Is It Possible to Overcome Worry?

It has been said that “imagination” is the 21st-century equivalent to the scriptural word “heart,” the center of emotion and intellect in biblical physiology.  That may well be true, for many times it is my imagination that causes me to run aground in this following life.  As if there were not enough stressful events going on in the world around me, I waste my time pushing past the present and into “what if” territory.  Dr. Winfred Neely, with the help of the Apostle Paul, offers words for the worry epidemic that plagues our anxious world.

Ironically, for those who believingly follow Jesus Christ, worry goes beyond the vexing footfalls of a sleep thief, and stomps into the room as a perplexing theological ogre, for if I believe in the sovereignty of God, the burning question is:  Can God be counted on to protect me and the people I love from harm?

Obviously bad things happen to good people on this broken ground, and we wonder How to Overcome Worry when so often the ways of God are “shrouded in mystery.”  “Anxiety can reside in virtually every nook and cranny of human experience,” and yet the Apostle’s directive in Philippians 4 is clear:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Paul had every reason to worry.  He was writing from prison, and the Roman Empire was in the grip of the sadistic (and probably insane) Emperor Nero — an unlikely source of justice.  Did Paul have the ability to simply turn his worries off like a faucet?  Was he living on an ethereal, apostolic plane, completely indifferent to his surroundings?

Dr. Neely defines Paul’s use of the word “anxious” as “concern turned inward and deformed, divorced from the grace of God and rooted in unhealthy fear.”  He offers the encouraging insight that it is possible to be deeply engaged with the people and events of our lives and yet to be free from the vice of habitual worry.

If you struggle with worrying, you will also benefit (as I have) from these practical principles for experiencing the peace of God:

*** It goes without saying (nonetheless, I will say it) that clinical anxiety is a medical condition and if you suffer from this affliction, the advice offered in this book will not be relevant to that specific situation.  Dr. Neely is concerned with “anxiety as worry rooted in unbelief.”  ***

“God is commanding us to look to Him instead of turning from Him. 

Armed with the truth that anxiety is a choice, we conquer worry by taking everything to the Lord in prayer.

If Paul’s insistence that prayer is the antidote to worry seems like thin gruel and weak coffee to me, then I must examine my understanding and experience of prayer and the presence of God.  This 1961 quote from A.W. Tozer is true of my 2017 heart:

“Where sacred writers saw God, we see laws of nature.  Their world was fully populated; ours is all but empty.   Their world was alive and personal; ours is impersonal and dead.  God ruled their world; ours is ruled by the laws of nature, and we are always once removed from the presence of God.”

“Paul uses different terms for the different aspects of conversing with God.”

The words “supplication,” “thanksgiving,” and “requests” reveal facets of prayer that get at our neediness, the recognition that God has worked and will continue to work on our behalf, and that a right response to anxiety is to identify the thing we need and to take that need to God in prayer.  Dr. Neely examines the “asking, seeking and knocking” life as a condition of continuous and habitual expectation of answers and intervention from God.  It is a precious reminder that we bring our anxieties to God because we live in company with Him — not because He needs information (or my advice on how to solve the problem!).

“Worry is overcome by expecting peace from God.”

I will admit that I would prefer to get peace from circumstances that suit me:  a car that never needs repair, a calendar with no surprise entries, and a family that is not subject to any distressing events.  Instead, Paul points to a subversive way of life that short circuits my preoccupation with circumstances.  He did not wish away his prison cell as a condition for experiencing the peace of God, but saw the anxiety-inducing circumstance of imprisonment as a teachable moment in the school of trust.  He took from God a variety of peace that is not available elsewhere and which flows from the very character of God Himself:

“Since God is omnipotent, His peace is an all-powerful peace.  Since God is eternal, His peace is without beginning or end.  Since God is infinite, His peace is limitless.  Since God is holy, His peace is pure.”

Peace is an “apologetic.”

