"Therefore do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 6:31-34 NRSV)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
To protect the consumer, Congress passed a law years ago that required any potentially dangerous merchandise to have a warning label attached. Today you sometimes see wording such as this in big, bold letters on an item deemed harmful: "Warning: This product may be hazardous to your health!"
Perhaps you think a duly elected legislative body began this practice. But Jesus attached a warning label to our fears and anxieties more than 2,000 years ago when he figuratively said:
Don’t worry about tomorrow’s trouble today. That is both hazardous and dangerous!
Such is the advice I give you as 2009 begins. With each new year, the main sin of which we all are guilty is that of being anxious, fearful, and worried about the future. We’ve become experts in borrowing tomorrow’s troubles and worrying about them today.
When we do that, we rob from our strengths today and waste our energies on what may never come to be.
"What Worries You?" is a workshop in which I took part. Participants spent two days taking a long, hard look at fears that keep people awake at night.
Each was asked to write down the tangible things that most troubled him or her. Everyone struggled to list the truly concrete threats that pressed upon us. At the end of 30 minutes, the result was a list of vague, hard-to-describe fears.
That’s the nature of worry. It looms large in your imagination, but when you try to identify it, isolate it, and draw it out, that is not easy. I like this quote: Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it never takes you anywhere!
At the conclusion of that workshop, a "Worry Chart" summarized:
- 40 percent of what we worry about never happens.
- 30 percent of our worries are about things that belong to the past.
- 12 percent of our worries deal with health issues.
- 10 percent of our worries deal with petty, miscellaneous ideas or what others say about us.
- 8 percent of our worries are real and legitimate!
Can you believe only 8 percent of your worries are genuine and justifiable?
J. Arthur Rank, a 20th-century author, had a very special way of handling worries. Rank decided he would do all his worrying on one day—Wednesday—and created what he called his "Wednesday Worry Box." When a worry emerged any other day, he wrote it down and put it in that box. When he opened the box on Wednesday, he discovered most of what disturbed him had been resolved.
I’m not asking you to govern your life by those percentages, nor am I inviting you to create your own "Worry Box." I am pleading with you to heed Jesus’ advice in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus states a truth we cannot ignore: Every day comes with its share of troubles, and today’s troubles are enough for today!
A sin by any other name
Yes, I named worry as a sin. Furthermore, I place that sin in the category "lack of faith."
Worrying indicates you do not trust God with the future, no matter how good God has been to you in the past. This is nothing less than lack of faith. To this faithlessness, add the sin of ingratitude for God’s countless mercies—from years past and up to this very minute.
Read again the Scripture passage. Jesus did not deny you will have daily troubles. The Year 2009 will bring its share; everyone will be tested. But as you journey, be assured that God wants you to walk by faith. God who has given you life also will provide, day after day, what is necessary for you.
Be wise; concern yourself with the Holy One’s purpose for your life. Concentrate on living each day to the fullest for the glory of God. That will cure the harmful effects of worry and make possible abundant life for you in the here and now.
The same God who takes care of the sparrows and provides for the lilies of the field most definitely takes care of His children who trust, love, and seek to do God’s good will.
Let us pray together
At the portal of a year, with an unknown way before us, we are aware, O God, that you are Sovereign and Lord of all the earth. By your will, new things can happen in the world; by your power, old evils may be defeated and made to yield good. Every stick and stone, every sun and star, obeys your laws. Your grace and truth still come to us through the living Christ. The Spirit guides us and comforts us along the journey of life.
Your greatness, O Lord, is our confidence; your righteousness is our assurance; your grace is our sustenance; your purposes are our hope; and your will is our peace. Amen.