When advice columnist Ann Landers was asked if there was a common denominator among the thousands of letters she received, she replied that their great overriding theme was fear—fear of nearly everything imaginable until the problem grew, for countless readers, into a fear of life itself.

Yet Proverbs 3:25-26 commands, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence.”  It seems two of the most terrible criminals live within our own hearts—the diabolical duo of worry and fear.

Worry and fear stalk us whenever we board an airplane, open a bill, visit a doctor, walk down a darkened sidewalk, or glance at the clock when our child is late for curfew. Christians aren’t exempt from worry and fear.

Judging from Scripture, God’s people seem to be tormented by the same alarms as everyone else.

Though the disciples had Jesus continually with them, they seemed constantly afraid—of storms, of crowds, of poverty, of armies, of loss of status, of the loss of their leader.

Worry is a particularly virulent form of fear. Someone said that worry is a trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts drain.

Do I ever worry? Of course I do; I’ve raised four children to adulthood, and I’ve faced serious illness.  That qualifies me as an expert on the subject. But for me, worry is a small town I pass through, not a place to hang my hat. It’s a momentary phase, not a lifestyle.

For many people, worry has become so ingrained in their personalities that, once the old worries are gone, they search for new ones.

That’s why fear and worry are sins.

Worry and fear doubt God’s promises, question His power, disregard His presence, and divert our hearts from His praise. John Wesley said, “I would no more worry than I would curse or swear.”

How, then, do we lock up the criminals of fear and worry?  Use these three God-given weapons:

1. Prayer

First, let your fears drive you to the Lord in prayer. The “Six Words of Wisdom for Worriers” are: Worry about nothing—pray about everything!

The Living Bible translates Philippians 4:6-7 this way: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”

Elisha Hoffman met a woman in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, whose depression seemed beyond cure. She poured out her pent-up sorrows, crying, “What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?” Hoffman told the worried woman to take her sorrows to Jesus. “You must tell Jesus,” he said.

“Yes!” she replied, suddenly understanding. “That’s it! I must tell Jesus.” Her words echoed in Hoffman’s ears, and from that experience he wrote the hymn, “I Must Tell Jesus” with its splendid chorus:

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

Prayer is our primary method for telling Jesus about our worries and, in the process, of recognizing the presence of God. We draw near to Him in prayer, and in His presence is peace. Admittedly, this may take some time.

It often takes a season of abiding before the Lord before our hearts break through into the fullness of His peace.

Jesus prayed three times about His burden in Gethsemane.

Paul asked three times for relief from his thorn in the flesh.

Elijah prayed seven times for rain to fall on Carmel (Matthew 26:44; 2 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Kings 18:43).

Sometimes peace comes instantly; other times it comes slowly but surely as we linger before God’s throne. In either case, our fear level is a sort of referendum on the closeness of our friendship with God.  It’s a spiritual yardstick, and we grow stronger as we learn to cast our cares on Him in prayer.

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