Hi, I’m Fred Zaspel, editor here at Books At a Glance, and we’re talking again today with Dr. Robert Jones, professor of counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, about the two mini-books he has just published with P&R. Last time we talked about the first booklet, Prodigal Children: Hope and Help for Parents, an enormously important topic for many parents. And now today we are talking with him about the second booklet, entitled, Why Worry? Getting to the Heart of your Anxiety.
Bob, good to have you back with us.
Very good to be with you again, Fred.
Okay, your very helpful booklet, Why Worry? Getting to the Heart of your Anxiety – first, what is worry? You make a distinction between worry and legitimate concern that I think is important.
As I think about those whom I’ve talked to who struggle with worry, as I look about some of my own worries in my own life, I realize that almost every time it comes from some very legitimate concern. Things that I should rightly care about, things that people should certainly be concerned about, in that the opposite of worry cannot be apathy or uncaring. But, I think, what I find (and I think we all find this) is that the things that we care about can cross lines or climb on the throne of our heart or there’s different imagery here we could use to make the point that our concerns become hyper concerns and they cross lines to become sources of worry, anxiety, fear inside us.
Your booklet is largely an exposition of a passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Tell us how this passage addresses the problem of worry.
It’s probably one of the most common passages any of us think about when we think about worry. When we look at Matthew 6:25 through 34, three times in that passage our Lord exhorts us not to worry. Do not worry, do not worry, do not worry, three times. What intrigued me as I preached that many years ago was the connection in verse 25 back to the previous verses, because in verse 25 Jesus says, “therefore,” or “so, don’t worry.” I was really interested in the connection, and as I looked back in verses 19 through 24, I realized that our Lord is saying that the foundational issues that lead to worry are often issues of idolatry or competing treasures. And so, as I looked at that passage, afresh, through the lens of how these verses in 19 through 24, are foundational to his exhortation not to worry in 25 through 34. What I saw is this competition; and I realized that in my own soul, I care about something or someone, but those things can often become competing concerns over against the heavenly treasures that Jesus talks about in those earlier verses. So, that’s what intrigued me to begin to study that a little more fully and from that to this booklet and its outline.
What does Jesus say is wrong about worry? Why is it out of place for the Christian?
Well, I think it’s out of place or us as believers because it would expose the idolatries and the competitions within our souls. And so, to the extent that I fixate on (and this is where legitimate concerns become over concerns), when I fixate on the status of my job, my marriage, my kids, my possessions, health, all those things, I’m not focusing on the things that Christ calls me to focus on. And I’m allowing those other things to become treasures for me. One of the themes here in Matthew 6, but throughout our whole Bible, I think, Fred, is this theme of not allowing anything to compete with Christ. So that’s one of the main reasons – it’s a competition with our Lord and it has an idolatrous feel. When you go into the rest of the passage, then we have our Lord reminding us of the care of the heavenly father. One of the things I think we find here is that we are having a weak view or a low view of our heavenly father. That’s what’s driving our worry. We have doubts about whether he knows what’s best, whether he’s able to do what’s best, whether he wants to do what’s best for me, and whether he even will do what’s best for me. When we have those doubts, that’s also going to also feed this problem of anxiety or worry.
Some people seem to have developed such a habit of worry that it has become a virtual way of life. How might you begin to direct them out of that?
Yes, I think you’re right. I think the starting place is just to recognize what’s really going on there. I think we can take words like worry, which can almost become an acceptable kind of sin problem for us, as believers, and say, “well, this is just the way I am,” or, “if you knew how much pressure I was under,” and we try to, in that sense, justify those things. But at the end of the day, it’s creating all sorts of problems within our own bodies, our hearts, and it affects our Christian living, as well. So I think the first place is going to be to just recognize what’s going on – that in the midst of this anxiety and worry that I continually have, there’s something I need to understand. There’s something of a way in which this worry is a window into my soul. And what’s going on in my soul? Well, back to what I said before, I’m putting treasures in places that God has not called me to put treasure; and I’m having struggles believing in who God my Father really is. So I think that’s the starting place, and then, of course, letting the church of Jesus and brothers and sisters, you know, put their arms around me and enter into my life, as well.
We’re talking to Dr. Robert Jones, professor of biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of two new very helpful booklets: Prodigal Children: Hope and Help for Parents, and Why Worry? Getting to the Heart of your Anxiety. Dr. Jones’ new booklets are excellent additions to P&R’s very helpful series of booklets, Resources for Changing Lives, and they well deserve to be made available at your church book table and tract rack.
Bob, great to talk to you always. Thanks for talking to us, and thanks so much for your faithful work.
And Fred, thank you for your work too, my brother.
Buy the books
Why Worry? Getting to the Heart of your Anxiety