Perhaps you don’t feel like it’s morning in America. You feel like we have entered dusk, and midnight will soon be here. Perhaps these thoughts have caused you to be angry, worried, sad, or downright scared.
The Bible has one word that captures the essence of these emotions: TROUBLED. That means if you are troubled, the Bible has a word for you.
When our sinless Savior saw the effect of death, His heart was troubled (John 11:33), indicating it’s perfectly appropriate to feel troubled when a loved one dies. When Jesus was troubled at the thought of receiving the full wrath of God in John 12:27, He showed us that it’s perfectly fine to be troubled in the face of pain or death. When Jesus pondered the thought of His beloved disciple Judas betraying Him, His heart was troubled (John 13:21). When a loved one wounds you, it is not sinful to be troubled.
But then we slam into John 14:1 and Jesus commands us to NOT be troubled! That means there is a kind of “troubling” that is actually sinful. Thankfully, Jesus defines what it means to be sinfully troubled in the very same verse when He said, “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me.”
In other words, Jesus tells us we are sinning when we are troubled without trusting in God. Jesus is outlawing faithless worrying.
Faithless worrying does not mean you have no faith; it means that, in the moment, we are exhibiting a small amount of faith. There are two types of little faith:
- We exhibit a little faith when we place a small amount of trust in our big God.
- We exhibit little faith when we put a lot of faith in a little object: ourselves. When we trust ourselves to run the universe, we are placing our trust in a very weak object and, frankly, we should be scared.
Jesus shows us what faithless worrying looks like in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls those who are concerned about tomorrow, “You of little faith” (Matthew 6:30).
Two chapters later He tells the terrified disciples in the boat, “O you of little faith” (Matthew 8:26). When the disciples are in a panic over feeding the hungry masses, Jesus tells them they have a little faith (Matthew 16: 8). Not only does Jesus also use this term in Matthew 14, He tells us the cure for having a little faith.
In Matthew 14 Jesus demonstrated His divinity by walking on water, and Peter desired to join Him. While Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he strolled safely on the water. "But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and when he began to sink, he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out with His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 8:31-32).
There are two lessons for us in this true story. First, when we take our eyes off the One who calms the storms with a word, and focus on the storm, we will sink. Second, when we take our eyes off Jesus because we think we can handle the storm, we exhibit a little faith. Faithless worrying happens when we totally rely on:
- Our skills
- Our connections
- Our money
- Our wisdom
- Our government
- Our scientific discoveries
This is not to suggest we don’t use the gifts God has given us (our brains, government, or medicine), but when we trust the gifts and not the Giver, then we are faithlessly worrying, and we will be miserable.
- Faithless worrying happens when we think we can control our situation without trusting God. Yes, you should plan for the future, but don’t do it without trusting in the One who measures the universe with the span of His hand (Isaiah 40:12).
- Faithless worrying happens when we trust the government to protect us, and not God. Yes, you should work toward a good government; but remember that God is the One who appoints all rulers (Romans 13: 1-4).
- Faithless worrying happens when we take our medication without remembering that God is our Healer, not Pfizer. Yes, you should feel free to take advantage of medical advancements, but not without remembering that God is the Good Physician (Psalm 103:3).
So what does this look like?
Faithless Troubling: “I’m freaking out! The world is over! There is no hope! Things will never get better! I am undone! I can’t sleep! I am consumed by this! I’m going to die!!!”
Non-Sinful Troubling: Be aware of dangers, threats, setbacks, problems, and have an appropriate human emotion (sadness, sorrow, grief, hurt, disappointment). Then prayerfully and confidently go to work, trusting the Lord for the outcome, knowing you are His beloved child and He always does what is best for you.
Faithless Troubling: “I just received a call from the doctor with a bad report, but I’m hopeful he can cure me.”
Non-sinful Troubling: “I just received bad news from the doctor, but God is good and He has provided medicine that He might use to make me well. I will trust Him to heal me through medicine or even supernaturally; but if He doesn’t, it is still well with my soul.”
While God has emotions, He is not emotional. God has feelings, but He controls them, they do not control Him. God is never in a panic, and His image bearers are to be just like Him. There is only one way for that to happen: by fully believing in Him as we live, work, and plan for the future. Might I suggest TWO ways to do that?
Do not forget who God is, what He has done, what He has promised to do, and how much He loves you.
- Read Job 38-40 to remember that God created and controls the universe.
- Read Psalm 135 to remember that God delivered His children in the past.
- Read Revelation to see that God will deliver His children in the future.
- Read the Gospels to see God’s love for you by sending His Son to die for you while you were yet sinning (Romans 5:8).
Renew your mind constantly with these thoughts, and your emotions will be guided by truth and not the lies of the devil or the world system. Never forget, God is for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31)
If you are fretting about the future, chances are pretty good your eyes have been gazing at the wrong objects. Or they have been staring at perfectly fine objects, but for too long. Christians don’t stick their heads in the sand, but Christians should spend less time watching the news, and more time staring at Jesus Christ.
But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18).
Paul has the solution to your faithless troubling. Instead of immersing ourselves in a sea of speculation and disturbing news, spend your time staring at our beautiful Savior and, increasingly you will become more and more like Him, the One who was never sinfully troubled. To put it another way:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Todd Friel is the host of Wretched TV and Radio. He is the author of four books and 25 Bible study resources. He and his wife have three adult children. https://wretched.org/