Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Worry


Sunset, Monroe County


Here are some thoughts about worry.

Of all the things I have worried about in my life, I estimate that less than 5% have come to pass. I have spent too much time worrying about things that came to nothing.

Worry, anxiety, fear… I’ve experienced them all. You have, too. What kind of person would not worry? One answer is: someone who had their brain removed. But then, of course, they wouldn’t be able to enjoy their worry-free life.

How is it possible to have the brains we have and move into greater freedom from worry? The answer Jesus gives is this: a person who trusts in God would not worry. “Trust” and “worry” do not go together. 

Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 6:25-34. Slow down and re-listen to these words.

Therefore I tell you, 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? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
Are you not much more valuable than they? 
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 
And why do you worry about clothes? 
See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

So... 

1. 
Worrying adds nothing to our lives. I’ve read studies that claim worrying actually subtracts from the days of one’s life. Worrying is non-productive. Worry, anxiety, and fear immobilize, and lead to non-action. Worrying makes worrisome situations worse. If today you are worried about something, rest assured that “worry” will not make the situation better and, in some cases, will make it worse because of the resultant non-activity.

2. Trusting in God will lead to basic needs being provided. We must distinguish between basic needs, and personal wants and desires. I have found myself, at times, worrying about something that I don’t even really need. This is a true waste of emotional time and energy!

3. Some run after material things as a cure for worry. But even acquisition can be worrisome. Richard Foster, in A Celebration of Discipline, argues that the more material things a person has, the more things they have to worry about. 

Here I am reminded of research I’ve done on materialistic cultures and levels of anxiety. Dr. David Augsburger wrote a brilliant study showing how some cultures, who have little materially, do not have a lexical entry for “anxiety,” because the condition is nonexistent. These cultures are tribal. In them, the community absorbs the worry. 

Thankfulness is an antidote to worry. I have found that when I am thankful for what I have, rather than needing to have more things to be thankful for, I am more at peace in myself.

“Worry” is the tip of an iceberg. Melt off the tip, and more surfaces. To get rid of the tip, get rid of the entire iceberg. 

Spiritually, this is about our heart. I am asking God to heal my heart that is still too consumed with the cares of this world. Only then can He use me to help others with their cares and concerns. The more self-obsessive I am, the less good I am to others.

Here are some things to get help and healing from worry.

- Keep a spiritual journal. Write down your fears and worries, and give them to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”

- Re-read your journal periodically. Remembering how God has been with you in the past gives hope for the present.

- Saturate your heart, soul, and mind with God-things. Do not let the news surrounding the reporting of the pandemic occupy every room of your heart. I have found that when I make it my first priority to fill my heart and mind with God-things, I gain an eternal perspective on world-things. While the coronavirus is real, surely some of the fears accompanying it will not happen.

- Separate your real needs from your mere wants. Observe how our American materialistic culture works to create false needs within us that lead to false anxiety over a) either not having such things, or b) over having them and needing to care for them, protect them, store them, worship them, etc.

- Follow Jesus more intently and more intensely. Read Matthew 25 about what Jesus says in regard to helping the poor and needy. Take His words seriously and move towards others. As you begin doing this, you will find that your own cares and worries diminish.

- Make a list of blessings you are thankful for. Carry it with you, pull it out occasionally, and re-read it.

Trust God. Trust is not an emotion, but an action. Trust in God and worry cannot coexist in the same human heart.

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