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COLUMN: Worry does not have to consume you

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By Steve Gettinger

Today’s scripture comes from Luke 12:22-34:
“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, 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. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Somewhere I read some statistics about what people worry about that went something like this:
An average person worries about the following:
40 percent — things that will never happen
30 percent — things about the past that can’t be changed                                         
12 percent — being criticized or gossiped about                                      
10 percent — about our health, which gets worse by worrying about it.                                         
8 percent — about actual problems that we can do something about
If these statistics are even close to accurate, it is a sad situation that should be changed. If we spend about 82 percent of our worrying time thinking about things we can’t do anything about, then why are we worrying about them?
Regarding the other 18 percent of things that are actual problems, we might not want to spend our energy worrying about them, but actually do something to address the problem or concern.
We could pray for wisdom and God’s help, then make a plan and execute it with the help of God.
Jesus had this to say about worry and anxiety:
“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:22-26)
As Christians, when we worry, aren’t we are really saying one of two things about God? Either we do not believe that God is powerful enough to help us, or we believe he is powerful enough to help us, but he doesn’t really care about helping us.
Either way, doesn’t worrying show a lack of faith and trust in God? Worry is spiritually unhealthy and physically unhealthy for us.
When Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” He probably was giving us a warning that worrying and anxiety can actually be taking hours off of our physical life span.
Modern medicine teaches that stress and anxiety may cause a variety of disorders that will shorten our lives.
Why then, in spite of all the harm that worry does, do we still worry?
I think a big part of why we worry has to do with our sinful nature. The corruption of sin brought frustration, anger, distrust, injury, illness, death, etc. into this world. Worry is part of the package that comes with original sin and the sinful nature with each of us and that we all struggle with.
What then can be done about worry?
When worry begins to creep into our lives we need to turn to the medicine of God’s holy word, the Bible, to remind our sinful nature that in Christ we have been given a new life and a new nature, a Godly nature, that trusts in God and his holy word. God’s word tells us that:
“…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
Jesus tells us not to worry about clothes and food and asked us to consider something:
“Consider the lilies, 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. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried” (Luke 12:27-29).
Jesus gently chides us for worrying about temporal things like food and clothes because it can distract us from what is really important for us and our families — eternal things. Jesus has so much more for us than clothes, food and material possessions. He does not want you to spend all of your time and effort in pursuit of those things to the point that you shove God and all he has for you out of your life. Listen to the voice of Jesus as he imparts these words of wisdom to you about seeking your father in heaven:
“For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom … Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Let me ask you, where is your heart and what do you treasure? Money? Things? God?
The next time you are tempted to worry or begin to worry about things:
-let the holy spirit remind you that you are a baptized forgiven child of God.
-let him remind you that Jesus has redeemed you from sin, death and the power of the devil with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.
-let him remind you that you are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus and not even the flowers of the fields are arrayed as gloriously.
-let him remind you that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
I close with the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Amen.