In all life circumstances, you have two choices: worry or faith.
Which one will you choose?
In my post Worry is Not Your Friend, I shared about my troubles with worry. I still worry at times, even to the point that it affects my digestion and sleep. I could easily make excuses and say that worry is a nebulous outside force that plagues me, when in reality it’s my vain attempt to control my circumstances. I have a gift for the analytical and solving problems, which most of the time, serves me well. I’m thankful for that gift. But worry takes over when I feel like I’ve lost control (for example, when things don’t go as I planned) or I can’t figure out how to fix a problem.
That’s when I need reminding I’m not God!
I can’t solve world crises, like bringing peace to Ukraine, imprisoning ISIS terrorists, or protecting unborn babies from abortion. I can’t easily deal with my own problems either, like my long-time struggle with infertility, or my lead poisoning scare, or the recent death of a good friend in a car accident. There are so many real-life problems both abroad and close to home, we could spend days, months and years worrying.
In that post, I also shared the solution for worry by focusing on God’s amazing provision. He loves us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins, including our sin of worry. How much more will He meet our daily needs and give us peace that transcends all fruitless worry? Just dwelling on His attributes of love, joy, peace, goodness, and kindness helps relieve my worry. Notice I didn’t say the problems go away. They usually don’t. But God supplys peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
In this post, I want to offer a different take on worry by focusing on the things that are my responsibility compared to God’s role. This unique point-of-view was recently brought to my attention when reading Paul Tripp’s excellent book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. On page 250, Tripp lays out a helpful graphic that I’ve adapted below.
To understand this perspective on worry, we first must accept that God is in control of everything. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He is sovereign over the nations, as well as the very hairs on my head.
Isaiah 40:13-15 says,
“Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge,
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”
Luke 12: 7 states,
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
In that rule and care, God has also called you and I to be responsible for certain things in our lives. As a wife, sister, choir director, lay counselor at my church, and even as a blogger, I’m called to faithfully serve in my roles. These things are called My Inner Circle of Responsibility.
The outer circle represents things that are of concern to me, but are beyond my reach. They are solely God’s responsibility. These things are called My Outer Circle of Concern.
The arrows demonstrate times that I sinfully worry by enlarging my role. These are the times I overstep my boundaries. I try to do God’s job and seek control over circumstances or people that are not supposed to be in my influence.
Do you understand how worry can be viewed as taking control over things that are not rightly my responsibility? Take a look in these three examples.
Worry Example #1
I will offer a personal example. I desire to be a woman of peace, but when I try to take over God’s job, then worry grips me with fierce abandon. I recently received tests results about high levels of lead and thallium. As you know, heavy metals in any amount can be toxic to the body. I wrote about my fears in Where is the Lead Coming From? For several weeks off and on, I was quite worried about my own health and the health of my future children. Many “what if?” thoughts bombarded my mind. What if my blood lead levels are also high? What if can’t tolerate chelation therapy? What if I can’t detox enough to have children? I had lots of questions with no answers. We eventually discovered some answers, which I detailed in Getting the Lead Out! My Detox Program. During that waiting time, my job was to trust God for what I didn’t understand. Instead, I tried to figure out every angle and potential scenario, what we were going to do if this or that occurred. My Outer Circle of Concern became a HUGE mountain of anxiety. The Holy Spirit convicted me that my over-analyzing was really worry! I sought forgiveness. I’m at peace now, not to mention sleeping better.
Worry Example #2
Parents of high school teens are certainly prone to worry – about their child’s choice of friends, college, career, mate, and much more. As children reach an independent age, parents can pray and advise, but ultimately a seventeen or eighteen year-old teenager must make their own choices. At this point, the child is moving from an Inner Circle of Responsibility to an Outer Circle of Concern, beyond your control. It does not help to worry about them. It only makes you more nuts! If this is your situation, remember your teenager is in God’s hands. He loves them even more than you do. Hard to imagine, I know.
Worry Example #3
A long-term employee of a large company watches his co-workers get laid off due to budget cuts. He worries about his position, so much so that it affects his work performance. To preserve his job, he even begins to manipulate his boss. This man has wrongly expanded his Inner Circle of Responsibility. It’s not his job to save his career; his job is to work faithfully as unto the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-8). He needs to entrust his position to God’s care, pray for his daily needs, and stop worrying about his future.
What are you worried about?
This graph could apply in many circumstances – concerns about your health, marriage, children, parents, friends, pets, finances, home, food, and so on.
In each specific situation, think about the things that are your responsibility. Then, think about things that are your concern, but beyond your ability. Draw two large circles and write down each in the appropriate circles. Once you identify what things belong in the circles, pray about how you can faithfully fulfill your responsibilities and entrust your concerns to God’s care.
I love what Psalm 37:8 says.
“Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.”
It’s true. Worry only leads to more worry. It’s an endless cycle of swirling thoughts that can engulf you. What starts out as a insignificant concern can turn into anxiety, insomnia, and stomach ulcers. The key is to take captive and confess small worries before they become large upsets. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
We all need to hear this word about worry, including me. I’m so thankful that God is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. (Psalm 145:8) I’m so grateful that he graciously forgives my unbelief and give me more faith. He wants you and I to live in joyful victory, not loaded down by worry.
Lay your burdens at His feet and trust Him.
He’s got this one. And the next.
Both for me and you.