Amy Simpson is author of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. She also serves as editor of Gifted for Leadership, Senior Editor of Leadership Journal, a speaker, and a Co-Active personal and professional coach. You can find her at AmySimpsonOnline.com and on Twitter @aresimpson.
This fall, I’ve invited a few friends to share what God is teaching them. I hope their words are an encouragement to you as you continue to awaken to the joy and delight that comes with being a child of God.
by Amy Simpson
My life began to change the day I heard Isaiah 40 in a whole new way.
I was sitting at the back of a church, half-listening to a speaker while I gave the better part of my mind to worrying over my circumstances. I was facing financial peril, a possible move, an impending job change, and all the worries that burden the typical woman with a marriage, a mortgage, and growing kids.
But in an instant, the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention and focused it on the holy words the speaker was reading:
“To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. (Isaiah 40:25-26)
I had heard and read these words many times, but I was startled by the setting of my worries against this poetic proclamation of God’s great power. As I heard this message imploring God’s people to trust him and take comfort in his greatness, I realized I was overlooking the same opportunity.
This same God, who names and keeps track of all the stars, was as sovereign as ever, and he was more than worthy of my trust.
Suddenly I felt ridiculous, clinging to worry and rejecting the peace that comes with trusting in God’s power, plans, and love. I claimed to trust God, but I didn’t. Not really. I began to open my hands, just a little, and let go of what never belonged to me: the future, people I love, possessions I felt I couldn’t live without.
After a lot more practice, I’m sort of hooked on letting go. It’s a choice that doesn’t make any sense if God is dead, uncaring, or too distracted to care about me. But it’s the only choice that makes sense if God is who he says he is. And I believe he is.
Much of our worry is fueled by a sense of possession over the things and people who are important to us. But God owns everyone and everything. When we try to cling to what he has placed in our lives for now, we fool ourselves. We can’t keep what we don’t have.
Likewise, we waste ourselves when we worry over the future, which also belongs only to God. The future isn’t ours and might never be—why try to live there? When we worry over the future, we’re almost always imagining a scenario without God’s intervention and goodness, without his provision, without the unforeseen good that is always possible. We ignore God’s larger plan in favor of focusing on our own comfort and desired outcomes.
When we claim ownership and ultimate responsibility, we impose a smaller plan and far inferior wisdom on people. We limit our possessions to service in meeting our own needs and goals rather than doing God’s work. When we ignore the present because we’re trying to discern the future, we reject what God has given us in favor of what we can’t have. Letting go sets us free from a responsibility we can’t possibly live up to. It also sets us free from a mess of worry.
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This week we’re giving away 3 copies of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry by Amy Simpson.
Our culture is frantic with worry. We stress over circumstances we can’t control, we talk about what’s keeping us up at night and we wring our hands over the fate of disadvantaged people all over the world, almost as if to show we care and that we have big things to care about. Worry is part of our culture, an expectation of responsible people. And sadly, Christians are no different.
But we are called to live and think differently from the worried world around us. The fact is, worry is sin, but we don’t seem to take it seriously. It is a spiritual problem, which ultimately cannot be overcome with sheer willpower—its solution is rooted entirely in who God is. How can we live life abundantly, with joy, as God has called us to do, when we’re consumed by anxiety?
We are commanded not to worry, not only in the well-known words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6, but also throughout the Old Testament and the epistles to the church. The Bible makes it clear that the future belongs only to God, who rules and is not subject to the limitations of time. To live with joy and contentment, trusting God with the present and the future, is a countercultural feat that can be accomplished only through him. Challenging the idolatrous underpinnings of worry, former Christianity Today executive Amy Simpson encourages us to root our faith in who God is, not in our own will power. We don’t often give much thought to why worry offends God, but indulging anxiety binds us to mere possibilities and blinds us to the truth. Correctly understanding the theology of worry is critical to true transformation. This is a book not just for people who worry; this is a call to the church to turn its eyes from the things of earth and fix its eyes on the author and completer of our faith.
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The three winners will be selected and announced on Friday.
What do you need to let go of?