Trusting God in spite of anxiety-laced circumstances puts the power of God on display.  This in itself is a huge motivation to live in light of the truth of Philippians 4:6,7, and the practical truth offered in How to Overcome Worry is neither new nor earth-shattering.  Dr. Neely prescribes active meditation upon the truth of God’s Word so that it penetrates our mind and our emotions (and I would add:  our imagination!).  Instead of shoving aside troubling thoughts with a scroll through Facebook or a comforting snack, what would happen if we consciously placed those thoughts before God and put ourselves at His disposal?  Is it possible that we, like the Apostle Paul, would find His grace to be sufficient, if our worst case scenario came true?

How to Overcome Worry is not, in itself, a solution to the problem of anxiety in the life of the believer, but it is a helpful signpost, pointing the way to the promises of Scripture which are based upon the character of God.  It is a counter-cultural call to the peace that comes with both the acceptance of present circumstances and trust for a future that lies in the hands of a sovereign God.

//

This book was provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Published by

Michele Morin

I am a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. I have been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and our four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, two teens still remain at home, and along with an incorrigible St. Bernard, we laugh, make messes, clean them up, and then start all over again. I love hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop me in my tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. I lament biblical illiteracy and advocate for the prudent use of "little minutes." I blog at Living Our Days because "the way I live my days will be, after all, the way I live my life." You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

86 thoughts on “Is It Possible to Overcome Worry?”

  1. I just studied Luke12😄 coincidentally it prepared my heart for this post, Michele.
    How often does worry still our joy and makes our trust in God waver? Very often for those who stroll in the corridors of unbelieve and doubt.
    This must be a very powerful reading resource.
    Hugs friend

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  2. Wonderful review and sure to be helpful to many as we so need peace in these quickly changing times we are living. I am grateful that we can entrust each day into the hands of a sovereign God who provides peace as we turn to Him.

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  3. God’s timing has been amazing today. Your post speaks to a part of my life-anxiety- that try to give to God but have times where instead I am sucked into the fear that accompanies it. Dr. Neely’s words describing how Paul defines anxious are perfect for me- concern turned inward and deformed, divorced from the grace of God and rooted in unhealthy fear.

    Those words provide a clarity in how I view anxiety and truth in showing us that distancing ourselves from God will prolong the fear. It sounds like this book is one that is practical as well as life-giving.

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    1. Yes! And I was relieved that Dr. Neely didn’t just resort to pat answers and one size fits all solutions to the problem of worry. It’s a real thing, and life is murky at times. The Bible speaks to that, and I think Paul is a good spokesperson on that topic!

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  4. Thanks for sharing this review. I definitely relate to preferring to get peace from circumstances that suit me rather than finding it in God, but Paul is such a great example of how peace is possible even in very difficult circumstances. It’s amazing how he finds things to be positive about even in prison. This book sounds really helpful.

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  5. Thanks for going there, Michele. Worry and fear always linger in the background, just waiting to make an appearance … the enemy is relentless.

    But we love Someone oh so much more powerful.

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    1. Yes, Linda, and it is His sovereignty over circumstances in which we trust — more than our prayers, more than our own ability to control the universe. So good to hear from you, Linda. I have your latest post in my inbox waiting for me . . .

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  6. I would definitely love to overcome worry once and for all. It’s plagued me all my life. Thankfully the Lord has allowed me some progress through the years, but I’m still not where I want to be. Thanks for sharing this resource, Michele. It sounds like a book I should look into.

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    1. I do think it’s a lifelong process of trusting a little bit more each time life blows up. I struggle in this area too, which reveals my reasons for choosing the books I choose and writing about the things I write about. It’s nice that we have something in common besides our obsessive love for books!

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  7. Dear Michele,
    I appreciate so much the conclusions you brought out concerning our anxieties: “what would happen if we consciously placed those thoughts before God and put ourselves at His disposal? Is it possible that we, like the Apostle Paul, would find His grace to be sufficient, if our worst case scenario came true?” In my times of anxiety this approach is so necessary! I pray that I will hear God calling me to do that very thing. Thank you for sharing a great review of this book, and thank you for bringing the heart of it here for us! –Blessings to you!

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    1. I keep coming back to God’s answer to Paul when he asked that the thorn be removed: My grace is made perfect in your weakness. Paul brought so much to the table that God could have found any number of ways to showcase His glory through Paul’s life, and yet He chose weakness as the conveyance. Amazing.

