Why worry?

Not too long ago, a web ad caught my eye. It was something like: The Twelve Things Everyone Worries About. The thought that crossed my mind was, “Why twelve? Why not twenty? Why not twelve times twenty?”

Truth is we all worry. Some more than others. I try not to worry. Then I worry about why I can’t stop worrying. But, really, why do we worry?

Most of us are probably familiar with most of quotes on the following list (if I knew where these came from I would gladly give credit):

  • Worry pulls tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine.
  • Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.
  • God is an ever-present help in trouble; in worry you are on your own.
  • Worry is a prayer to the wrong God.
  • Worry is something we all do, even though our Lord specifically said: Do not worry!
  • Worry is oftentimes confused with legitimate concern, which entirely proper.
  • Sometimes worry masquerades as concern, duping no one but the worrier.
  • Worry is like time spent in a rocking chair; it keeps you busy, but gets you nowhere.
  • Or, perhaps you’ve read the following line in one of those “church bloopers” email that’s always making the rounds. It said: Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.

Against the backdrop of these ideas, consider the Apostle Paul’s inspired counsel in Philippians 4:6-7, which reads as follows:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (NLT)

More to the point are the words of Jesus, spoken during a sermon He preached on a mountainside. The Holy Spirit work through Matthew to preserve these words for us to ponder today. Jesus said:

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:24-34, NLT)

So, there we have an apostolic exhortation not to worry, combined with the Lord’s detailed instruction about why we needn’t worry.

Still, we worry. Why? Because we are human, that’s why. Because we are sometimes overwhelmed by life’s challenges, both big and small, especially when we must face a lot of them all at once. Because most days these challenges don’t announce they are coming, they just slap us down. And, before we can get back up something else comes along a smacks us a good one. Wave after wave they come–they keep coming. In my view, that’s a big part of why we worry. We are simply reacting to what comes our way

Rather than becoming frustrated and giving up in despair over the fact that we often worry when we know we shouldn’t, we should be stirred with the realization that we need help.

The Lord didn’t speak these words to us to set us up for failure. He spoke these words, I believe, so we would know He has our best interest at heart. He calmly reasoned with His followers in the context of one of the greatest challenges faced by humans, worrying about daily life. And, Jesus’ words of wisdom need to settle deep into our hearts:

Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs; (v.31) 

He will give you everything you need. (v. 32).

Oh! How sweet are His promises. How powerful are His promises. That’s why Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer” resonates with me. These words are not some mysterious formula that magically makes everything right. No. When expressed by a person of sincere faith — no matter how flawed, no matter how weak — who is seeking the reign of God in his or her life above all else, they provide a pathway to walk away from worry into the joy-filled presence of God. Niebuhr’s simple prayer is:

May God’s rich blessings attend to your every need. May the grace and peace of our Lord be your companions this day!

© Bill Williams, a fellow sojourner
September 6, 2016