You may know the feeling, tension deeply rooted in the pit of your stomach burgeons outward and upward until your muscles are taut with resistance to the grasping weedy tendrils of anxiety whose speedy propagation just might overcome your adeptness at hacking away the spreading growth.
Worry has an invasive quality which, when not extracted by the root, can rival the destructiveness of kudzu. Kudzu, for those who are unfamiliar, is a leafy vine which can grow as much as a foot a day given hospitable conditions. In the hills of southwest Virginia kudzu runs rampant overgrowing the native vegetation and killing many trees in its path. This prolific and domineering vine grows up and over everything that stands still for more than two minutes together. The result is that it ravenously devours the available sunlight before the sunlight can reach the trees and shrubs on which the leafy vampire climbs. The sunlight is still there, the trees are still there, but the kudzu keeps the one from nourishing the other which means the kudzu grows strong and the trees grow weak—a parasitic problem that upsets an otherwise healthy ecosystem.
Weakened by Worry
Worry, fretting, anxiety, by whatever name you call it, will sap your strength and leave you much susceptible to the temptations of greater sins. Psalm 37:8 reminds us, “Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” This is followed with the reminder that evildoers will be cut off by the Lord. That is a serious consequence to the seemingly passive act of allowing worry to take root in your heart. “They are just thoughts” we think. Isn’t it understandable that we should fret a little about the evils of the day or the adversity of our circumstances? Doesn’t it just show our concern for things that are important?
It is true that we often worry over troubles that are sincerely troubling. We aren’t necessarily making mountains out of molehills. In many cases the mountains really are mountains and may be traced back to the curse received by the parents of humanity upon their first disobedience. Death entered in and brought with it thorns and pain to blight our days. Our anxiety is often spent on the difficulty of our labor in earning daily bread, the deteriorating health of our loved ones, or the depraved state of the surrounding culture. Why are we expected to cease fretting when death and thorns have not ceased to plague us? The answer is simple to understand yet difficult to believe.
As always, our security and strength lies with the One we serve rather than in ourselves or the arrangement of our current conditions. Instead of fearing the looming mountains in front of us we should lift our eyes up to the hills from whence comes our help and remember that our God can move mountains. The Psalmist’s method for combating the pervasive influence of worry in our lives averts our eyes from our areas of concern and turns them to the solution:
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes (Psalm 37:3-7).
Trust in the Lord. That is the herbicide to squelch the growth of worry. When the psalmist says, “Trust in the Lord” he doesn’t just give mental affirmation to God being in control. No, he propagates a trust so vigorous it naturally crowds out fretful weeds with obedient action. “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” If we do not trust the Lord to uphold us as we do His will and to bring forth our righteousness as the light when we commit our way to Him, then we do not trust Him. We may give lip service to God, but we don’t trust Him enough to do the good He requires and cultivate the faithfulness that pleases Him.
The Lord is eminently trustworthy. If you want to fight worry in your life, trust Him. Trust Him enough to put off your fretting and do good. Let your faithful actions speak of the trustworthiness of your God. Though our circumstances in this world, where the curse still invades our days with its decay, may tell us that fretting is the reasonable thing to do, we know that the head of the serpent was already crushed and though he writhes a bit still, his defeat cannot be denied. Those who belong to the Lord walk in safety and need never fear going down to destruction.
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand (Psalm 37:23-24).
Though we often find it difficult to act on what we know is good and right, though we often weigh the costs of obedience against our own comfort, we can be assured that doing good is not outside our reach. The benediction that closes out the book of Hebrews expels our worry and gives us hope that what the Lord wills, He will faithfully help us and equip us to do. Let us trust that He does not lie:
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.