Points to Ponder/Concerned or Worried?

by Pastor Dennis Whitmore

After preaching a sermon on the problem of WORRY, someone left a card on my desk, with a good question on it. The topic of WORRY is a good one we all need to review. Requests for copies of that message indicate that several folks want to review it.

Here is the question: “Is there a difference between concern and worry?”

Webster’s Dictionary defines being “concerned” as being “anxious, worried.” I think one can be concerned about something (to take it seriously); however, I do not think it is necessarily the same as worry. Having said that, I looked up worry. Webster’s defines it as feeling or experiencing “concern or anxiety.” To put worry in the form of a noun rather than something we do, the dictionary says a worry (or worries) is “a mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated: anxiety.” So what is the difference between concern and worry?

I believe a concern, or being concerned, is legitimate and right; however, if we allow it to go too far, it can become a worry. When our concerns give us mental distress and become an obsession that distracts us from the important things of life, then we have worry. We put a lot of energy into worry; that is why it is a sin. It draws our heart away from a deeper focus on God and it dulls our hearing so we can not discern his “still small voice” of comfort and guidance. Worry is an outward sign of an inner distrust. If we really think about it, we invest our energy and spirit in worry because we do not really believe God can, will, or is handling the matter.

Thus Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things (You worry about) will be added into you.” (Matt. 6:33)

Paul’s letter to the Philippians includes a call for concern as well as a remedy for worry. He says you should “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) That means, take it seriously; be concerned about how God is working in your life because, he says, “it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” That is not mental anguish. Being “concerned” is mental application.

But if your concerns begin to rob you of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit because they have become worries, Paul advises this:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” (Phil. 4:4-8)

It is helpful to remember that he wrote this from prison, not yet knowing if he would live or die. He was not worried about his fate, but he was concerned about accomplishing his purpose. It is helpful to ponder deeply the difference.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dennis

Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.