Some people find jigsaw puzzles relaxing, others find them maddening, but most of us follow a similar strategy for solving them. We complete the border first. Then we collect pieces with similar colors and patterns, gradually assembling them until the picture comes together. One thing we don’t do is throw away the box! Without the big picture of how the pieces relate to each another, solving the puzzle becomes incredibly more difficult.
But when it comes to reading the Bible, we sometimes focus on one piece—a single verse or passage—without considering the big picture. We take statements, promises, and commands out of their proper context, and then wonder why we’re confused or our lives aren’t coming together as we had expected.
In the New Testament, we find three very-familiar passages on the subject of worry. If you’ve read these Scriptures countless times—even memorized them and claimed them as your own—yet struggle to apply them effectively, perhaps the solution can be found in the context. Let us look at some antidotes to worry found hiding in plain view.
We’re familiar with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no [anxious] thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matthew 6:25). If you’re having trouble applying these principles, take a look at the first word. “Therefore” points us back to the previous verse and reveals the root of our struggle. “No man can serve two masters … ye cannot serve God and mammon [money]” (Matthew 6:24).
If we are going to be able to trust God for our daily physical needs, we must be single-mindedly serving His interests. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). As we begin chasing after material wealth and earthly ambitions, our focus becomes divided and worry flourishes.
Joy and Gentleness
Paul tells us to “Be careful [anxious] for nothing” (Philippians 4:6), and we usually follow on to the next verse to find the prescribed method for achieving peace of mind through prayer. But what if you’ve taken this remedy to heart, praying about your anxieties, and the peace of God remains elusive?
Look at the previous verses: Paul instructs us to “rejoice in the Lord alway” and “let your moderation [gentleness] be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:4-5). Are joy and gentleness defining characteristics of your life? If these two attributes of a Spirit-filled believer are missing, don’t be surprised if peace is also not present (see Galatians 5:22-23).
“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). How many of us have attempted to accept this lovely invitation but found that something was missing? If you open your Bible, you’ll see what’s missing—the rest of the sentence! We have to go back to the previous verse to complete the instruction: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God …” (1 Peter 5:6).
When life isn’t going according to (my) plan, do I react with worry or humility? When we worry, we’re telling God that He’s not big enough—or caring enough—to deal with our difficulties. But humility allows God to stay on the throne, and trusts that He will “exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
Are you infected with worry and anxiety? Ask God for help in applying these antidotes! —T. Don Johnson
Anxiety never strengthens you for tomorrow: it only weakens you for today. —John Blanchard