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April 20th, 2010

by Craig Groeschel

29 comments (+ Add)

A Peek Inside The Christian Atheist

I’m humbled by so many of you offering kind words about The Christian Atheist. My prayer in writing this book is that people all over the spiritual map would be moved to a more intimate and fruitful relationship with Christ. Today, I want to share part of a chapter that people have let me know they found helpful.

Worry Is not Your Friend

Worry (or not trusting God) has been a significant issue in my life. Although I believe in God, I’ve trusted more in my own abilities than I have in his faithfulness. For Christian Atheists, our worry proves we don’t trust in God as we claim to. We think, I know God’s a good God and all that, but I’ve got this situation handled. And when it turns out we don’t have it handled, then it falls to us — not to God — to fix it.

Worry reminds me of my feelings about snakes. I hate snakes. I hate them worse than Indiana Jones does. It was a serpent that seduced all of mankind into the fall, after all. Coincidence? I think not. Snakes in general freak me out, but bringing venomous vipers into the equation adds another diabolical dimension. My family lives in a heavily wooded area, where we’re basically besieged by poisonous snakes.

One day, when my son Bookie (whose real name is Stephen Craig) was about two years old, he was playing on our front porch. We were all doing different things around the yard when suddenly we heard Bookie squealing with delight. He was jumping up and down, calling out, “My fwend! My fwend! Daddy, look! He’s my fwend!”

I strolled over and asked, “Bookie, where’s your fwend? Is it an imaginary fwend?”

Bookie chirped, “No, Daddy!” and pointed excitedly.

“Look! My fwend!” And there, directly at his feet, was a small rattlesnake. In case you didn’t already know, a rattlesnake is not your fwend. I jerked Bookie away from the snake, then stomped on the snake’s head and crushed it —  immediately after I first cut off its head with a shovel.

Many of us treat worry like our fwend. We don’t consciously think or talk about it that way, of course, but how we live tells a different story. We clutch worry to our chests like our favorite stuffed animals from childhood. We have many different euphemisms to mask this sin:

“I’m concerned about something.”
“I have some issues I’m working through.”
“I have a lot on my mind.”

Using such substitute terminology makes me sound like I’m really smart, like I’m an important person with big things going on. What they don’t do is make me sound like I’m a worrywart.

But no matter what you call it, worry is still sin. In Philippians 4:6, Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything. Romans 14:23 says, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” That’s pretty clear to me. Worry is the opposite of faith; therefore, it’s sin.

When we live by faith, we believe that God has everything under control. But if we start to worry, how we live says the opposite. If we are worried about losing our jobs, we are essentially saying that our jobs are our providers. But isn’t God our provider? What if God has something else planned for us? And what if, as unpleasant as it may be to think about, the path to that “something else” is through some pain? Will we still trust in God to provide during that time?

Worry, in essence, is the sin of distrusting the promises and the power of God. It’s choosing to dwell on, to think about, the worst-case scenario. It’s faith in the bad things rather than faith in God. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (NLT). In this verse, you could also easily translate “fear and timidity” as “anxiety, tension, and worry.” Fear doesn’t come from God. It’s a tool the evil one uses to distract us from our true purpose here.

In Matthew 6:25,  Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” The Greek word Jesus uses for “life” is psuche (SuE-kay). It doesn’t just mean your breathing life, the force that makes your body go. It actually means every aspect of your life, taken together in total: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. It means your yesterday, today, and future life. Jesus is simply saying don’t worry about anything.

The Christian Atheist may do everything humanly possible to ensure a situation’s positive outcome, and still worry, I can’t just let this sit. I have to do more. But if we’ve honestly done everything we can, by definition we can’t do anything more. And in many cases nothing’s going to go wrong anyway; there’s really nothing you can do about a nonexistent worst-case scenario. So in our powerlessness we settle for the only thing left within our control: we worry.

Worry is a control issue.  People are often obsessed with trying to control their circumstances. And while some things in life are within our ability, many things aren’t.

Just last night I sat on a plane, hoping to make a connecting flight. As we were grounded on the runway, time seemed to fly, chipping away at my chances to make my connection. Even though I had zero control over the situation, I glanced continuously at my watch, consumed with worry — as if my worry had any bearing on the outcome. (In case you’re wondering, after our plane landed, I could have given Usain Bolt a run for his money, sprinting across the airport just in time to catch my final leg home.)

Worry indicates we’re not willing to let God handle certain things —  at least not in his way, and certainly not in his time. Matthew 6:27 asks a practical question: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” I wonder how many hours worry has shaved off the end of my life? (Now I’m really worried.)

Fortunately, God’s power and love have enabled me to genuinely overcome much of my worry and unjustified desire to control. I know I still have a long road ahead of me, but I’m going to share with you some of my journey so far.

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy yet, you can order it through any of these booksellers:, Barnes & Noble,, and Mardel

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there are a total of29
  1. Apr 20, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Thanks for sharing your story on worry. I have a copy of your book and am gonna start reading it next week, really looking forward to learning from it, great to get this sneak peak into some of it’s insight.
    Worry is certainly one of those things that keeps me far from God, I’ve learned over the last two years to trust God more than ever and really understand what your saying in truth. Thanks for sharing, keep on keepin’ on Craig.

  2. Apr 20, 2010 at 7:56 am

    tough and risky subject. glad to see feedback is positive. every blessing.

  3. Apr 20, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Good Stuff and I need to get the book. I listen often to the CD I have from Catalyst about this subject. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. 4Dianne Davis
    Apr 20, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Craig - this is a word for me today. Powerful, convicting, all of the above. The term - “imagined, worst-case scenario,” that’s ME. Not all the time but I tend to play things out. Thank you, Lord for speaking to me through this message.

