1st April 2020
I know I am not supposed to worry, that it accomplishes nothing. But here’s the thing about worry – it seems so pointless in other people…until it hits us! We know all the promises; we try to “rest in the Lord”; we try to “wait patiently for Him”; we try to “fret not” and to “fear not.” “We’re too blessed to be stressed” is a great saying – until the stress comes. Sometimes waves of worry can wash all our confidence away and leave our minds looking like coastal towns after a tsunami. If I could switch metaphors, worry has been defined by one writer as “a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
The English word, “worry,” is derived from the old German word wurgen, which means “to choke.” Somehow, by extension, the word came to denote “mental choking,” and finally to describe the condition of being harassed with anxiety. For example, David had been anointed by Samuel and knew he would one day be king. Nevertheless, worry overwhelmed him on one occasion, and he “said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines … so shall I escape out of his hand.” (1 Sam 27:1). It is no contradiction that Paul, the man who told us to be “careful (anxious) for nothing” (Phil 4:6), should also tell us he had daily “care (anxiety) for all the assemblies” (2 Cor 11:28).
Some time ago, a Gallup poll found that large numbers of Americans were in the grip of worry. A simultaneous study by the University of Surrey in the UK warned that worry can have long-term chronic health consequences, including cardiovascular disease. What remedy did they suggest? The researchers recommended “more sleep, periods of deep breathing, walks in the forest, chocolate, and smelling grapefruits.”
I’m all for the chocolate treatment (I hear “dark” is good for the heart); but surely there is a better solution than sniffing grapefruits and eating Cadbury Mini Eggs!
In one concentrated passage, the Lord Jesus repeatedly used the same word about anxious care:
Matt 6:25, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”
Matt 6:27, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?”
Matt 6:28 “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:”
Matt 6:31, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”
Matt 6:34, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
I know we can only think logically about all this when we are not caught in the whirlpool of worry, but here is what our Savior says about anxiety:
Don’t allow it to make you forget what is of utmost importance (v25).
Don’t allow it to make you fret over things you can’t control (v27).
Don’t allow it to make you falter as to your confidence in God – your Heavenly Father cares for you (v28).
Don’t allow it to make you fall into the anxiety-laden mind-set of the unconverted (v31).
Don’t allow it to make you fear what the future holds (v34).
So, in the interests of total honesty, let me say that even though I know all this, I worry. In fact, I find myself worrying now more than ever. I worry for some assemblies that have grown smaller and need help. I worry for unconverted sinners I know and love. I worry for my nation. In the face of this virus, I worry for my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. Relatives and people whom I love are in the medical profession and I dread to think of their being exposed to this unseen terror. As finite beings in a fallen world, our minds are as prone to worry as our bodies are to pain. You would have as much success telling me to stop worrying as you would in telling me to stop feeling pain. BUT, our blessed Lord has not left us bereft of help or hope. We do not need to nurse those worries and allow them to become pangs of despair. John Bunyan knew this truth, and in his classic book (and if any non-biblical book can be called “immortal,” The Pilgrim’s Progress is the one!) he described Christian and Hopeful in Doubting Castle, prisoners of Giant Despair. Here are his words:
“Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in passionate speech: ‘What a fool,’ quoth he, ‘am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle.’ Then said Hopeful, ‘That’s good news; good Brother pluck it out of thy bosom and try.’ Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the Dungeon door, whose bolt (as he turned the Key) gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out.”
A key called promise! We, too, have a key called “Promise.” One man who heard the Saviour’s teaching, as it is recorded in Matthew 6, must have learned the lesson well. He left us with inspired words that inspire the heart. So eat your chocolate and smell the grapefruits if you wish. But this is a far better remedy for all of us and for all our worries:
“Casting ALL your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Pet 5:7).
New Jersey, USA