Don’t Worry Be Happy

Or Could There Be a Better Way to Address Anxiety?

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now

Bobby McFerrin sang it in 1988, and the song was a grammy award winner, so it must be the way to deal with worry. Just stop worrying. Just decide to be happy. Hmm. Or maybe not.

So if not that bouncy advice, then what? One way to get help with worry seems like no help at all at first, and that’s to ask the question, is there a link between anxiety and pride?

Maybe even asking the question seems a bit offensive. For some Christians anxiety seems like something that comes over you—from outside. It’s a mental health issue and more and more people recognize the need for mental health breaks—entertainers and even athletes have made it acceptable. The theory claims that we didn’t ask for the anxiety, so we cannot have responsibility for it.

This view is akin to anxiety being like a virus that comes from outside and makes us sick, or it’s like a genetic condition that we inherited. Some people are just wired by personality or background to be more anxious than others. In other words, we think of worry as something that happens to us, not necessarily something we do. Or at least we think of the extreme types of anxiety as coming upon us from the outside. And if it comes from outside of us, how could it be related to pride at all?

I’m using anxiety and worry as synonymous terms. Some see anxiety as distinct from worry,[1]Maybe because the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes it and therefore, professional counselors talk about it as a medical condition. but I believe that what we call anxiety Scripture calls worry. Seeing them as distinct results in Christians assuming worry is sin, but anxiety isn’t. Anxiety might not be sin in all cases, but in some it must be. The Apostle Paul says,

do not be anxious about anything…. Phil 4:6a (ESV)

And that is a command. So, we can be compassionate, sympathetic, and understand some nuance is necessary to apply Phil 4:6, but we cannot claim that anxiety is never sin. Some must be or else why would Paul command us not to be anxious about anything?

So… is it possible that worry/anxiety is related to pride? Us worriers (I’m the worrier in my family. My wife seems incapable of worry 😉 ) don’t like to consider this.

1 Peter 5:6–7 (ESV) Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Verse 6 commands humility and verse 7 talks about worry. First Peter 5:6-7 are one sentence in the Greek New Testament, so verses 6 and 7 have to be related thoughts somehow. Isn’t this a strange juxtaposition?

But how are humility and worry related? We tend to think of anxiety as something that cannot be helped. It’s the view of your heart being passive, rather than active. But Scripture doesn’t describe humanity that way. The Bible says that your sin comes from inside of you (Mk 7:20-23.) When it’s actually sin, it’s not something that comes upon you from the outside that you cannot prevent. When we’re talking about sin, we’re talking about something that is inside of you—it comes from your heart.

You have a dynamic heart that responds to circumstances and situations around you. Sometimes the way a person responds is with worry and anxiety. And 1 Peter 5:6-7 is saying that at least some worry is a manifestation of pride.

Is that hard to swallow? I think it might even be rude to some of us that are great worriers. If that characterization offends you, well, just look at 1 Peter 5:6-7. The humble cast their cares on God. That means the proud don’t. They worry over them.

So if worry is linked to pride as the Apostle Peter says, how might we see that link? I think there are three beliefs and three resulting accusations against God that show the link between pride and anxiety.

  • Worry is the belief that God can’t take care of it so I must do it myselfGod is impotent. [God can do lots of things, but I guess not this.]

The worrier says that were I all-powerful, I would handle this far better than God does. He’s loving and wise, but I guess not powerful. I would do it better.

  • Worry is the belief that God won’t take care of it at allGod is apathetic. [If God cared, he would deal with this. I guess he doesn’t care.]

Who will care for me if I don’t worry about these things? God will. That’s what verse 7 says. You can give him your cares because he cares for you.

Think about how astounding that claim is. What world religion teaches that God cares for you? I think only Christianity (and maybe Judaism). Islam doesn’t; Hinduism doesn’t; Buddhism doesn’t. Christianity says that God actually cares for you. Your concerns out of 7 billion people on this piece of dust we call earth in the vast expanse of the universe matter to God. Yes, they do. Put your concerns on God. He cares for you.

  • Worry is the belief that God won’t take care of it my wayGod is unkind. [God will take care of it, but he won’t consider what I want. That’s not compassionate. That’s not kind.]

We’re told to bring our cares to God in verse 7, but no one would tell his concerns to someone cruel or unkind. But someone that cares for you…. And God is kind; he does care for you. In our pride we think we are the only ones that care about ourselves, but that’s not true. God cares. And his kindness makes the difference.

These three beliefs are all actually arrogance, aren’t they? “Well God won’t handle it as I want it, so I must do it myself. I know best.” Are you god or is God, God? He is not about making your kingdom work. He wants you to submit to his providential rule in your life. He is King.

