Worry is taking its toll on the world today.
Late last month, a poll by the American Psychiatric Association noted that nearly half of Americans were anxious about getting COVID-19. Close to two-thirds were concerned about a family member catching it. Two-thirds of people also feared the long-lasting implications for the economy.
Pastor, I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you. You’ve noticed the worry in the people of your community.
But have you taken stock of your own worry?
You’re likely concerned about all the above—plus the staggering needs of your congregation. It can get overwhelming.
Before you can help others, you need to let God deal with your worry. You know this, but I want to remind you: Worry won’t help you.
Jesus told us this in Matthew 6:27, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (NIV).
Of course, the answer to Jesus’ question is no. You can’t keep yourself from catching COVID-19 through worry. It won’t keep your family from getting sick. It won’t help you keep your church open either.
Worry just makes your problems worse because you can’t move a step closer to solving them. Worry can’t change your past. It can’t change your future. All it can do is mess up your present.
Proverbs 12:25 says, “Worry weighs a person down” (NLT). You weren’t made to endure it. In fact, it wears you out more than just about anything else. To effectively minister during this time, you need to be at your best. Worry won’t get you there.
So how can you overcome worry during this stressful season?
Let Jesus be your Shepherd.
Pastor, you spend so much time shepherding others, you can easily forget that you, too, have a shepherd. A shepherd takes the responsibility to feed, lead, and meet the needs of his sheep. Note that those aren’t your responsibility. They are God’s responsibility.
That’s why I start every day by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd. You’re a good God.” Then I repeat that throughout the day. If you start saying that phrase on a regular basis, your worry will decrease. Reminding yourself that you have a good shepherd who cares for you cuts down on worry.
Give Jesus control over every area of your life.
Worry is a warning light that you have an area you haven’t fully given over to God. When God isn’t number one, you’ll worry in that area.
When you love something more than God, it becomes a source of stress and anxiety in your life. Even good things—like our marriages, our children, and our ministries—can become sources of worry if we give them first place in our lives. When anything becomes an idol in our lives, it creates insecurity and worry.
Relax and give God your worries in prayer.
I’ve always told the people in my congregation to count their blessings. In times like these, you must continually remind yourself of all God has done in your life.
But I also think it’s important to count your worries. Often, we just have a general sense of anxiety, but we don’t know what’s causing it. Before you can give God your worries, you need to have a clear idea of what they are. Once you’ve written them down, you can hand them over to God in prayer.
Peter says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT). You weren’t designed to carry your worries. It’s unnatural. God is big enough and strong enough to handle all your worries.
Trust God for one day at a time.
Don’t steal your whole future by bringing its worries into today. Jesus said it this way, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34 NLT). You have enough on your plate today. Don’t add anything else.
It’s okay to plan for tomorrow. Right now, we’re going through one of the most unique experiences in church history. You need to make plans for what you’ll do in the days, weeks, and months to come.
You can plan for tomorrow without living in tomorrow. You can only live in today.
God is constantly testing how much we trust him. God wants us to decide whether he really holds first place in our lives. Before we can help our congregations understand this, we must be clear about it ourselves.
This unique period of history is one of the biggest tests we’ll ever face when it comes to trusting God. Pastor, God has promised to care for us. He will meet our needs.
Will we trust him?