Putting Worry to Work

Not all worry is bad. The Bible also speaks of a healthy concern that results in meaningful action and prayer.


There are two kinds of worry: (1) a negative, harmful, crippling worry, and (2) a positive, beneficial concern. Negative worry is an anxiety that focuses our thoughts either on concerns that we can do nothing about or on matters that distract us from resting in God’s ability to meet our needs. Jesus mentioned such worry six times in His Sermon on the Mount. He taught His followers to turn to their Father in heaven, who wants us to trust Him one day at a time, even for the most common cares of life (Matthew 6:25–34).

Not all worry is bad. The Bible also speaks of a healthy concern that results in meaningful action and prayer. In 2 Corinthians 11:28, Paul spoke of his “deep concern for all the churches.” The word concern is the same Greek word he and other New Testament writers used when urging against self-consuming anxiety (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7).

Paul also told the believers in Philippi of his desire to send Timothy to them because he was concerned (same word) about their welfare (Philippians 2:19–20).

Let Worry Turn Our Attention to God

When we worry, we focus on possibilities that have not yet happened or are beyond our control. What we need to see is that this is our moment of opportunity. In the weakness of our fears, we have reason to look for the assurance of God’s presence. This assurance comes when we turn our attention to God’s character as revealed in His Word.

Nothing happens in this world that is beyond the knowledge and power of our God. The Scriptures declare, “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). He is God Almighty He is the sovereign Lord of all.

When we worry, we are actually acknowledging the truth that we are not adequate to meet the demands of life in our own strength. This is our moment to remind ourselves of some important truths about God.

  1. He is everywhere.

    There is no place, no matter how alone we may feel, that God cannot be. He is everywhere! (Psalm 139:7–12; Jeremiah 23:23–24).

  1. He knows everything.

    He knows how afraid we are, how bad we feel, and what scares us. The more worried we become, the more we act as if God were ignorant of our situation. We don’t know the future, but God does; and He knows our needs (Job 7:20; Psalm 33:13–14).

  1. He is all-powerful.

    Worriers feel that no one has the power to stop bad things from happening—not even God. But God has limitless power and His own wise reasons for what He permits (Genesis 17:1; 18:14; Matthew 19:26).

The cares of life that weigh on us so heavily need to be placed on the shoulders of the Lord. He is even more concerned than we are about our health, our work, our friends, our family, and our nation.

Worry is an expression of our fear of the future.

It was God who helped David kill the bear, the lion, and the Philistine giant. He protected David from the murderous rages of Saul. He kept him safe in enemy territory. Perhaps that’s the reason David could write, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

But how do we give our burdens to God? The answer to that is not in what we do, but in what we believe. Are we trusting in our feelings? Or do we believe, on the basis of what we see in the created world around us and on the wisdom of the Bible, that our creator and sustainer is an all-powerful, trustworthy God?

But what if our fears are rooted in past experiences or medical conditions beyond our ability to understand or control? The answer does not contradict our faith. If, in the process of coming to terms with our fears, we sense a need for medical help or a wise counselor, this may be God’s way of helping us trust Him in new and deeper ways.

When we feel vulnerable, we become distracted by our concerns.

Worry is an expression of our fear of the future. It has been around since Eden, when Adam and Eve hid from God among the trees and covered themselves with leaves. They were rightfully afraid of the consequences of their choice to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:10). When God asked why they were hiding, Adam said, “I was afraid.”

We can see what our first parents could not. If they had admitted their wrong and thrown themselves on the mercy of their good and compassionate God, it would have been better than trying to hide from His presence.

Knowing that God is a good God—nothing evil can originate in Him—helps drive fear away, even when we have sinned.

David knew God’s goodness and love by experience. That’s why he could write that even in the darkest valleys of life, he feared no evil (Psalm 23:4).

Even as he wrote of war, famine, and evil men who pursued him, David said that those who trust in God “shall be satisfied” (Psalm 37:19). The basic meaning is that they will not tremble or be shaken. In the midst of the legitimate concerns of life, we need not quiver with fear. God will sustain us by His power.

When we feel vulnerable, we become distracted by our concerns. God can sustain us during those worrisome times, not by promising that nothing bad will happen, but by reminding us that we were made to trust Him above all else. In a broken world, we have no guarantees except that God can be trusted, and that He wants us to draw on the depths of His love and grace in every circumstance that He gives or allows. We too can use worry as an opportunity to say, “Therefore we will not fear” (Psalm 46:2).