    Be blessed today!

  5. Apr 20, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Argh. This is the chapter that convicted me big time. I’ve improved a lot but I still have days where I have to remind myself to trust God.

  6. Apr 20, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I’ve always equated worry and stress with success and hard work. It is so difficult for me to completely release my worries and fears. I struggle with having a small view of who God is and what He’s capable of. I really enjoyed this book and appreciated you calling worry sin. Such an obvious point yet I’d missed it.

  7. Apr 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Your authenticity throughout your book was greatly appreciated and very effective.

  8. Apr 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    your book is great, Craig. I couldn’t put it down, it is really challenging me. thanks for the honesty you shared in it.

  9. Apr 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Great, now another book I MUST HAVE! In all seriousness this section was epic. It couldn’t have come at a better time! I can’t wait to read this (i’m a glutton for pwnage)!

  10. 10Karen B
    Apr 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Craig, In unconscious ways, my parents taught me that to worry about someone, meant you loved them. Their level of concern, fear & worry about me and my choices was to be taken as indicators of their love for me. Now, many years after the fact, I struggle with letting go of this misguided concept. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. 11Dwight Weber
    Apr 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    hey, any chance you’ll be working on a Video Series based on the book. I lead a small group that would love to deal with the material. I need video because so many just don’t read but still need to get the insights shared in the book. give it some thought please…

  12. Apr 20, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I was at universal studios last week & I used to worry a lot every time I ride roller coasters. Thinking something might go wrong, but after reading your book I was able to enjoy all the rides. This statement stuck in my mind from your book. Do what you can and let God do what you can’t. Great book pastor Craig!

  13. 14Joy
    Apr 21, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I was beginning to think that I was the only one who held this belief on worry. I have been wrestling with worry for years. But in 2010, I decided that there was no more reason for it. Though I have endured some difficult situations, and am currently in one now, I know that God is bigger than this situation and that my faith in him is what I need to worry about, not petty things like missing the bus. God uses us when we aren’t selfishly thinking about our own situation. By no means have I been cured from worrying, but I know that I’m finally recovering from this disease. Thanks for the encouragement today. Be blessed!

  14. 15Will Garrison
    Apr 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

    That’s great stuff…..I have been working on a message for our Network Church about this subject(it seems to be in the water). Great insight, thanks!

  15. Apr 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I love reading this book! It’s great re-alignment tool and inspirer!

    I don’t want to read today’s post, no offense :), because I want to read it in the book!!! I’m excited for it though (I couldn’t help but read a little bit of it :))!

  16. 17James
    Apr 22, 2010 at 1:22 am

    This book has so many good insights and covers alot of practical things that relates to so many peoples lives and Christian walk. Was wondering if you are planning on forming a sermon series around this book?

  17. Apr 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    James, Craig already had a powerful series that actually led to the writing of this book!

    You can find it on - it’s a four-week series entitled “Practical Atheist”.

    Very good series…the Holy Spirit was powerfully working through the it!

  18. Apr 24, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Thanks for this observation. I actually wrote recently about this. Trusting God. Thank you, again.

  19. Apr 26, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Pastor Craig, thank you for the post. It was very encouraging as I sometimes worry too much. I shouldn’t have to worry because God has everything under control. I bought your Christian Atheist book… and look very forward to reading it. I actually got it for my husband, but he wasn’t interested in reading it. :( He won’t even read my blog because it’s about God… I guess I’ll have to read it myself and use it as ammo the next time we have discussions about God. ;p My husband grew up a Catholic; however, he is very far from God now… I would appreciate if anyone reading this can pray for him. Thanks in advance! :)

  20. Apr 26, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Pastor Craig, it was a privilege to be able to meet you on Church Online just now for the first time. :) God brought me there at that hour for a reason. God is awesome! Hope to be able to meet you in person one day and get you to autograph the Christian Atheist. Thanks again for your prayers. It really meant alot to me. After watching the “Ghost” series (, I now understand the holy spirit so much better. Now, I also include in my prayer that the holy spirit will come upon my husband and reveal Himself to him. My husband has never felt that comforting and peaceful feeling when he prays. He has too many barriers in his heart… :(

  21. 22Peter
    Apr 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Great book, I enjoyed it immensely. My mother is a chronic worrier. She’s not “happy” unless she is worried about something and actually worried me into an ulcer at age 18. Very sad indeed. In her eyes, something bad happens every single day. I, on the other hand, do not feel the same way.

  22. Apr 27, 2010 at 7:50 am

    SO good!

  23. Apr 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Peter, praying for you and your family!!

  24. Apr 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Craig, you are my hero, because you tell the truth and you are honest about yourself. For years I was looking for some Christian leader that would not try to look better, more successful and sleek, but who would tell their bad stories and honest observations about themselves. Then I found you. Now, you are my model for this and your books and your messages are life giving source for young pastors like me. Thank you more than you can ever imagine.

  25. Apr 30, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Loved Christian Atheist and felt the Holy Spirit convicting me about areas in my life where I can be an “atheist.” This is book has been one of my favorites to read this year.

  26. May 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Read Chapter 8 this week!

    Very good chapter…and I thought I wasn’t a worrier :)

    In all honesty, I used to call my mom out all the time for worrying about us (her kids), but a while back I realzed just how much I worry too. Recently, I forgot how I worry and was living with it. I’m glad the book helped me see how much I’ve been worrying.

    Worry is like a little demon in your brain, jumping around and stressing you out about everything. (That’s kind of a weird image, but that’s how I’m describing it for now).

    Thanks for the great book!

  27. May 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    [...] in a GOD of strength, but worrying constantly ( [...]

  28. Jul 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

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