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Six Things to Do Instead of Worry

Worry. It’s completely fruitless, and yet for many of us it’s a favorite pastime. We can’t add a single hour to our lives by worrying (Matt. 6:27). It won’t improve our financial situation, bring peace to a conflict, or cause our children to do the right thing. And yet, worry can be a difficult sin to put off!

Anxious thoughts must be replaced with something else. It’s not effective to attempt to just “not worry.” We must stop worrying, but then we must go further by renewing our minds with the truth of God’s word and putting on godly patterns of thinking and behavior.

How can we do this? The good news is that we can choose what we think about and do! By God’s grace, we can experience victory in this area. Here are six things to do instead of worry.

Choose to think about what is true.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul instructs us to think about what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise. What may (or may not) happen in the future is not true, and our anxiety-filled assumptions about the future are likely not right, excellent, or worthy of praise either. Our minds can be skilled at inventing worst-case scenarios that turn out to be a complete fiction!

It’s important to note that the command concerning our thoughts in Philippians 4:8 comes directly after the commands, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men,” and, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” God instructs us to discipline our thoughts so that we will trust Him instead of being carried along by worry. A big part of that is refusing to dwell on the what ifs. Instead of worrying about what might happen, limit your thoughts to the current moment and deal with what is true. Is there something that must be done today? Information that must be gathered? Action that needs to be taken? Then do that. And leave the future to God.

Rehearse everything you know about God’s character.

We can trust God with an unknown future because He has revealed so much about His character in the Bible. Prepare ahead of time for trials by selecting specific verses that will remind you of God’s goodness and wisdom when your mind is tempted to worry. It helps to create an actual physical list on paper or a set of index cards with the verses written out. Just as we make deposits into our savings accounts so that we’ll be prepared when the unexpected hits, we must make deposits of biblical truth into our minds and hearts so that we’ll be prepared to respond in trust and obedience when life is uncertain.

“I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous,

And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

O may Your steadfast love comfort me,

According to Your word to Your servant.”

Psalm 119:75-76

Replace worry with willingness.

Although what is still in the future is not true, as I mentioned earlier, there are often instances where our fear and anxiety about the future are based on real knowledge of upcoming events. For example, you may be fairly certain that the pain in your knee means that a difficult surgery is in your future. Maybe you have been through one before and know exactly how hard this will be.

Assuring ourselves that fill-in-the-blank “probably won’t happen” is not a method for getting rid of worry and anxiety. Instead, we must be truly convinced in our souls that God is both sovereign and good, and that His decisions and actions are perfectly wise. We are under His good authority.

1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Worry is often what happens when we’re more concerned with having our will be done than God’s. Because this is true, putting to death worry and anxiety requires humility. We must be willing to admit that God’s wisdom and knowledge far surpass our own! His purposes are good! Then we must willingly and joyfully accept the circumstances in which God has placed us, trusting Him for the strength and wisdom for each step.

Humility enables us to willingly face impending unemployment, again, knowing that God is our true provider. It strengthens us to wait on the Lord for the results of medical tests, knowing that God lovingly allows each trial for our good. In humility, we can willingly have a difficult conversation, trusting God for the outcome rather than fearing the potential conflict.

Search for contributing sins and deal with them.

When we’re feeling anxious and stressed, this is a warning that there is a problem. If you’ve spent time in the book of Psalms, you know that God’s desire is for us to rest in Him as beloved children, not as fretting orphans!

When we are spinning our mental wheels in anxious thoughts, there are often other sins lurking beneath the turmoil. If you’re feeling anxious, ask yourself why? What is it about this particular concern that has you worked up? Ask God to reveal any sins that need to be dealt with. It may be that you need to replace pride with humility, as mentioned above.

Or, here are some other possibilities:

Selfishness – I don’t want to endure the inconvenience and hardship of these potential circumstances.

Discontentment – I’m afraid that I might not get what I want or deserve.

Control/Lack of Trust – Rather than trusting the Lord to work in the lives of others, I want to be in charge of their actions.

Spend time giving thanks to God.

We put off worry by thinking about what’s true about our circumstances (rather than the what-ifs), filling our minds with what is true about God and His character, humbling ourselves before God’s authority, and getting rid of any underlying sins. But let’s consider one more essential in putting off worry and putting on trust: thanksgiving.

I briefly mentioned Philippians 4:6 above, but let’s look at it again:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

When trials come, we must bring our concerns to our loving Father in prayer, and we must do this with an attitude of thanksgiving.

The thing about fearing the future is that we only see the impending suffering. We don’t see, yet, how God will generously show us His steadfast love in the midst of those trials. We can’t know, yet, the ways in which we will come to understand God’s word more deeply, the endurance He will accomplish in us, and the provision He will give us, often by means of acts of service from our fellow believers.

And so, in times of difficulty, choose to be specifically thankful for God’s faithfulness in current and past circumstances. It’s helpful to actually write them down in a list! In this life we will face many difficulties. But thankfulness to God quickly melts away our worry and causes us to praise Him for His goodness and provision.

Get busy serving instead of worrying!

Regardless of what anyone says about multi-tasking, it’s really not all that effective. Use that to your advantage in getting rid of worry! If your mind is prone to anxious thoughts, get it busy with something else instead.

Matthew 6 instructs us to care for the concerns of this day, trusting God for tomorrow. First, ask yourself, “What are my responsibilities today?” It may be that instead of worrying, you need to make a grocery list, sort the laundry, call the insurance company, or tackle a project at work. Now, I need to add a caveat… some activities do not effectively get rid of worry. Most of us can probably wash the dishes AND worry at the same time! If that’s the case, memorize scripture or listen to a sermon while you work.

Then, in addition to tending to your own responsibilities, look for ways to serve others. Pray through the prayer request list from church. Contact a friend or two and ask how you can pray for them. Run an errand for someone who can’t get out. Memorize scripture while walking in the neighborhood. Send a real card in the mail. Make a meal for someone (or grab take-out!) and deliver it.

Serving others helps us bring our worries down to a reasonable size as we are quickly reminded that our trials are not the only ones.

We are surrounded by a world that is full of stress, anxiety, and tension. As believers, let’s be known instead for our gentle spirits, our confidence in the Lord’s nearness, and our peaceful reliance on God to hear our requests (Phil. 4:5-7). We can cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us!