But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. –Luke 21:12-15
There is one type of approach in counseling that emphasizes the link between our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It focuses on identifying what thoughts or beliefs we tell ourselves (sometimes unconsciously) that cause us to feel certain emotions and then behave in certain ways. The goal is to identify those thoughts or beliefs that are negatively impacting our emotions, mood and choices, and then change those thoughts so that our emotions and behavior improve. Jesus seems to instruct us in a similar way when He uses the phrase, “make up your mind not to worry”. Notice He doesn’t focus on the heart here, He focuses on the mind. I have found it’s not effective to attempt to turn emotions on and off like a light switch. It just doesn’t work. What is effective is to get our thinking in line with God’s thinking. Worry essentially comes out of our own desire to feel in control of what is happening to us. When we feel out of control, our anxiety goes up and fear kicks in and tells us, “if I can just obsess about this thing enough, maybe I’ll figure it out. Maybe I’ll be able to fix it.” There’s something about refusing to allow our mind to let go of an issue that makes us feel in control of the situation, though in truth any sense of us being in control is an illusion. But if we “make up our mind not to worry” we are saying, “God, I know I’m not in control here but I choose to rest in the truth that You are always in control and You have a plan”. It’s a choice! Every time we choose to trust instead of fret, we break another piece of fear’s stronghold over us and we gain a little more freedom and peace. Even in the passage above, Jesus is letting them know: Hey, some bad stuff is going to happen, but don’t worry about it because I already have a plan to help you handle it! God has known what our future would bring long before we were even on this earth, so He means it when He tells us we can trust Him. He already knows the outcome will be for our good, and the good of His kingdom. He’s not worried, why should we be?
If you are a worrier, let me encourage you to begin digging deep and identifying what worry is about for you. Once you’ve figured it out, spend some time in prayer and lay those things down that keep you from trusting God and walking in peace. Then decide that you are going to get out of the habit of worrying (which is a process and may take some time) and become someone who, with God’s help, is able to be at peace despite your circumstances. Make up your mind to trust deeply that the God you serve loves you beyond measure and is in control of every last detail!