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  8. “Since God is omnipotent, His peace is an all-powerful peace. Since God is eternal, His peace is without beginning or end. Since God is infinite, His peace is limitless. Since God is holy, His peace is pure.” Something worth pondering. Great thoughts Michele, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Michele, if I keep reading your blog, I am going to need to increase my book-buying budget :). You find the most amazing books and write such compelling reflections on them!

    As someone who struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I find it helpful to lean on these religious resources in addition to working with my therapist and psychiatrist. I could not better describe my objective in overcoming GAD than you do here: “It is a counter-cultural call to the peace that comes with both the acceptance of present circumstances and trust for a future that lies in the hands of a sovereign God.” As always, thank you for your words. #w2wwordfilledwednesday

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    1. Thanks for your additional insights, Melissa. For so many, it’s not just a matter of “trust and obey,” but of overcoming real obstacles over which you have no control, and I’m blessed by your positive, God-centric outlook.

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  10. This sounds like an incredible book, Michele. I really like the approach that Dr. Neely has taken–blending biblical insight with practical truths. I certainly want to release my fears and worries to God and you’ve given us so much to consider and remember here today, my friend! I’ll be chewing on this one for awhile!

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  11. Hi Michele,
    It’s amazing when we think about Paul’s concerns and yet he was able to turn his worries over to God, even in perilous situations. No matter how many times I send worry packing, it somehow makes its way back to me so I appreciate these words today!

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    1. I think the difference between us and Paul is that we are short-sighted. He believed every word he wrote about eternal rewards. We are pretty ready to settle for temporal rewards and present-day comfort.
      Thanks, Valerie, for taking time to comment.

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  12. Worry seems pretty pervasive in our society today…even accepted as though it is a thing that can’t be overcome. This book seems pretty relevant.
    Personally, I need to remember this: “What would happen if we consciously placed those thoughts before God and put ourselves at His disposal?” I need to stop comforting myself with other things and put my anxieties before the Lord.

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  13. Oh, my, I am so ashamed to say that worry has consumed so many hours of my life on this earth. I do my best not to do it, but it seems that it overcomes my best intentions so many times. God is helping me, though, and I do believe there is victory over it as we sink into deeper levels of trusting Him. His track record is impeccable, so I do not know why I can’t seem to feel the assurance that He will do the same in the future. Thank you for your faithfulness here, sweet sister.

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  14. This is amazing insight from what looks like a powerful book! Yes, worry and anxiety do tend to creep into our lives, my life, far too often. For so long I struggled with the question of Can I trust God to protect me from harm. This post answers that in a powerful way. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. We see evidence of bad things happening to good people — and because we don’t understand, our default is to question the motives of God. Good to hear truth spoken into that place of doubt!

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  15. Thank you for the recommendation, Michele. I wish I could deny it without lying, but alas — I’m a worrier. A work in progress for God. He’s a beautiful comforter though, isn’t He? — I seem to live in that “what if” territory, most of the time. sigh. Thanks for this reminder that there’s a variety of peace from God Himself that isn’t available elsewhere, and to continually place my worries before Him in exchange for that peace. ((xoxo))

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  16. I had a mentor who, in times of stress or worry, would always say to herself and anyone else, “Eyes on Him.” That’s all she would say… but it reminded her to lay hr worries down and to look up at the One who was in control… I say this now to myself all the time! We have Someone who will carry us through the worry. Beautiful teaching today, my friend! Popping over from #HeartEncouragement Thursday!

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  17. Worry comes so naturally to us. It is something I have always struggled with. However, it is also something God has really been working an amazing work in me over the last year. I know all the verses about not worrying; I went to counseling for anxiety, fear, and worry but nothing ever seemed to really help. Then, over this last years after a few situations that popped up in our lives that there was absolutely nothing I could do anything about, I started focusing on God rather than the situation. Like your first point, that seems to be a major key. I read a book that contained a collection of Puritan and Reformed theologians writings on contentment and that really helped me to find peace, hope, and trust in God’s sovereignty, love, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. I still worry from time to time but God has really been helping me to focus more on Him than on these temporal struggles.

