‘Don’t worry!’ But the problem is that it’s far easier said than done. So when you come across it in the bible as well, you could be excused for writing it off as unrealistic. Please stay with me for a few moments, however, while I try to explain.
Much of the bible comes from times and situations of great stress and worry, so it’s not simply saying ‘Don’t worry!’ or offering you a technique like meditation to help you cope. It points you to something rather more than that. I offer you two examples where it offers you responses that are practical – strategies, if you like.
Firstly, Paul directs people to pray instead, and to pepper their prayers with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6,7).
The trouble is that we’re so good at finding things to complain about, often trivialities, that finding things to give thanks for doesn’t come easily, even to people who pray regularly, but why not switch course and actually do it, then keep on doing it?
Then, says Paul, the protecting peace of God is there to be discovered, even in the midst of stressful situations.
Secondly, Jesus talks about worry in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34). When it consumes us, he says, what we need is a new set of ambitions which point us beyond ourselves; “Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness” is His command to His followers.
As I write, I’m thinking about a local politician, one I shan’t be voting for. I know he spends Christmas Day at a place for the homeless, helping to serve up hot meals; for that I admire him greatly.
As I write, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing the army of a tyrant from the east, many with nowhere to go in freezing weather. In neighbouring countries, churches and other organisations are swinging into action to help support these folk in their hour of desperate need.
So, in their different ways, Jesus’ and Paul’s words in the bible are saying to us all, ‘Don’t worry! Do something instead.’