A Christian Approach to Worry

 In Featured, Pastor Jason's Blog

by Pastor Jason Kramme

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?  Matthew 6:27-29

I’ve often opened up Facebook only to think of these words of Jesus with a mix of guilt and annoyance. On the one hand, I tell myself, “I should be way better at not worrying because I’m a pastor,” but on the other I think, “but, Jesus, ::gestures vaguely at everything::.”

Life is a lot right now and lilies have the benefit of being brainless, so I don’t always think this is a fair comparison for Jesus to make. That said, when I take a deep breath and step away from the drama treadmill that is our culture, I can see what Jesus is trying to say here. It’s actually great advice and while it may not eliminate your list of things to worry about, it will focus it and give it purpose.

What we already know

I’m sure that all of us wish that more of our talents could add time to our lives or were at least more economically valuable than they have been. I would be a rich man if people actually appreciated my unique talent for sarcasm on Facebook. I digress.

The old saying, “worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere” is appropriate here and we all know it is true. In response to the stress of our regular lives, not to mention the last year, many of us jump into the chair and begin to do our best catastrophe thinking.

“What if she doesn’t like me?”

“What if they don’t like my sales pitch?”

“What if people find out how much Netflix I really watch?”

We’re good at it, so it feels productive, but it isn’t, so how about we stop doing what we know doesn’t work? Why don’t we stop worrying about things in our lives over which we have not control?

Circles of Concern and Influence

One of the best gifts Pastor Jeff gave me when I started working at Prince of Peace was a copy of Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A central point of the book is to determine your circle of concern relative to your Circle of Influence.

Step 1: Draw a circle on a piece of paper.

Step 2: In that circle, write down all of the things you have to worry about near the inside boundary of the circle. Think of all the things that concern you. Work, your weight, and the weather to name a few.

Step 3: Draw a smaller circle in the middle of your circle.

Step 4: Take the items from your first circle that you have INFLUENCE over and put them in this circle.

As you complete this exercise, you’ll start to see that there are different types of things that worry you: some you have a measure of control over and some you don’t. Ask yourself how much time you give to worrying about those things you have no control over. It’s probably a lot, isn’t it?

Now, look at the items in the middle circle. The things you can actually influence in a concrete way through an action you take. What is the best first step to acting on your influence in these areas? Notice I didn’t say “resolve these things now!” I said, “best first step.”

Big difference. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Lily Envy and the Best First Step

I gave you some relatively low-level examples of worry earlier. The truth is, the things we often worry about are far more intense. Yet, their intensity, their bigness, their overwhelming nature doesn’t change the fact that they are often outside of our control.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that within your circle of influence there is something to the effect of “me” or “my response” or “my action.” This exercise reveals to us that we have agency and that we have a part to play in our own lives and in the lives of others. The church-y word for that is calling.

Lilies don’t have that luxury. They can’t uproot themselves and move. They can’t choose to be a Hosta. They can’t change their mind. They can’t even draw circles.

We can affect our own lives and if the Gospels are anything they are a roadmap, a manifesto, an action plan for what life can be like when you stop worrying and start affecting the things in your Circle of Influence.

In the end, I think that what Jesus is getting at is that to be Christian is not to live in the absence of worry, but to embrace the focus of calling to affect the things in your circle of influence. My prayer for you today is that God would give you the eyes to see these things clearly and the power of the Holy Spirit to embrace your first step.


Jason Kramme serves as Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

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