Category  |  Worry

Sinking into Grace

Finally, on January 8, 1964, 17-year-old Randy Gardner did something he hadn’t done for 11 days and 25 minutes: he nodded off to sleep. He wanted to beat the Guinness Book World Record for how long a human could stay awake. By drinking soft drinks and hitting the basketball court and bowling alley, Gardner rebuffed sleep for a week and a half. Before finally collapsing, his sense of taste, smell, and hearing went haywire. Decades later, Gardner suffered from severe bouts of insomnia. He set the record but also confirmed the obvious: sleep is essential.

Many of us struggle to get a decent night’s rest. Unlike Gardner who deprived himself intentionally, we might suffer sleeplessness for a number of reasons—including a mountain of anxieties: the fear of all we need to accomplish, the dread of others’ expectations, the distress of living at a frantic pace. Sometimes it is hard for us to turn off the fear and relax.

The psalmist tells us that “unless the Lord builds the house,” we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). Our “toiling” and our relentless efforts are useless unless God provides what we need. Thankfully, God does provide what we need. He “grants sleep to those he loves” (v. 2). And God’s love extends to all of us. He invites all of us to release our anxieties to Him and sink into His rest, into His grace.

An Alternative to Worry

A law-abiding, honest man received a voicemail that said, “This is officer _______ from the police department. Please call me at this number.” Immediately the man began to worry—afraid that somehow he had done something wrong. He was afraid to return the call, and he even spent sleepless nights running through possible scenarios—worried that he was in some kind of trouble. The officer never called back, but it took weeks for the worry to go away.

Jesus asked an interesting question about worry: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). Perhaps this can help us rethink our tendency to worry, because it suggests that it doesn’t help the situation we are concerned about.

When problems are on the horizon for us, maybe we can try the following two-step approach: Take action and trust in God. If we can do something to avoid the problem, let’s try that route. We can pray for God to guide us to an action we should take. But if there’s nothing we can do, we can take comfort in knowing that God never finds Himself in such a predicament. He can always act on our behalf. We can always turn our situation over to Him in trust and confidence.

When it feels like time to worry, may we turn to the inspired words of King David, who faced his own share of difficulties and worries, but concluded: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). What a great alternative to worry!

Learning to Trust

When I was a teenager I sometimes challenged my mother when she tried to encourage me to have faith. “Trust God. He will take care of you,” she would tell me. “It’s not that simple, Mom!” I would bark back. “God helps those who help themselves!”

But those words, “God helps those who help themselves” are nowhere to be found in Scripture. Instead, God’s Word teaches us to depend on Him for our daily needs. Jesus tells us, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26–27).

Everything we enjoy—even the strength to earn a living and “help ourselves”—are gifts from a heavenly Father who loves us and values us beyond our ability to fathom.

As Mom neared the end of her life, Alzheimer’s disease robbed her of her creative mind and memories, but her trust in God remained. She lived in our home for a season, where I was given a “front-row seat” to observe God’s provision for her needs in unexpected ways—ways that helped me see she had been right all along. Instead of worrying, she entrusted herself to the One who promised to take care of her. And He showed Himself faithful

An Anchor When We’re Afraid

Are you a worrier? I am. I wrestle with anxiety almost daily. I worry about big things. I worry about small things. Sometimes, it seems like I worry about everything. Once in my teens, I called the police when my parents were four hours late getting home.

Scripture repeatedly calls us not to be afraid. Because of God’s goodness and power, and because He sent Jesus to die for us and His Holy Spirit to guide us, our fears don’t have to rule our lives. We may well face hard things, but God has promised to be with us through it all.

One passage that has helped me profoundly in fearful moments is Isaiah 51:12–16. Here, God reminded His people, who had endured tremendous suffering, that He was still with them, and that His comforting presence is the ultimate reality. No matter how bad things may seem: “I, even I, am he who comforts you,” He told them through the prophet Isaiah (v. 12).

I love that promise. Those eight words have been an emotion-steadying anchor for my soul. I’ve clung to this promise repeatedly when life has felt overwhelming, when my own “constant terror” (v. 13) has felt oppressive. Through this passage, God reminds me to lift my eyes from my fears and in faith and dependence to look to the One who “stretches out the heavens” (v. 13)—the One who promises to comfort us.

Tossing and Turning

What keeps you awake at night? Lately I’ve been losing sleep, tossing and turning on my bed, trying to work out a solution to an issue. Eventually I began fretting about not getting enough rest to handle the challenges of the next day!

Sound familiar? Troubled relationships, an uncertain future, whatever it is—we all give in to worry at one point or another.

