Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
You wake up in the night thinking about a situation which really distresses you. You silently pray, "God, please do something about this," yet sleep doesn't come. You toss and turn, asking, "What should I do?" At the same time, you know that worrying doesn't change anything and that you shouldn't worry.
You remember texts from the Bible such as Philippians 4:6, which says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." A paraphrase puts it, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers."
Are there situations which are so overwhelming, so challenging, so distressing that you just can't help it--you worry? "No, I'm not worried; I'm just concerned," you say. Right! But is there a difference between concern and worry? Actually, there is, and it's a big enough difference that you need to know what it is.
First, the Bible makes it clear that worry is wrong because it shuts God out of the loop as though everything must depend upon you to solve. That's why the New Testament almost always follows the "don't worry about this" with an injunction to "instead, pray about this." When you believe the God who laughs at the difficult and scorns the word impossible can change the situation which distresses you, the meter on the scale shifts from worry to concern.
Frankly, the difference between worry and concern from a biblical perspective has to be framed in the context of how you face trouble, rather than specific words, because the Greek word for worry, merimnao, is translated both “worry” and “concern.”
It's the context of how you handle it and what you think about it that determines whether you are worried or concerned. Let me illustrate. If you took the time to do a word study of concern and worry in the Bible, you would discover that on a number of occasions God expressed concern--strong concern--over a situation. For example, God expressed concern for the family of Abraham because of the covenant He had made with Abraham (2 Kings 13:23). He said, "I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned…" (Ezekiel 36:21). But, no, God doesn't worry. Concern leads to positive action, but worry doesn't consider the fact that there is no situation which God cannot reverse.
Both Jesus and then Paul had a lot to say about worry. Remember, Jesus said, "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'" (Matthew 6:31) with a reminder that it was pagans who did not understand that God makes the difference in our lives, who worry.
So what is the bottom line difference between worry and concern? It is how you position God in relationship to your trouble. Shut Him out of the loop, and you worry – and you had better worry, too. But mentally put God between you and your problem, and you have concern, but the problem is not hopeless because God is your hope.
Yes, I confess I find myself worried and fretful and then my heart reproves me as I cry out, "Lord, this is much too big for me; I put it entirely in your hands." Only then can you turn over and go to sleep. God always makes the difference. Jesus was right when He said, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34). May God forgive us for the times we have worried, ignoring His care and concern and His power to change situations and lives.
Resource reading: Philippians 4: 1-13