The following is the text of a paper written during a Christian Counseling Education Foundation course I took, Dynamics of Biblical Change. The course has my highest endorsement.
Worriers act as if they might be able to control the uncontrollable. David Powlison, Seeing with New Eyes (Chapter 6)
This sentence struck me because it helps me consider how I can more effectively come alongside these sisters in a way that is productive, effective and gentle. Platitudes about “God is sovereign” are just that. When Jesus asked “Who by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?” He was basically asking what the benefit of worry could be (which I have done many times). But He didn’t stop there. He gave specific things for the worriers to think about to REPLACE the thoughts of worry.
It made me start thinking that throughout the New Testament God is always showing how people turn FROM one thing TO another. They turned from idols to God (1 Thes. 1:9). In Acts 26 Paul says god sent him to the Gentiles so they would turn “FROM darkness TO light and from the power of Satan to God”. In 2 Tim 4:4, evildoers turned FROM the truth TO myths. Even in the famously quoted out of context verse 2 Chronicles 7:14, God called Israel to turn FROM their wicked ways TO Him. I could go on but I’m out of space.
The point to me here is that as I counsel worriers it isn’t enough to just chastise them, I have to exalt the glorious alternative to their worry. When I hold up the precious promises of God that directly contradict the root of their worry I can be confident that the Holy Spirit will be at work in them to give victory over their sin of anxiety. This is the plain sense of the “don’t worry verse”, Phil 4:6-7. We should turn from our anxiety to thankfulness. In verse 8 we’re told to replace unworthy anxious thoughts with thoughts of excellent things. The key is to get to the root of the worry and to admonish with the opposite truth.