The Folly Of Worry
Let us now see if we can gather up Jesus' arguments against worry.
(i) Worry is needless, useless and even actively injurious. Worry cannot affect the past, for the past is past. Omar Khayyam was grimly right:
"The moving finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all thy piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it."
The past is past. It is not that a man can or ought to dissociate himself from his past; but he ought to use his past as a spur and a guide for better action in the future, and not as something about which he broods until he has worried himself into a paralysis of action.
Equally, worry about the future is useless. Alistair MacLean in one of his sermons tells of a story which he had read. A London doctor was the hero. "He was paralysed and bedridden, but almost outrageously cheerful, and his smile so brave and radiant that everyone forgot to be sorry for him. His children adored him, and when one of his boys was leaving the nest and starting forth upon life's adventure, Dr. Greatheart gave him good advice: 'Johnny,' he said, 'the thing to do, my lad, is to hold your own end up, and to do it like a gentleman, and please remember the biggest troubles you have got to face are those that never come.'" Worry about the future is wasted effort, and the future of reality is seldom as bad as the future of our fears.
But worry is worse than useless; it is often actively injurious. The two typical diseases of modern life are the stomach ulcer and the coronary thrombosis, and in many cases both are the result of worry. It is a medical fact that he who laughs most lives longest. The worry which wears out the mind wears out the body along with it. Worry affects a man's judgment, lessens his powers of decision, and renders him progressively incapable of dealing with life. Let a man give his best to every situation--he cannot give more--and let him leave the rest to God.
(ii) Worry is blind. Worry refuses to learn the lesson of nature. Jesus bids men look at the birds, and see the bounty which is behind nature, and trust the love that lies behind that bounty. Worry refuses to learn the lesson of history. There was a Psalmist who cheered himself with the memory of history: "O my God," he cries, "my soul is cast down within me." And then he goes on: "Therefore I remember Thee, from the land of Jordan, and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar" ( Psalms 42:6 ; compare Deuteronomy 3:9 ). When he was up against it, he comforted himself with the memory of what God had done. The man who feeds his heart on the record of what God has done in the past will never worry about the future. Worry refuses to learn the lesson of life. We are still alive and our heads are still above water; and yet if someone had told us that we would have to go through what we have actually gone through, we would have said that it was impossible. The lesson of life is that somehow we have been enabled to bear the unbearable and to do the undoable and to pass the breaking-point and not to break. The lesson of life is that worry is unnecessary.
(iii) Worry is essentially irreligious. Worry is not caused by external circumstances. In the same circumstances one man can be absolutely serene, and another man can be worried to death. Both worry and serenity come, not from circumstances, but from the heart. Alistair MacLean quotes a story from Tauler, the German mystic. One day Tauler met a beggar. "God give you a good day, my friend," he said. The beggar answered, "I thank God I never had a bad one." Then Tauler said, "God give you a happy life, my friend." "I thank God," said the beggar, "I am never unhappy." Tauler in amazement said, "What do you mean?" "Well," said the beggar, "when it is fine, I thank God; when it rains, I thank God; when I have plenty, I thank God; when I am hungry, I thank God; and since God's will is my will, and whatever pleases him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?" Tauler looked at the man in astonishment. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am a king," said the beggar. "Where then is your kingdom?" asked Tauler. And the beggar answered quietly: "In my heart."
Isaiah said it long ago: "Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in thee" ( Isaiah 26:3 ). As the north country woman had it: "I am always happy, and my secret is always to sail the seas, and ever to keep the heart in port."
There may be greater sins than worry, but very certainly there is no more disabling sin. "Take no anxious thought for the morrow"--that is the commandment of Jesus, and it is the way, not only to peace, but also to power.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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