Rational Worry or Irrational Worry?
In my opinion, there are two types of anxiety. One is a worry that is the result of rational fear or concern about something. What I call rational anxiety may be a fear of messing up something difficult at work, or being worried that you won’t have enough money to make ends meet. Or you just got bad news from the doctor. Or you are worried that your kids will get hurt. Or that a relationship will fail. Or you have too many things to get done and you are worried about falling behind. All of these are fears that you understand and can explain. And even if they get a little out of hand or are excessive sometimes, you still understand why you are anxious.
The other kind of fear is an irrational fear, where even you don’t understand why you are anxious. When this fear comes up, you don’t really know why you feel the way that you feel…you just know that you are anxious. We will talk about that type of fear in a later post. Today we will focus on the rational worries, fears, and anxieties.
One way to worry is to see something, size it up, and be afraid of it because you know that it is bigger than you. Goliath comes to mind…that was rational fear! The key to beating that kind of fear is to
- Be courageous
- Remember that your God is bigger.
When you know the truth, the truth will set you free. David knew that his God could and would help him to defeat the giant, just like He had helped him kill the lion and the bear. Another example is in 2 Kings, when the servant’s spiritual eyes were opened so that he could see God’s armies all around. Suddenly the opposing army didn’t seem so imposing! Or when the disciples were terrified of the storm, not realizing that Jesus could stop it at any moment he chose. When you know the power that you have through Christ, there is no longer any reason to be afraid.
But sometimes your giant is not standing right in your face, defying you. Sometimes you create your own giant in your own imagination. This kind of fear is called worry. Worry strikes when you are thinking about things that might happen. Faith is believing in something good that you can’t see, and worry is believing in something bad that you can’t see. It’s like faith’s evil twin. The key to beating that kind of fear is to
- Trust God
- Focus on His kingdom
Please read Matthew 6:19-34. Most Bibles break these verses up into a couple sections, but I think they go together very nicely. Let me summarize my thoughts about this:
- Stuff that you accumulate here is temporary and will break or be taken. (it’s virtually inevitable)
- God’s kingdom is lasting and permanent, and an investment in that kingdom is secure.
- If you build up possessions here you will think about them and love them and eventually serve them.
- If your focus is on the eternal kingdom then you will think about, love, and serve that kingdom and that King.
- But, serving your stuff makes it impossible to serve God
- Earnestly chase God’s kingdom and righteousness.
- God loves you, knows what you need, and wants to take care of you.
- God will make sure you get what you need – follow His commands and trust Him.
- Don’t worry about tomorrow – it is pointless. In fact, worry in general is completely useless. Ineffective. A waste of time.
I love the metaphor of the eye as the lamp. Jesus says that the eye is like a light, and we know that when you turn on a light it reveals everything that was hidden in the darkness so that you know what it looks like. If our eyes are messed up, then we will be messed up. But if we are ‘single-minded’ in our focus on God, then everything will be crystal clear for us. (See the interlinear Bible for the Greek word ‘haplous,’ which means ‘single’ or ‘one.’)
When you understand what kind of Father we have, there is no longer any reason to worry about what might happen to us.
When you understand what kind of Future we have, there is no longer any reason to worry about what might happen to our stuff.
If you are beset with rational worry about what you can see and what you can’t see, there are several custom made Scriptures you can use. The essential point of these Scriptures is that you will not have any reason to worry if you pursue and love God more than you pursue and love everything else. In other words, all of your greatest fears could happen and you would not really mind, because you are so fixated on God with single-minded devotion. I call this the rational supernatural solution to anxiety. It takes faith and supplies you with supernatural power, but it still incorporates your logic because you know that the Goliath that you face is still smaller than your God.
So, my challenge to us today is to see things how they really are. To focus on what really matters. If we do that, then our rational worry will disappear, because we will understand that we actually have nothing to fear.
Say these verses today, to remind yourself of how you will be:
I am not anxious about anything, because in every situation, I pray and petition, with thanksgiving, to God.
I do not worry, but instead, I seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and the rest will be given to me.
I throw all my anxiety on God because He cares for me!
[1 Peter 5:7]
We’d love to hear – how have you tackled rational anxiety? What has worked for you?
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