King David was clearly in distress when he penned Psalm 4. People were ruining his reputation with groundless accusations (v. 2). And some were questioning his competency to rule (v. 6). David probably felt angry for being treated so unfairly. Surely he could have spent nights stewing about it. Yet we read these remarkable words: “In peace I will lie down and sleep” (v. 8).

Charles Spurgeon explains verse 8 beautifully: “In thus lying down, . . . [David] resigned himself into the hands of another; he did so completely, for in the absence of all care, he slept; there was here a perfect trust.”

What inspired this trust? From the start, David was confident that God would answer his prayers (v. 3). And he was sure that since God had chosen to love him, He would lovingly meet his needs.

May God help us to rest in His power and presence when worries threaten. In His sovereign and loving arms, we can “lie down and sleep.”

We Won’t Break

As a native Californian and lover of all things sunny, I shy away from all things cold. I do, however, enjoy beautiful photos of snow. So I couldn’t help but smile when my friend from Illinois shared a winter picture of a sapling outside her window. Admiration turned to sadness when I noticed its bare, knotted branches bowing under the heavy fringe of sparkling icicles.

How long could those bending boughs endure before breaking under their icy burdens? The heaviness threatening to crack the tree’s limbs reminded me of my shoulders, hunched beneath the weight of worries.

After Jesus affirms that the greatest treasures are not earthly or temporary (Matthew 6:19), He encourages us to release our anxious thoughts (v. 25). The Creator and Sustainer of the universe loves and provides for His children (v. 26), so we don’t have to waste our precious time worrying (v. 27). God knows our needs and will care for us (vv. 28–32).

He also knows we’ll be tempted to succumb to worry. He tells us to come to Him first, trust His presence and provision in the present, and live by faith one day at a time (vv. 33–34).

In this life, we’ll face overwhelming troubles and uncertainties that can make our shoulders droop. We may temporarily bend under the weight of worrying. But when we trust God, we won’t break.

The Cure for Anxiety

We were excited about moving for my husband’s job. But the unknowns and challenges leave me feeling anxious. Thoughts of sorting and packing up belongings. Looking for a place to live. My finding a new job too. Making my way around a new city, and getting settled. It was all  . . . unsettling. As I thought about my “to-do” list, words written by the apostle Paul echoed in my mind: Don’t worry, but pray (Phil. 4:6–7).

If anyone could have been anxious about unknowns and challenges, it would have been Paul.  He was shipwrecked. He was beaten. He was jailed. In his letter to the Philippian church, he encouraged his friends who also were facing unknowns, telling them, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). 

Paul’s words encourage me. Life is not without uncertainties—whether they come in the form of a major life transition, family issues, health scares, or financial trouble. What I continue to learn is that God cares. He invites us to let go of our fears of the unknown by giving them to Him. When we do, He, who knows all things, promises that His peace, “which transcends all understanding, will guard” our heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).

Seeing to Tomorrow

I enjoy gazing up at a cloudless blue sky. The sky is a beautiful part of our great Creator’s masterpiece, given for us to enjoy. Imagine how much pilots must love the view. They use several aeronautical terms to describe a perfect sky for flying, but my favorite is, “You can see to tomorrow.”

Actually, “seeing to tomorrow” is something even pilots cannot do. Sometimes we even struggle to see or understand what life is throwing at us today. The Bible tells us, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

But our limited visibility is not cause for despair. Just the opposite. We trust in the God who sees all of our tomorrows perfectly—and who knows what we need as we face the challenges ahead. The apostle Paul knew this. That’s why Paul encourages us with hopeful words, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:1-9).

When we trust God with our day as well as our unseen tomorrows, we don’t need to worry about anything life throws at us. We walk with Him and He knows what is ahead; He is strong enough and wise enough to handle it. 

Put Down Your Burdens

A man driving his pickup truck on a country track saw a woman carrying a heavy load, so he stopped and offered her a lift. The woman expressed her gratitude and climbed into the back of the truck.

A moment later, the man noticed a strange thing: the woman was still holding onto her heavy load despite sitting in the vehicle! Astonished, he pleaded, "Please, Madam, put down your load and take your rest. My truck can carry you and your stuff. Just relax."

What do we do with the load of fear, worry, and anxiety we often carry as we go through life's many challenges? Instead of relaxing in the Lord, I sometimes behave like that woman. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28), yet I've caught myself carrying burdens I should offload onto Jesus.

We put down our burdens when we bring them to the Lord in prayer. The apostle Peter says, "Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Because He cares for us, we can rest and relax as we learn to trust Him. Instead of carrying the burdens that weigh us down and weary us, we can give them to the Lord and let Him carry them.

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