Prone to Worry
Young people (and older people) are liable to worry about their future. Given our old sinful natures, legitimate questions can easily lead to illegitimate concerns, unhealthy doubts and damaging, even crippling, fears. Just as “I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour” (Heidelberg Catechism, A5), so we are prone to worry.
Should I go to college or university? Which one? Will I get the grades to get in? What subjects should I study? What courses should I take? What if I don’t like it there? Can I afford the fees? Will I be able to pay back my student loan? Or should I learn a trade or serve an apprenticeship?
What job should I do? Will it provide enough to provide for my family (if God gives me one), Christian school tuition, and my church? Will I even be able to get a job in these economically unsettled times? Do I have or will I have the requisite skills?
Young people are also prone to worries about dating and marriage. Whom should I court? Who would want to date me, since I am unattractive, unpopular, or whatever? Would anyone want to marry me? I’d probably make a terrible spouse! I’d be no good in a marriage! How could I cope with children? Maybe God is calling me to a life of singleness? If so, what will others think?
The temptation to worry about these and other things is present especially for young people—those in their late teens or early twenties, because you are approaching and entering a period of transition in your life. You are moving from the security of living with your parents in the family home into situations in which you have to take more responsibility and find your own way.
Worry Is Sin!
The first thing we must be entirely clear about is that worry is sin. It is appropriate and necessary to think and plan for the future (submitting, of course, to the sovereignty of our merciful and just Father in heaven). However, anxiety about the days and months and years ahead betrays a lack of trust in the goodness and wisdom of our covenant God, for it contradicts our confession of the loving providence of our creator and redeemer (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 9–10).
Since scripture promises (concerning the future too) that all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28), we must not work ourselves up with anxiety and fear by thinking that events will conspire against us for ill. Do not, like foolish Jacob, reckon “all these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36). This is sinful unbelief!
In the middle of his famous sermon on the mount (Matt. 5–7), which explains the calling of the citizens of the kingdom of God, our savior addressed the issue of worry (Matt. 6:24–34). He forbids us to be anxious about food, drink, and clothing (for ourselves or our future spouses or children), and thus the jobs required to pay for such things and the education and training necessary for such jobs.
Listen closely to Christ’s crucial concluding commands: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought [i.e., do not worry] for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:33–34). Believe and obey!
God’s Sovereignty and Our Calling
When we worry, we foolishly ignore our human limitations, for we do not know and cannot control the future. These are solely divine prerogatives, for Jehovah alone has decreed and governs all things.
Our calling defines our responsibility. Those in education are to make good use of their God-given abilities, studying faithfully, as unto the Lord, not merely regarding man (cf. Eph. 6:5–8). Through confession of our all-too-frequent laziness and disobedience, God grants us cleansing by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:9).
Regarding future training or education, learn about the options available, discuss the issues with teachers and/or parents and/or people in these fields and then decide on the basis of sufficient information. Those who seek God’s glory in making decisions (small or large) in accordance with biblical principles have no reason to lie awake at night worrying, but should sleep in peace, knowing the future is in the Lord’s gracious hands.
The same principles apply regarding a job. What skills do you have? What are your interests? What training do you need? What openings are there? Learn about the company and position you seek before your interview. Do the best you can and leave the results to the sovereign God. Keep trying, if at first you don’t succeed. The Lord is with you as you truly seek to serve him; that is more important than a job, even the “ideal” job.
Concerning a spouse, if God wills that you marry, you will. Your calling meanwhile is to grow in grace so that you are ready to be a godly husband or wife. Prepare for confession of faith and make the church central in your life. Attend Bible studies and go to church lectures. Do not use your increased freedom to indulge in worldliness!
Those who can truly confess, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:63) are the young men and women who will be blessed in singleness (1 Cor. 7:1, 7–8), courtship (as you seek to ascertain if this is the biblically qualified person God would have you marry) and in the covenant of marriage, according to Jehovah’s sovereign purpose. Marriage, like this present world, is temporary, “but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:17).
Trust and Pray
While it is wrong to dodge or run away from your responsibilities, heaping up and compounding your problems and fears is also self-destructive. By God’s grace, do not give in to self-pity or despair through worrying about the future.
Instead, trust in the goodness of the God who holds you, the future, and the world in his hands. Pray to him through Jesus Christ, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Continually and especially when you are feeling anxious, bring all your burdens to the Lord, telling him all the things that oppress you and your fears for the future. Our heavenly Father, like a good parent, understands, comforts, and guides his children.
Psalm 62:8 puts it so well: “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (Ps. 62:8). All our cares and worries build up like pressure in our hearts. Release them through prayer to the Lord and you will find him “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1), like Hannah (1 Sam. 1–2), even through the uncertain years of young adulthood.