“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”
That old proverb came to mind as I read a study about the link between increased worry and stroke risk. After adjusting for other behaviors they discovered that those participants with the highest level of anxiety factors had a thirty-three percent higher risk of strokes than those in the lowest range of anxiety.
The study was sobering on a personal level. My Dad was a chronic worrier. He died from complications of a stroke. Worry steals joy and peace from its victims. I saw it with my Dad. I see it all around me.
As I get older I experience more and more how practical Scripture is for daily living. In the teaching of my youth the Bible was a book of lofty and seemingly impossible demands to behave in a way that would please God. Now I see that the Bible is a love story where Jesus met those impossible demands on my behalf. I see now that my simple faith and trust pleases God. And I see a practical book that shows me how to find joy during this temporary journey on earth. The Designer knew when we left the factory that worry is destructive. The study above merely confirms what Jesus said a couple of millenia ago.
“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? 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? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27, NLT)
Worries certainly cannot add a moment though it appears they can subtract. Jesus continues in the same message.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew, 6:31-34)
Our Designer knew something else. Most of what we consume ourselves with never happens or is not worth getting anxious about. Again, modern research comes along to verify ancient wisdom.
A research study examined how many times an imagined calamity actually came to pass. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen.
The remarkable results came back that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened! Slow down and digest that. Eighty-five percent of what we work ourselves into varied states of frenzy about never even happens. And here is the even more remarkable finding. For the 15 percent of the worry agenda that did happen, nearly 80 percent of the respondents reported they were able to deal with the concern better than expected or they learned a valuable lesson from the event. So 97 percent of what the majority of this study group worried about was not worth wasting the energy, faith and time.
Worry is exactly where the Enemy wants to keep the children of God. Living in fear of the future cheats you out of today. A precious moment tugs on your heart like a child at your sleeve. Too often you miss that moment concerning yourself with something that likely won’t happen or will happen in a way that your worry can not change.
For those of you who struggle with worry maybe it helps to remember that your Heavenly Father is always on the job. Entrepreneur Mary Crowley was famous for saying that she gave her worries to God when she went to bed because she knew He would be up all night. Worry is not an attribute of our God. I suspect that it grieves His heart that we are paralyzed with worry when our Father is calling us to know Him, trust Him and rest in Him.
Trusting Jesus for tomorrow, next week, next year and forever frees us to see what this moment holds. No amount of worry will change the fact that we will face death, adversity and sadness.
Worry causes you to take your eye off of the source of your strength. Jesus. He is your strength and your hope. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the words of a classic old church hymn will begin to ring true in your heart.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.