What Does It Mean to Repent from Worry?

The sensational displays of God’s power described in the Bible may seem to us as though they happened all the time, because they are collected and familiar. But like us, most people throughout history, even ancient history, never saw such faith-bolstering events. They believed based on the stories they knew and on their own experience of God in the mundane. The people whose stories are told in our Scriptures had plenty of reasons for worry, but God called them to be countercultural in living through trust in him. He calls us to do the same.

In many ways, we can relate to what these ancient sisters and brothers experienced. But in other ways, we can’t imagine how difficult their lives were–just as they would not have been able to imagine the complexity of our world. In the face of such hardship, God told them to turn away from fear and worry and to trust him instead. It is not unreasonable to believe he wants us to do so as well. God cares as much about our faith and worry as he did about theirs. Worry is a tremendous obstacle to the bold and sacrificial life he has called us to. Like all sin, it offends God and impairs our relationship with him.

We, who are among the most comfortable Christians in history, have no business embracing fear and letting worry drain us of the strength God gives. It’s time for us to repent of worry, recognize we can make a different choice, and pursue the frightening freedom and baffling peace of trust in God.

This is not about simply “handing our worries over to God”; it’s about understanding how incredibly powerful and trustworthy God is, how much higher his ways are than ours, how ridiculous it is for us to cling to the illusion of control and the fear of what is small in God’s view. It’s about putting our concerns in their proper place, in relationship to God’s concerns. It’s about who God is, not who we are. It means taking seriously Paul’s instruction to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom 12:2).

True repentance from worry also means embracing a willingness to sacrifice. It’s one thing to say, “I will take a risk to follow Jesus, and God will protect me from harm.” It’s quite another thing to say, “I will
take a risk to follow Jesus, and God might or might not protect me from harm. I will do it anyway and accept the possibility that it will cost me tremendously.” This calls for letting go, rather than clinging to our own safety and comforts.

It means following the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who told the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Dan 3:17-18, emphasis added). These young men had not seen the mighty hand of God at work on behalf of their nation; they had known only his discipline, in response to their great sin, resulting incaptivity in Babylon. Yet they had heard the stories of God’s relationship with their people and had experienced his goodness in their exile. And they chose to trust him–and to accept death before unfaithfulness to God.

It means following the example of Christians like Catherine of Siena, who survived the Black Death as a young child, then as an adult faced another wave of the horrifying plague as it ravaged Western Europe. She and her followers refused to flee Siena when the plague arrived, instead staying and risking their lives to minister to the sick and bury the dead. Their service in the name of Christ was more important than preserving their lives.

It means heeding the words of Jesus, who told his disciples as he commissioned them for ministry, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Mt 10:39).

It means recognizing that we serve this same God who asked his people to trust him through horrifying circumstances and who asks us to do the same. It means realizing that God’s power, strength and faithfulness do not diminish with the passing of time, and his goodness is not diminished by our circumstances. It means embracing the unknown that is very much known to God–and in the process, letting go of what we are so tempted to cling to. It means standing out in this world, marked by our courage in the face of that which threatens our bodies but can’t destroy our souls (Matthew 10:28).

God wants us to be as bright, inviting and easy to find as “a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Mt 5:14). He calls us to live differently–not because of anything we do, but because he has dramatically changed us. Because he has redeemed us from hopelessness, given us a glimpse of life way beyond this one, and graced us with purpose and a reason to live. But many of us are instead cowering in corners and counting stitches on quilts of worry, which will never keep us warm. We need a new, refreshed perspective.

This post was excerpted from Chapter 5 of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. If you want to read more, you can find the book here.

Taken from Anxious by Amy Simpson. Copyright(c) 2014 by Amy Simpson. Used by permission from InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.

© 2014 Amy Simpson.