Anxiety seems like something that comes over us, but Peter makes clear that anxiety is often pride. It doesn’t come from without—our circumstances. It comes from within. You will never grow in your battle with worry as long as you won’t admit it’s coming out of your heart.

But… it’s okay because God cares for you! That’s the promise of verse 7. So we have far more than Don’t Worry Be Happy. We have a God that cares; He actually cares!

References

References
1 Maybe because the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes it and therefore, professional counselors talk about it as a medical condition.

Awed by Favor

This past week I had the joy of speaking at our state association’s campground for a Family Camp. I was the morning speaker which means my time was supposed to be more teaching and applicational than preaching. Besides my wife and I experiencing some fun activities like jet skiing, zip-lining, slip-n-sliding, etc., it was an immense privilege to share God’s truth with people. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself to see if it’s real. Why would God allow me or really, anyone, to share his eternal truth with others? How come I get paid to be a conduit of God’s instruction for his people? I can empathize with the Apostle Paul’s thoughts.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service…. 1 Timothy 1:12 (ESV)

Pastor, Christian worker, godly layperson, there are lots of disappointments in serving other members of the family of God, but don’t forget that you are also immeasurable blessed. That God would allow us… would entrust us with the perfect, trustworthy Word of God is an awesome stewardship and amazing privilege. Whether you are teaching 2s&3s, the senior saints, or anyone in between, you have the joy of sharing truth that came from God! We can say with the Old Testament prophets, “thus sayeth the Lord.” How incredible!

I’ve had people come up to me and thank me for teaching them God’s Word. I’ve had them tell me that it was exactly what they needed at that moment. This has happened many times in group settings, but also individually. It’s been senior saints, teens, college students, young parents, and others. Why would God let me have that privilege? It’s too much to fathom.

Marriages have been healed by the truth of God’s Word. Straying teens have come to Christ through the preaching of God’s Word. Relationships have been reconciled by believers that finally understand what Scripture says. And I get to be part of all of that. A tiny part—it’s always God’s grace that changes someone—but God uses willing instruments.

Do you get the favor that God has bestowed on you? You know you’re not giving financial advice like a broker, right? You’re not teaching the three Rs like an elementary teacher. You’re not teaching CPR like a first-responder. All of those are important, but none match the majesty and glory of telling people what God has said in his Word. I’m stunned by the glory of our God as Scripture describes him, and I get to share that same astonishment with others.

I’m awed by the privilege and responsibility. I hope you are too. Never forget the grace bestowed on you.

I Hate Neediness. Do You?

My family has driven tens of thousands of miles for vacations and visiting family. We’ve driven to Florida, Maryland, Arizona, Wyoming—you get the picture. Our cars have always been iffy. We’ve never owned a new car or even a newer used car. However, we’ve also never been in an accident, and we’ve never had any real mechanical problems. We did have three flat tires within a few hours on one excursion, but that’s another story. 😉 We’ve trusted God and prayed for safety, and God has been gracious—especially with the amount of miles we have driven. One Spring break we drove from Minnesota to Maryland to North Carolina to Florida and back to Minnesota—over 3500 miles!

Last week we drove 10 hours home from Wyoming. At one point in Iowa the opposite lanes were completely blocked because of a motorcycle accident. The person was life-flighted out right from the highway. We saw the helicopter on the interstate. Less than 10 miles later we came across another accident that had just occurred where the interstate split—cars were in the opposite direction and blocking one of our lanes.

My kids are grown and we now drive to see them. They’re all over the country—from Florida to Washington State. I’m now fighting a spiritual battle that I don’t remember fighting as often when my kids were in our house. Maybe with how I introduced this, you guess I’m anxious about a car accident. No. That’s not really the case. However, my heart is anxious about a car breakdown. That’s far less serious, and yet it causes me far more angst. I pray and worry about our car having a mechanical problem on the highway. I pray, but I dream of getting a newer car that I wouldn’t have to fear might have mechanical problems. I want a dependable car rather than trusting my dependable God. Certainly it can be good stewardship to sell a car that’s too risky and buy a more dependable one. But in my heart it’s an exchange. I want a newer car because then I won’t have to trust God. That’s what I see in me.

It’s remarkably similar to why I maintain the balance in my savings account that I do. If a financial emergency comes, I will pray, but I don’t want to have to depend upon prayer. I want to know that I already have it covered in my savings. God has provided my savings, so certainly I’m dependent upon him somewhat. However, I don’t like to be unprepared. Maybe, rather, I don’t like to be needy.

