Trusting God with My Worries

October 17th 2023

Trusting God with My Worries

“I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Is 46:9b–10)

In my last article, we walked through the nature of biblical trust, looking at how trust is the continued outworking of belief in our lives. It is, in essence, the activity of faith. To be sure, there are a myriad of outcomes to faith itself. For example, the good works that God has prepared beforehand that we would walk in them (Eph 2:10), and the very activities of a fruitful Spirit indwelling us (Gal 5:22–23). But trust itself has action to it, something we can operate in and pursue.

Set alongside this is the active distrust of our sin nature. That darkened call to distrust a holy and righteous God. Understanding these two realities, trust and distrust, is key to tackling the temptation of worry for the Christian.

Is All Worry a Sin?

As we are quick to point out, definitions matter, and so does context. Certainly, Jesus made clear his command to not worry or be anxious, in Matthew 6, when he states, “do not be anxious about your life” (v. 6), or as the NASB translates, “do not be worried…” (v. 25). Paul, to the church at Philippi, wrote clearly, “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6). These and other texts seem to be clear, so doesn’t this lead us to an easy answer? Wouldn’t all worry then be sinful?

This word for worry or anxiety (Gr. μεριμνάω) conveys the idea of expending energy in the preoccupation of concern. Allowing concerns to overtake our trust is where sin enters the picture. Earlier in his letter to the Philippians, Paul says that he had no one like Timothy, “who would be genuinely concerned (Gr. μεριμνάω) for your welfare” (Phil 2:20). Uh oh. We have the same word here! But the context certainly shows that this concern was a loving service to the church at Philippi, and that this attribute was part of Timothy’s ministry “in the Gospel” with Paul (v. 22).

This is where we can benefit from a quick look at how Jesus faced concern, or even distress. In John 13:21, after washing the disciples’ feet and telling of his soon-coming departure, John tells us that Jesus was “troubled in his spirit.” This came just before telling them that one of them would betray him. Here, Jesus’ humanity is shown, yet without sin. This word for troubled (Gr. ταράσσω) can also speak of anxiety, in addition to being fearful, unsettled, or agitated. It paints a picture of Jesus experiencing deep burden and misery. Yet it also shows us the One who is trusting his Father perfectly even in anguish.

This leads us, then, to ask some important questions: have we allowed even rightful concerns to strip away God’s authority? Have we diminished his power with our fears? This active distrust does indeed equal a sinful worry. But Scripture would seem to indicate a place for godly concerns. Concerns that don’t cause us to question God’s goodness, but rather give us an agenda for prayer. To cast our burdens on him, the one who will sustain us (Ps 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).

And just like with the Greek language, context matters in the English language as well. A parent who says, “I’m worried about my child, for their health and salvation,” isn’t necessarily expressing an active disbelief, or an active distrust. They may in fact see God’s hand and plan with great hope and praise, but they are expressing the concern, which God has given them, in the deep responsibility of parenting. However, we will all be tempted to forget his goodness, to pursue drama and fear, and to forget who God is.

Who is God?

Remembering is the opposite of forgetting. So, let’s remember who God is. And before you look for pages and pages to follow, I’ll state the obvious. A lifetime plus infinity could not give us the full compass of God. His is a magnificence that transcends all. And yet, he condescends, coming near. As I shared in the previous article, he is lovingly sovereign. Let’s explore that a bit, with just these two attributes, amid the backdrop of trust and distrust.

First, our God is sovereign. This reality of God is made up of three activities. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. To understand omnipotence, or being all powerful, we can look to Job 38. This my friend should be the undoing of any natural man! To see God’s power and authority spoken by word, covering all areas of knowledge, nature, life, and death…it is humbling. And what of our opening text? Isaiah writes God’s very words, which state that he alone “is God, and there is no other,” that he “declares” things that haven’t even been done, saying “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Is 46:10b).

And what about his omnipresence and omniscience? These speak of the expanse of his being (no place hidden from him) and the immeasurable vastness of his knowledge (all knowing). These two truths of God work together in special ways, and theologians have tackled the difference and indifference depending on context.[1] Suffice it to say, the fullness of God includes nothing hidden from his sight and a knowledge that surpasses understanding (Ps 139; 147:5).

Second, our God is loving. This reality of God is made up of three activities, among many others. He is gracious, purposeful, and eternal in his love. And let’s not miss this—God is love (1 Jn 4:16). J.I. Packer states that “the statement ‘God is love’ means that his love finds expression in everything that he says and does. The knowledge that this is so for us personally is the supreme comfort for Christians.”[2]

To see God’s sovereignty and love more deeply, I recommend J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, and Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God. These two excellent resources will reward you with reminders of who God is.

Tools for Worry

Remembering who God is should be our first tool when confronting distrust, but also to grow and fuel our God-honoring trust. Both who he is and what he has done. That he knows your state, and your frailty, with compassion. That Jesus knows a distressed soul, yet sinlessly and with perfect trust.

For those moments of sin, and of active distrust, we have a mechanism in the cross to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, which is to confess our sins in repentance to a faithful God (1 Jn 1:9).

And lastly, there is thanksgiving. How often I’ve counseled those who truly struggle with the sin of anger. They wrestle with it, seeking to escape. I’ve walked in those shoes myself. An antidote to anger is genuine thanksgiving. It’s hard to be angry and genuinely thankful at the same time! To give thanks in all things (1 Thess 5:18), to build habits in our actions and thinking toward that goal. And guess what? This antidote to anger does wonders with sinful worry as well. Seeking to be thankful in all circumstances, and to see God’s eternal blessings trumping all earthly woes, this is an area to pursue, dear friend. And as you grow in your heart for this, pray for mine as well. You are not alone in this great need.

[1] Stephane Simonnin, “The Omnipresence of God.” Tabletalk, February 14, 2023. [2] J.I. Packer, Knowing God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973, 122.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.