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The Difference Between Worry & Concern

Over 500 years ago a man by the name of Michel de Montaigne said this, "My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened." Can you relate? Have you ever found yourself spinning with worry about all of the terrible things that could happen in your life, that it robs you of actually living your life? I have. On more than one occasion. There was a study conducted in 2015 that showed that 85% of what we worry about never actually happens. And the 15% of what we worry about that actually happened, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.

On paper I think most of us would agree that worry is not very useful, let alone life-giving. Yet still, I've never found much success in simply telling myself to stop worrying. After all, there is usually some sort of situation going on that warrants my concern and stuffing that down or trying to ignore it usually doesn't help. But, that's just it: the voice of worry and the voice of concern are two very different things. Often times concern is warranted, but worry never is. The first line of defense against worry is recognizing the difference between worry and concern, and then identifying which voice is exercising authority in our minds.

Let's look at the difference between the two... The voice of worry is:

  • Hurried and frantic. Fast, darting thoughts are one of the first signs that we are operating out of worry.

  • It's insecure; doubting our abilities and God's abilities in the situation.

  • It makes irrationality commonplace. Although the outcome in our mind may be possible, it's usually not very likely. Yet, the voice of worry skips over that recognition and talks about the outcome as if it is commonplace and likely to happen.

  • The voice of worry is burdensome; it places the entire outcome of the situation on our shoulders. We are solely responsible and the demise is ours.

  • It's a minefield of worst-case-scenarios. And it convinces you to live in that minefield because it makes you believe that if you sit and focus on all of the things that could go wrong, you will somehow be prepared for them when they do.

  • It ignores the possibility of redemption, restoration and the Goodness of God in whatever outcome takes place.

  • It demands you give up trust, and instead assume pseudo-control.

  • The voice of worry is fueled by fear. It feeds off of our deepest fears keeping us paralyzed to move forward.

On the contrary, the voice of concern is:

  • Focused and serious. Calm and steadfast thoughts are a sign that we are operating out of concern.

  • It's secure, not in self but in the Lord's control and his equipping of us.

  • It acknowledges irrational thoughts and labels them as such. Then, it places them to the side, refusing to focus on them.

  • It cares and feels the emotion of the situation, but it is not led by emotion. It's led by Truth, and trust in God.

  • It's feels light, but it takes work to be light; as each wave of thoughts come, the voice of concern encourages us to continually surrender the situation and outcome over to God.

  • It processes through the worst-case-scenarios in a calm manner. Then, develops a plan for what would need to happen in order to move forward from such case scenarios.

  • It believes in the power of redemption and restoration and that God works all things together for our good, no matter the outcome. A feeling of relief is likely to come soon after this.

  • The voice of concern is fueled by trust. It holds the full reality of the situation while not carrying the outcome, but instead trusting in God and His control for whatever outcome takes place.

Which voice do you most often let lead in your mind; worry or concern? Concern is natural and a healthy response to difficult and/or stressful situations. Worry, on the other hand, is not. It's an unhealthy and unproductive response that leads to destruction in our lives. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, ask yourself some of these questions to determine whether worry or concern is leading your thought life: "Are my thoughts frantic?" "Am I focused and/or trapped in worst-case-scenarios?" "Am I remembering God's promise of restoration and his promise to work all things for my good?"

Suggested Reading: Matthew 6:25-34

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