means, “To care, be anxious, troubled, to take thought.” When we pray to God and draw near to Him, we do not have to be anxious about anything. Now, I can write this just fine, but I’ll be the first person to admit I’m not very good at letting go of my anxiety. I worry about my family and friends, being in groups of people,  my 15-year-old cat, how people will respond to my writings, and my future (which encompasses a whole sub-group of worries we won’t get into right now). I spend an inordinate amount time worrying, and usually things aren’t nearly as bad as I feared. In short, I am anxious about things that turn out to be nothing to worry about.

Just think how much time and energy we could save if we really believed that God will make “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This doesn’t mean we’ll never worry at all. But it should mean that we can let go of our anxieties more quickly and “let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15).