Yet neediness is good in Scripture. It doesn’t seem good in my heart, but God likes it. I want to depend upon God when I know it will work out as I want. But that’s not really dependence, is it? God wants his people to call out to him. He wants them to depend upon him. If Proverbs 3:5-6 means anything, it means that.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV)

Consider also,

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1–2 (ESV)

I can have a full bank account and a new car, but it’s all unsuccessful if God is not watching over me. And he is.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:1–2 (ESV)

I think as a family we’re done with the long trips for the summer. We have another one over Labor Day weekend, and I will need to trust God. I need to be needy. I must know and live as if dependence upon God and not my own plans is better. God, help me love neediness.

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. Psalm 113:7–8 (ESV)

Are You Having a Good Day?

I’ll bet you’ve been asked this question or a question like it in the past week. Have you ever wondered how to answer? It seems a bit superficial for a believer to base their evaluation of a day just on how circumstances have worked out so far, right?

My wife and I worked with our kids when they were single-digit ages on what they meant when they said they were having a good day. How did they know whether it was a good day or not? As you could expect, often their criteria for having a good day included things like playing in the McDonald’s play-place or not having chores around the house.

I asked my six-year-old daughter one time if she could have a good day even if she got in trouble at school or if lunch wasn’t one of her favorite meals? She thought about it and said, “Maybe… if I got to go to a birthday party later that day too.” Her answer was different in the details, but not much different in the thought of many Christian adults. We evaluate whether it’s a good day or not by whether life goes as we planned that day.

My wife works in the student life office at the Bible College I teach at, and she has had opportunity to have this conversation with some female college students. She’ll ask them what makes a good day. Some have been surprised by the question; they’ve never thought about how God might define a good day. Recently a student answered Laura that a good day is a day when she gets all her to dos done. My wife wisely pointed out that if that’s your criteria, you are setting yourself up for failure because rare is the day when we get to check off all of our jobs.

So what’s a better evaluation? Well it can’t be based simply on fortunate circumstances. That’s how any unbeliever would evaluate their day. I like what the Apostle Paul said.

2 Corinthians 5:9 (ESV) So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Our ambition is supposed to be summed up in pleasing God. So it’s a good day if you can go to bed knowing that you pleased God that day.

So how does one please God?

  • Did you rest in Christ’s righteousness or did you try to earn favor with God through your work? (2 Cor 5:21) It’s an easy temptation to think our spiritual disciplines earn us God’s blessing. And since we’ve served God and worshipped God that morning, shouldn’t he make our day go the way we want it to? But the only reason God can bless you on your worst day or your best day is because you have Christ’s righteousness. Did you live today believing that?
  • Did you love your neighbor or did you have tunnel vision on your own problems? (Mt 22:34-40) I get very self-focused when trouble comes my way. Yet Jesus doesn’t tell me to love my neighbor only when my plans are thriving. During Christ’s worst physical suffering on the cross, he was able to specifically and practically love his neighbor (Jn 19:26-27). It’s often my closest neighbors—my family—that get ignored at best and blamed at worst when my plans are falling apart.
  • Did you trust God’s sovereignty or did you fret because your plans were thwarted? (Rom 8:28-29) This is the ground zero of pleasing God. Do you live what you believe? Do you hold your plans for the day with open hands allowing God to change them? Can you make plans and also think, “if the Lord wills…” (Jam 4:13-17)?

If you can answer those questions positively for any day—no matter how much suffering you experienced or how severely someone sinned against you or how many plans went up in smoke—then you had a good day.

So, are you going to have a good day today? Are you going to please God? I pray so.

Reinterpreting Suffering

In 2016 I preached on this passage in a series on the Book of Hebrews. I was looking over it again, and I thought it might be helpful to summarize it as a blog post.

A background note: The KJV and NKJV use the word, chastening. That has led many to think that this passage is just about punishment. Or that what the author is talking about is something punitive for specific disobedience. However, it’s really the word, discipline. And discipline is whatever God uses to bring us to maturity, to correct us. Remember that we are not condemned (Rom 8:1). We won’t ever pay the price for our sins. Jesus did that on the cross. However, we are God’s children and we will be disciplined. He wants to make us like Christ in any way that we’re not.


God disciplines His children…and it’s good. Hebrews 12:4-9 tells us how to reinterpret suffering. How to recast hardships. By reinterpreting I mean that we come to a true understanding of them. We come to God’s understanding of them.

There are four reinterpretations we need.

Don’t Overstate Your Suffering—It’s Not As Bad As You Believe (12:4-5)

•Hebrews 12:4 (ESV) In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

The audience of this epistle had suffered. We know that from Hebrews 10:32-34. They have suffered public abuse, loss of property, and even imprisonment. Those are substantial losses. This is not light suffering they’ve experienced.

