Posted in theology

The Uselessness of Anxiety

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from a chapter from a book called GETHSEMANE—Leaves of Healing from the Garden of Grief by Newman Hall, 1891. His bio:

Christopher Newman Hall (1816-1902), born at Maidstone and known in later life as a ‘Dissenter’s Bishop’, was one of the most celebrated nineteenth century English Nonconformist divines. He was active in social causes; supporting Abraham Lincoln and abolition of slavery during the American Civil War, the Chartist cause, and arranging for influential Nonconformists to meet Gladstone. His tract Come to Jesus, first published in 1848 also contributed to his becoming a household name throughout Britain, the US and further afield, supposedly selling four million copies worldwide over his lifetime. Source Wikipedia

The part I’d excerpted yesterday was from the book was of the 26th chapter, about Anxiety. It is no doubt a time now on earth when anxiety is at high levels. But we need not fear, we need not be anxious. I thought Preacher Hall’s points were worth offering in hopes that solace would be offered to anyone out there who is anxious. I found them comforting.

The chapter can be read in its entirety here. Or the whole book here.

What follows is Newman’s next 4 points about anxiety.

3. The USELESSNESS of anxiety. Who, by all his “worry, can add one inch to his stature”? By temperance in all things, and observance of the laws of health, we may add some years to our age. But not by anxiety. This shortens life. Some are anxious to increase their apparent height, but who can increase his real height by an inch? How small a thing it would be to add a little to length, either of life or limb, compared with the constant supplies of God for the body’s life! “If you then, are not able to do even that which is least, why are you anxious concerning the rest?”

Anxiety is useless. It does nothing towards attaining its end. It hinders clear thinking, firm purpose, steady perseverance, final success. An old author says—”Don’t fret about what you can’t help, or what you can help. If you can’t help it, fretting won’t mend it. If you can help it, help it, and there will be nothing to fret about.” Exercise caution, diligence, perseverance, prayer. “Work but don’t worry.” Then commit the result to God—”Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you.”

4. It is heathenish to be “anxious for all these things.” It is right to desire, work for, and enjoy them; but if we make them our supreme aim we lower ourselves to the level of idolaters—”for all these things do the heathen seek after.” The nature of the particular idol does not constitute heathenism, but the idolatry which exalts anything above God. Alas, how many professed Christians are only baptized heathen! setting their affection on things of the earth; “lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God;” indulging “covetousness, which is idolatry;” as if man’s chief end were to please himself instead of “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” As if our clothes were more than our body—our money more than our mind—our things more than ourselves—what we think we have more than what we really are. “A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses,” but in what by God’s grace he is—in faith, love, holiness, childlike trust. If eager chiefly for things of earth we are only like “the heathen.”

5. Our Father knows our need. The Creator of the birds and flowers is our loving Father. Christ does not say that we can do without these things, and should not wish for them. He was more human than some philosophers—He is more considerate of our present needs than some Christians. He said that we have need of these things, and that our Father knows it—knows that we require food and clothing, the comforts of home and the solace of affection. “He who made the need, pledges the supply.” The very need is evidence that He who caused it considers it. So in the higher need of the soul. If He implants the desire for what is good, He will help us to attain it. The longing for Himself is evidence that He has already given Himself. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

6. If our Father gives us the kingdom—we may trust Him to provide all else. The disciples were few, feeble, poor, and exposed to the world’s enmity. They were as timid sheep. But Jesus said, “Fear not.” If a little flock, you have a great and good Shepherd, able to supply all your need, ever keeping watch, mighty to save. To Him you are precious. You are on your way to the kingdom. Though wanderers in a wilderness you will soon dwell in a palace—not as strangers, but as children of the King! It is your Father who gives it, and it is of His “good pleasure.”

If so, will He not provide all needful things on the way? If a loyal subject volunteers in the army of his king, will not daily rations be provided? If a loving father urges his far-off son to come home, and prepares for his reception, will he allow him to perish by the way for lack of what his father could supply? Will not the love that gives the greater, give the less? “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Little flock, you already realize the promise.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Christ now reigns in the heart, protecting and blessing all who obey Him. “We have eternal life.” If then we possess the kingdom of heaven, shall we be anxious respecting the things of earth?

Let us then “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” assured that all these other things shall be added unto us. Not all that others have—not all that we may desire—but all that is really best. We may have large contentment—with small stores. The peace of God does not depend on plentiful gold. To have the will of God in heart and life; to “desire what He has promised, and to love what He has commanded;” to “hunger and thirst after righteousness” more than after riches, and thus to be filled, is to be rich indeed.

Worldliness can be driven from the heart only by the entrance of godliness—the baser passion must be conquered by the nobler; covetousness by contentment—anxiety by faith—selfishness by love—Mammon by God. A paramount desire to obtain the kingdom and become righteous, will counteract every base craving. Kings and priests of God, will not desire to be slaves of Mammon.

Jesus in Gethsemane, by His prayers and agony, showed how He loved those for whom He was thus securing the kingdom. He is now seated on that kingdom’s throne. Let us not dishonor Him by distrusting Him about the lesser needs of the body. Come, O Savior King, into my heart, to rule there without a rival! All else I leave. My Father knows what I need. It is His good pleasure to give me the kingdom, and I may well be without anxiety respecting all things else! ~End Newman Hall excerpt

Isaac Watts’ My Shepherd will Supply My Need; Watts bio, origin of song, and lyrics here.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.