One of the most familiar passages in the Scriptures is Hebrews 12:1-2 which reads, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
There's a lot of good stuff in those couple of verses, but I want to pull out one little phrase from verse one: "the sin which doth so easily beset us."
Each of us has one particular sin that we battle over and over again. We work on that area of our lives. We strive to make it better. We think we've almost arrived, and then, before we see what's happening, we find ourselves back at square one. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. For many (myself included), this sin is worry.
Now, many people refuse to acknowledge that worry is a sin. They fool themselves into believing that it is just an annoying habit and nothing more. But, that's not what the Bible says. In fact, Romans 14:23 says, "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." So, what is faith? The opposite of worry. This verse tells us quite plainly that if we doubt (or worry), it is a sin. If that's not proof enough, I could take you to many verses where God commands us to "fret not." What does "fret" mean? Worry!
The first problem with worry is that it takes our eyes off of Christ and focuses them instead on our troubles. Big mistake! When we look at our problems, they seem so huge and unsolvable, but when we keep our eyes on Christ, we see how big and mighty He is. This doesn't make our problems go away, but it makes them a lot easier for us to handle.
The second big problem with worry is that it never travels alone. When we hop aboard the "worry train," we find ourselves facing doubt, discouragement, regret, and ingratitude.
In the first stage of worry, we begin to doubt ourselves, others, and even God. In our fretful state, we cling to the attitude that everyone is out to get us and that nobody cares about our problems.
That leads us to discouragement. We become so overwhelmed by our troubles that we sink into the deep abyss of depression. In that pit, we begin to re-examine our lives, pointing out all the things we could have or should have done differently. We find ourselves regretting past mistakes and decisions, then we start to dwell on those, which only adds to our discouragement.
At that point, we are so consumed that we become ungrateful and even forgetful. We forget the many stories in the Bible where God provided for His children. We forget the many times He's provided for us in the past. We become discontent with what we have and ungrateful for all the blessings we've been given. And, in that ingratitude, we began to worry if God even cares about us at all.
Did you see what just happened? At the end of the "worry train," the process began all over again, and it will keep repeating until we deal with the problem.
Elijah the prophet is an excellent example of how the "worry train" works. In I Kings 18, Elijah takes on all of the prophets of Baal. At his request, God sends down fire to consume Elijah's sacrifice while the prophets of Baal can't even bring down a spark.
This display turned many hearts to the true God. You would think Elijah would have been elated. But, in the very next chapter, when he discovers that Queen Jezebel wants him dead, he flees into the wilderness. There, he pleads with the Lord to take his life, complaining that he is the only one left who wants to serve God. What happened?
First, Elijah became worried. He was afraid of what Jezebel might do to him. That worry led him to doubt God's ability to protect him, so he fled. At that point, he was all alone (except for God, of course), but that was by his own choice. He had nothing to do but to dwell on his circumstances which led him deep into discouragement.
If you read his arguments with the Lord, you'll see his regret enter the picture. He basically tells the Lord that all his work was in vain because now he's the only one left. Do you detect a hint of ingratitude? Where is the thankfulness for the miracle God had just performed? Where was the gratitude for God's provision of food even when Elijah was running away from his responsibilities? When we're consumed with worry, we forget what God can do and what He's already done.
Now that we understand the "worry train," let's discuss how we can get off of it. First, we must keep our hearts thankful. We must never forget what God can do nor what He has already done. The best way to do this is to meditate on His Word day and night. Keep it in our hearts and minds. That way, when worry comes around, we're prepared for it.
Second, we must keep our focus where it should be. As Christians, we are running a race, and our focus should be on the finish line, not on the obstacles we have to deal with before we get there. We must keep our eyes on God! This is accomplished best by following the advice in I Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing."
If we stay in constant communion with God, we'll discover that worry no longer bothers us. But when we get too busy to talk with God, the "worry train" comes chugging down the track, beckoning us to climb aboard. It's not worth it. We must engulf ourselves in God's Word and in fellowship with Him. It's our only hope of avoiding the "worry train."
(Excerpt from my newest book, Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead, which is currently being considered by a publisher)