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    1. I do love those Puritans.
      You bring to light the truth that worrying reveals the depth of our theology. Our confessional theology centers around a sovereign God for whom nothing is a surprise; however, our practical theology is borne out by our response to the things that surprise us! Thanks so much for sharing your story here.

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  18. Michele – I love the line- God is calling us to return TO Him instead of turn from Him. Oh yes, you are so right, and how often I know that in my head and my heart, and then I find myself not always turning to Him first. thanks for the great reminder. thanks also for sharing your post at #TuneInThursday today and for letting me know it wasn’t live and up when it should have been

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    1. It’s so true that we read and write to our own growth process, and this is certainly an area where I need lots of work. Debbie, I branched out yesterday into listening — I’m assuming that vlog means video blog, and it was amazing to see you standing there by the lake. Were you freezing?

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  19. Michele, I needed the reminder that worry is a choice. I tend to forget that. Thank you for sharing these verses and insights. I bookmarked this article so I can read it again!

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  20. Hi, Michele. Thanks for the review on a book that encourages us to run to Jesus when anxious. When I had hormonal imbalances I dealt with high anxiety. Although medication was needed to combat and correct that, God used that season to teach me to rely on His Word. I learned to not use the medicine as a crutch or the sole fix, but while standing on His promises I grew as a Christian. I think both His Word and the medicine were needed. I’m thankful for my mentors who pointed me to Jesus during that season. I still get anxious sometimes, but if it weren’t for learning what I did before I would be lost.

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    1. This is such good counsel: reaching out to medical personnel for what they can do – reaching out to God for what only He can do – reaching out to mentors to steer us – medicine is not a crutch . . . so many good thoughts here, Kelly. Thank you for bringing your unique insights to this round table.

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  21. Michele, this sounds like another solid read. Worry is rampant in society, yet His grace is sufficient, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing these reviews. I always enjoy reading them. #faithonfire

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  22. There is so much to worry about as a parent, I can see why it can become overwhelming. It’s so important to just try and enjoy our time with our children and with the lives that we lead. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

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  23. Michele, Thanks for sharing a review of this book. As someone who struggles with anxiety (and I actually may have a clinical form of it), I can certainly benefit from the insights the author shares. I especially liked where he said to “expect peace from God”. Worry is a choice and I need to remember to choose to hold fast to HIS faithfulness, no matter what the circumstances. 🙂

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  24. Michele – What a great review. Boy, we are a society plagued by worry. I don’t think we can overcome worry but I do believe with looking to God we certainly can tame it. I recently did a blog series on worry and it was an eye opener. I didn’t think I worried. I was wrong.

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  25. Michele, there is so much good stuff here that I don’t have a clue where to start! This thought is so convicting: “if I believe in the sovereignty of God, the burning question is: Can God be counted on to protect me and the people I love from harm?” As a mom, it’s one I have to answer almost daily. Thank you for the reminder to trust him!

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    1. And when we have sons and daughters who seem intent upon flirting with danger and having fun doing risky activities, we are tempted to despair, right? It’s a daily laying down of my plans and hopes as an offering, and a daily reaffirmation of His sovereignty.

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  26. We just went over this in our women’s bible study on Phil. chapter 4 yesterday. 🙂 I find that replacing a worrisome thought with a prayer can be helpful. Or listening to Christian music or a sermon instead of letting my thoughts run wild. 🙂 Thanks for your insight and for sharing at Literacy Musing Mondays.

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  27. I met Winfred Neely when he was much younger! Wow! Doctor Neely!
    I love his definition of the word anxious, “concern turned inward and deformed, divorced from the grace of God and rooted in unhealthy fear.” Definitely something to get rid of.

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  28. What a lovely post. Trying not to worry is difficult at times, but I may wonder for a few moments before coming back to God and allowing him to ease my mind and feel his strength. He knows what’s best and will provide. Thanks for sharing at Over The Moon Party. Hope you come back next week so I can stop by again.
    Hugs,
    Bev

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  29. Michele,
    Just wanted to let you know that you were my feature at Over The Moon Blog Hop party this week. Make sure to stop by and pick up your feature button.
    Hugs,
    Bev

    Like

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