How the Gospel Defeats Worry

by Chris Pennington

man in an arm chair holding his head in his hand

Worry is paralyzing. It crushes hope, reduces sleep, stirs up our passions, and leaves us worse than it found us.

While everyone responds to worry in their own way, worry is a common struggle for us all. Some of us become angry. Others resort to quick sensual pleasures. Others fall into discouragement, workaholism, or restlessness.

The external causes of worry also vary from person to person, but the root is often the same: control. We either lack control or feel too much burden for our decisions (assuming we have more control than we do).

What does the gospel say to these worries?

God is at the Center

As kids, we used to play a trampoline game called “Popcorn.” It involved one person jumping around trying to “pop” the others who were curled up and rolling around. You learn very quickly that gravity pulls everyone towards the jumper! Half the time, the jumper landed on top of you as you rolled towards them.

The center of your world defines and pulls everything. If mankind is at the center, then the problems that matter most are problems that threaten and harm people. But the Bible declares a different sort of world altogether.

The Bible unashamedly puts God at the very center of all existence. Reality starts with the phrase “in the beginning, God…” (Gen 1:1). His gravity bends creation to His will as the only Unique One (Isa 46:9). According to the Bible, the chief problems in the universe are not man-problems, but God-problems. God deserves all worship, glory, and praise (Rev 4:11), and that problem is the central concern of all existence.

We could say it like this: God is God-centered. Even when the Bible declares God’s salvation in the gospel, it’s God’s glory that is at the center.1

Help us, O God of our salvation,

for the glory of your name;

deliver us, and atone for our sins,

for your name’s sake! (Psalm 79:9).

What does this have to do with worry? Worry inherently proclaims that we are at the center. And so to face worry, we must also face the unending temptation to put ourselves, our pains, and our sufferings in the center.

Counter-intuitively, placing God at the center doesn’t pass over your problems; it gives meaning to them. God, afterall, is the solution to every worry.

The Worst is Behind You

The biggest problem you’ve ever faced is the impending, deserved wrath of the Eternal God. You were born a sinner (Ps 51:5) and proved it by sinning against Him over and over again (Rom 3:23).

While the wrath was on its way (Jn 3:18), Christ died in our place (Rom 5:8) and gave us His eternal righteousness (Phil 3:9; 2 Cor 5:21).

Facing the righteous, burning fury of the Eternal God is the worst you’ve ever faced (Isa 30:27–28; 2 Pet 3:10). How does gospel logic apply this truth? Listen to Romans 8:31–32:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Paul argues from the worst we’ve ever faced (God’s wrath) to our current trouble. If God met us at our lowest, will he abandon us now? No, never! (cf. Ps 116:8–9)

The Best is Yet to Come

Life is hard and challenges are real. The gospel doesn’t call us to skip through our trials with plastic smiles. The gospel instead provides context, support, and rest.

Worry always includes meditation. It is the process of thinking through possible scenarios. As an antidote, the gospel also encourages meditation, but gospel meditation is the process of thinking through certain scenarios, thinking through what has been and what will be.

No matter your current trouble—financial, relational, spiritual, or otherwise—the gospel bids you to meditate on the coming salvation of the Lord and work backwards to your current position. It draws you like a magnet to truths outside of you and your circumstances and then calms your “today” with eternity’s realities. It draws your gaze upwards and forwards.

The gospel leads you by the hand to echo the words of the Prophet Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Hab 3:17–18).


How can you apply the gospel’s logic to your role as dad?

Many of us struggle regularly with worry. Those worries drive large sections of our days and take large sections of our nights. Become an expert at meditating on the gospel more than you meditate on possible outcomes. Learn to preach the gospel to yourself until your mind starts to wander to the gospel at work.

Many of our wives fight worry. Worries over sick children, conflicts at work, financial leanness, and more can so often dominate their thoughts, speech, and actions. Fear will cripple your wife and ignoring it or lecturing her about it doesn’t help. What does she need? She needs a husband who knows how to apply the gospel to life personally so much so that it changes his thoughts, speech, and actions towards his wife.

Our kids face constant worries. What if people laugh at my new haircut? What if my friends abandon me? What if we move again? Classic dad answers like “who cares what people think!?!” will drive your children from you and from God. Your kids need to have the gospel prayed over them and meditated on before them. In short, they need a bigger view of God available only in the gospel.

May we lead our families in this gospel logic to the glory of the Eternal God!


  1. Or like John Piper famously wrote, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t”

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