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Superstitions: Worry, Control, and Trust (by Joe Scheumann)

crossed fingers by discoodoni

Introducing Joe

I met Joe last summer, as he was one of the instructors on the Training Leaders International trip to India and the Highlands.

We had lots of stimulating theological discussions, and God gave us a rich heart connection.

A few days ago he sent me this post, and asked if it might be helpful for my blog.  Since I am swamped preparing for our move to Abu Dhabi, the timing was perfect.  Thanks, Joe!



I noticed something while I was watching a sporting event a few weeks ago. I was watching a game and the team I wanted to win was losing.  I decided to grab a Pepsi and suddenly the team I was cheering for started to do better and suddenly was winning. By this time I was done with my Pepsi, but I didn’t want to put my can down because what if my team started to lose when I did?

This story is embarrassing because it’s true. But it’s harmless, right? At one level, holding a Pepsi can for good luck is silly and doesn’t change the outcome of a game; however, at a deeper level, what I thought about the Pepsi can was a window into my heart.

How Superstitions Work

Besides being irrational, superstitions are about worry and control. Let’s analyze what was going on in my heart and mind during that sporting event.

  • First, I was worried about the future. I didn’t control the outcome of the game, and the outlook was bleak.
  • Second, I noticed a correlation to my holding the Pepsi can and the results improving.
  • Third, I held on to my can of Pepsi like a kind of charm in order to control the outcome of the game.

Our goal in turning to superstitions is to try to either bring good things our way or help us avoid the bad. We are often painfully aware of our lack of control and will do whatever it takes to make us think we have control—including hold on to a Pepsi can for “good luck.”

What’s the Big Deal?

Superstitions can be about anything. Don’t step on a crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back. Black cats bring bad luck, Number 13 is unlucky too! But a lucky rabbit’s foot might counter-balance the bad luck of your black cat. Knock on wood. Cross your fingers!

Even though superstitions seem harmless, they point to a heart that is not trusting God. We know we are being superstitious when we look to objects, patterns of speaking, or personal tics instead of God for help. When we cling to our superstitions, we rewrite Psalm 20:7 this way, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of our good luck charm.”

Instead of bringing us to the true Rock and true Salvation, superstitions keep our eyes on ourselves and what we are doing to keep control. But God calls us—for His glory and our good—to lift up our eyes to Him.

Hope for Worry-Warts

When we lift our eyes upon God, we remember that he hasn’t left us alone. God’s word gives us specific promises and tells us we have a God who provides, a God who is our true treasure, and a God who comforts.

1. Father is our Provider

Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount are a treasure trove of hope for those who worry. When we’re tempted to worry, Jesus tells us to look at creation:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these (Matthew 6:26–29).

We don’t have to rely on our lucky rabbit’s foot for good luck because we have a heavenly Father who cares for us, and because he cares for us, he provides for our needs.

2. Jesus is our Treasure

In this same context of worry, Jesus gives his disciples a surprising command, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:34). But what does seeking first the kingdom have to do with worry and superstition? Ed Welch explains,

One of the strategies for dealing with worry is to be overtaken by something more important than the object of your worries. Jesus is showing us what is more important. A new kingdom was being inaugurated, and it was present even as Jesus spoke those words because he is its King. This new kingdom is so beautiful and important that it can override our worries about everyday concerns like food and clothing (Running Scared, 106).

Jesus says elsewhere that he is the water that forever satisfies your thirst (John 4:13–14) and the bread that forever satisfies your hunger (John 6:35). But how does this keep us from worry? Ed Welch puts it this way, “If we don’t find our life and strength in Jesus Christ, we will go from one worry to the next” (Running Scared, 131).

When Jesus is our treasure and his kingdom is what we seek, our hearts are satisfied and worry and superstitions have no place.

3. Spirit is our Comforter

But what happens when worry overtakes us? What do we do when we are experiencing pain, uncertainty, and frustration and we’re tempted to turn to superstitions for control? Instead of leaving us, God, through his Spirit, draws near to us. Paul writes,

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

The very moment when we might be tempted to look elsewhere for help—perhaps to our superstitions—is when we should look to the comfort that God gives through his Spirit. God understands our pain and our cause for worry, and draws near to the broken hearted. When our pain is so raw that we can’t pray, remember that the Spirit is praying on our behalf.

When you’re tempted to worry, and even to rely on superstitions, remember that our triune God is for you. Our heavenly Father cares for you and will provide for your needs; Jesus has already fulfilled our heart’s deepest longings; and the Spirit is nearest when our pain is deepest and prays on our behalf when we are weakest.


Joseph Scheumann (@JosephScheumann) is a graduate of Bethlehem College and Seminary and blogs at Reflections Along the Way. He and his wife, Martha, live in Minneapolis.

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(Picture is from and is by discoodoni.)



Category: Fearful or Worried?


2 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    I want to thank you for this beautiful article. I am on my way to discovering and studying Gods word. I have been struggling aswell as many of us, with depression and lack of motivation to fufill my part in this world. I lost my sense of direction, but I am slowly finding my path again. I have opened myself up to God and surrendered to him. And I want to thank people such as Joseph for speaking to the hearts of the broken. It truly makes a difference. What really spoke to my was, “When our pain is so raw that we can’t pray, remember that the Spirit is praying on our behalf”. I really believe that God is saving each and every one of us, even when we don’t realize it. I hope everyone can find there way to God and surrender to our savior. God bless

    • Joseph Scheumann says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for passing along this encouragement. I praise God you were blessed by reading it. Keep on looking to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. He will keep us until the very end.

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