But they hadn’t experienced loss of life of anyone in the community yet. Why mention this obvious fact to them? Surely they know they haven’t resisted to death yet. Why say it? Because our temptation is to overstate our hardships. And it’s not as bad as you believe. It’s really not.

You see our tendency is to think that we are the center of the world—certainly the center of our worlds. And that makes us look at our hardships as more difficult than they really are because they are happening to us.

But Scripture wants us to get perspective. We need to look around us and sympathize with the suffering of others. We need to bear one another’s burdens. When I’m suffering, I find it hard to think about the hardships of others. I can only see my own pain.

If we don’t understand God’s discipline it leads to two sinful responses found in verse 5…

•Hebrews 12:5 (ESV) And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

You Disregard God’s Discipline

If we get focused on our pain we can assume it has no purpose. It’s just the random stuff of life happening to us now. God has a purpose for your hardships. He never wastes pain, so don’t treat it lightly.

You Become Discouraged

This is probably the more likely sinful response. You get tired of God’s chastening. It seems so oppressive that you actually lose heart.

I think one of the difficult lessons that Christians learn over and over again is that God is not interested in making our lives pain free. Salvation doesn’t mean that your life suddenly becomes wonderful and prosperous and your car never has expensive mechanical problems.

God is not concerned with that vision of life. He has bigger plans for you. He actually wants you to be like His Son, Jesus. And He will discipline you and me to get us to that objective.

Don’t Think God Has Abandoned You—He Only Disciplines Those in the Family (12:6-8)

•Hebrews 12:6–8 (ESV) For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Here’s where our understanding really needs to change. We really need to reinterpret our hard times. Discipline means that God loves us. It’s actually the assurance that God loves us. A lack of chastisement is a bad sign. God disciplines those that He loves.

A father that doesn’t discipline, doesn’t love his child. You can say you do, but if a father doesn’t discipline his children, then he doesn’t care how they turn out. That’s a sign of indifference, but not a sign of love. So the father that loves his children will discipline them.

And it’s the same with God. It’s a sure sign of sonship to be chastened by God. Adversity, suffering, and hardships are the tools that God uses to sanctify His children. Suffering is not a sign of abandonment by God. No, it’s a sign of His love. Hardships don’t indicate God’s rejection. They are clear evidence of God’s fatherly care.

This is radical reinterpretation of suffering. Rather than being an indication of God’s indifference, it is a mark of His love for His children. Suffering should assure us of God’s care, not make us question it.

Don’t Resist God’s Discipline—You Can Submit to God (12:9-10)

•Hebrews 12:9–10 (ESV) Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

This passage makes an argument from the lesser human relationship to the greater. Our fathers might have poorly disciplined, but we still submitted to them. Can’t we also submit to our heavenly Father? With our human fathers it was their duty to discipline us and our duty to submit. Your father might not have disciplined well, or you might not have submitted well, but those were the responsibilities. Therefore, submit to the God that does discipline well.

Don’t resist God’s discipline. Why? Because…

God is Wiser Than Your Father

Your dad may have been mistaken in his discipline, but your heavenly Father will never impose any discipline that isn’t for your good. God doesn’t make arbitrary judgments.

God’s Purpose Is Better Than Your Father’s

Your dad was a sinner. So he made decisions about discipline that were often at least tainted by sin. That means that sometimes he disciplined you for his own convenience. Sometimes it wasn’t about your character, it was about what was best for him.

But God has no such limitation. God disciplines so we may grow in holiness. We are to become like Him. Your trouble is used by God to make you grow into holiness.

Don’t Focus on the Pain—the Result of Discipline Is Worth the Trouble (12:11)

•Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

In the moment, nobody enjoys discipline. When we’re in the midst of God’s discipline, it’s easy to focus only on the pain. Sometimes it does hurt so much. We lose something that we really value. God uses the pain to conform us to Christ’s image, but at the time, it doesn’t seem worth it to us.

But it bears good fruit. The outcome of suffering is substantial and pleasant. The period of discipline is followed by one of joy. We grow in righteousness through discipline. When reinterpreting our suffering this way, we can actually submit to it in the present. “Peaceful” reflects that the man that believes God’s discipline is designed for his good will cease to feel resentful and rebellious.

Pain wakes us up. God doesn’t waste pain, but He also doesn’t avoid it either. It’s a tool to make us grow. You and I wouldn’t have near the desire to grow if it weren’t for God’s discipline in our lives.

Don’t focus on your pain; instead think about the good fruit that God is growing in your life. Listen, God disciplines His children…and it’s good.

Copyright © 2018-2022 kraigkeck.com . Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without written permission from Kraig Keck is strictly prohibited.