We worry about our weight, lifespan, children, money, salvation, marriage, hair loss, memory loss, income loss. We worry a lot about loss. We worry whether we got a good deal on our car, our house, our insurance, our investments, our relationships. We worry about being late to church, work, a dental appointment.
We worry about nukes in Iran and North Korea, and if China will turn off the financial tap. While we pop antidepressants we worry about drugs in the schools. While we stand in a check-out line we worry about our checking account balance.
We worry about getting enough sleep, enough vitamins, enough love, enough R&R, enough money, enough recognition, enough affirmation. Sometimes we worry that we worry too much.
Much of my life has involved habitual worry. When I was a kid sometimes I would get my hands on a copy of Mad Magazine. I was intrigued by Alfred E. Neuman’s goofy never-care grin and tag-line: “What – me worry?” How could anyone not worry? There was so much to be worried about! Mind you, I grew up during the Cold War when school kids were taught to dive into the imaginary bunker under their desks. But still…
One of the things I liked best about drinking alcohol was the temporary reprieve from worrying. That is a terrible long-term strategy, I assure you. My preferred coping strategy of getting drunk made things much worse, in fact.
I wonder who else has pondered the reason for all the minutiae of the Old Testament: the seemingly relentless battles and slaughter of entire villages, the endless sacrifices and offerings, the soap-opera digest of people’s lives – good and bad. The leprosy, wild animals, the very real possibility of dying of thirst or hunger, enemy attacks, captivity, slavery, and all those laws and rules and statutes. And the wrath of God. Let’s not forget the wrath of God. If anyone had reason to worry, it certainly seems it should be the Old Testament Israelites.
I have never had a reason to worry about any of the things they had to deal with. I have mundane, boring worries: primarily job security and cholesterol. Reading Jesus Calling this morning, it dawned on me that there was no job security in biblical times… unless you were a soldier, religious elite, or royalty, perhaps. But in those careers, life expectancy was highly uncertain. Those soldiers would laugh at my cholesterol.
According to Psychology Today, the effects of stress from worry on the human body are… well, worrisome.
- Persistently elevated blood pressure and heart rate raises your risk of cardiovascular disease, which is already the leading cause of death in the developed world.
• A depressed immune system makes it harder for your body to fight off all sorts of diseases, including cancer, or battle them once you do get sick.
• Stress reduces the protective fluids in the lining of the digestive system exacerbating the risk and severity of ulcers and other digestive disorders.
• Stress changes blood chemistry, and if persistent, those changes raise your risk of diabetes.
• Those chemistry changes are also why chronic stress is associated with greater likelihood of clinical depression.
• Chronic stress impairs the formation of new fast-growing cells, like bone, and hair. Worry a lot, for a long time, and you can go bald.
• Chronic stress reduces your ability to form some new memories, and recall others. At high levels, stress literally dumbs you down.
• Stress depresses fertility.
God tells us not to worry. God also tells us how to not worry. Have faith. Trust. Wait. These are counter-intuitive, I think. I want to spring into action to mitigate my worries. Not so fast, God says.
It all comes down to whether we believe – in our heart of hearts – that God is good, knows what He is doing, and will take care of us. Easy to say; difficult to embrace. When reading Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, did you catch what the passers-by were saying?
“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” Matthew 27:42
Prove you can save yourself, God, and we will believe in You. I don’t believe the proposition was true then, or now. At this most significant moment in time when we should have been very worried… we chose to mock God Himself.
My goodness, we are a tough nut to crack. And arrogant, to boot. Present-day humans are not immune. Whether in word or deed or thought, we have all mocked God in some way.
We shouldn’t worry about all of that other stuff so much, and worry more about the darkness in our hearts. There’s something to be worried about.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7