By: Dr. John Parankimalil, SDB
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the world we live in. Worry is taking its toll on the world today and most people are worried about getting COVID-19. People are worried about their daily provision, their employment, their future, their health, their finances, their children, their family and safety. This worry is causing a lot of “anxiety,” “depression,” “mental disturbance,” “unknown fear” etc. Whatever it may be, worrying has become a part of our life style. Some of us worry more than others. But regardless of whether you worry much or worry little, worry is a real and dangerous fact of our existence. The harm that worry causes in our lives has been well documented by health professionals and others. Worry can weaken and sicken us, and make our days unbearable.
At the very least, it prevents us from living fully and happily the only life that we will ever have. It steals the bloom from the cheek and lightness from the pulse; it takes away the appetite and turns the hair grey. At its worse, it can destroy us. Do you realize how much worrying you really do? Worrying about almost everything has become a way of life for many. Is it your way of life? Have you ever thought about what it would take in order for you to become worryfree? ‘Worry’is an Anglo-Saxon word which means ‘harm’. Another form of the word is ‘wolf’. It is something harmful and bites and tears, as a wolf which mangles a sheep. Still another meaning of the word is, “to strangle.” Worry will put its icy hand around your throat and begin to strangle you. It tries to destroy every part of your life. It is an assailant that violently and aggressively attacks you over and over again, trying to choke the life and joy of God out of you.
According to Corrie ten Boom, “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow – it empties today of its strength”. One of the easiest and elegant phrases to say, yet so difficult to live by is, “Don’t worry, be happy!” Remember, before you can help others deal with their worries; you need to let God deal with your worry. Jesus told us this, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Of course, the answer is No. You can’t keep yourself from catching COVID-19 through worry. It won’t keep your family from getting sick. It won’t help you keep your lockdown open either. Worry just makes your problems worse because you can’t move a step closer to solving them. Worry can’t change your past. It can’t change your present or future either. All it can do is mess up your present.
Proverbs 12:25 says, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” You weren’t made to worry.
In fact, it wears you out more than just about anything else. A growing up child worries about the bodily changes, appearance, performance in school and acceptance among peers etc. Employed people worry at work. It is said that many Directors of many Companies suffer highest incidences of death from heart disease, ulcers, suicide, and strokes. A housewife worries about her mother-in-law, relatives, absentee maids, power cuts, water shortages, children’s education etc. A working woman worries about travelling in crowded buses, taxies or trains, about her bottom getting pinched, facing an abnormal boss in her office, about buying vegetables on the way home, and about making it in time to prepare tea for her irritable husband who’s just returned from office himself. Parents worry about their children experimenting with drugs or getting into bad company and becoming a prey to addictive habits etc.
Thus, worry is a pandemic in itself. It infiltrates businesses and brings them crashing down, it roars through homes likes a tornado, leaving in its wake smashed family relationships – bitter and frustrated parents, and insecure, emotionally damaged children. It drives some to spend fortunes on psychotherapy and others into psychiatric care. No matter our life circumstance and stage, we can find something to worry about. By Nature we all are fragile, short-lived and sadlived, we do not trust in God as we should. We naturally trust in other things in place of God.
Three times in the Sermon on the Mount, Lord Jesus said, “do not worry about,” (Matthew 6:25- 33). Jesus illustrates God’s intimate care for His creatures, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” And why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field. See how they grow. If God makes what grows in the field so beautiful, what do you think he will do for you? It’s just grass— one day it’s alive, and the next day someone throws it into a fire. But God cares enough to make it beautiful. Surely he will do much more for you. Jesus points us to the birds and the lilies as our constant instructors. He says, “If God takes care of the birds, isn’t He going to take care of you?” The birds are not busy cultivating, harvesting, and storing up their food. Instead they wake in the morning and sing praises to God for the daily bread that He has given them. And at night they sing the melodies of worship in confidence that God will again provide for them the rest and all they need. Jesus tells us that such is the trust of God’s creatures in His providence and care. God considers us more valuable than the birds for which He provides.
Therefore, we can be even more confident that God will provide us with what we need. Likewise, the flowers in the fields are dressed in colours that put richest king Solomon’s glory to shame. Yet they don’t spend their time considering colours or deciding when to bloom. They do so according to the pleasure of God who cares for them with the rains and sunshine in their due season. Now if God cares so much for the birds and grasses, don’t you think that He cares for you? Of course, He does. Your father in Heaven knows that you need these things and while this is not a promise that believers will never go without food or clothing, it is a call to put your trust in something more substantial than the things that wear out and fall apart. Bible says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. (Philippians. 4:6) How do you win over Worry? The answer is simple, yet deeply profound. It is an answer given by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. His answer to getting the needs of life met was this, ‘Jesus answered, “Have faith in God.”’(Mark 11:22) If we trust God, worry will be replaced by faith and the knowledge that God will provide for us. Remember worry and depression focus yourself inward, upon your own emotions and needs. But Faith focuses you upon God, your Father.
Faith remembers that He will always see to the needs of His beloved children, who are worth far more in His heart than birds and flowers. Jesus sums up His teaching about worry with these words, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” With God on our side, we do not need to worry about our needs. He will supply our needs, and not necessarily out wants. We have to balance our desires with God’s wisdom and blessing. If we believe in him, he will take care of our needs and we can concentrate on living one day at a time. Don’t steal your whole future by bringing its worries into today. Jesus said it this way, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). You have enough on your plate today. Don’t add anything else. You ought to understand the Cost. Worry is absolutely useless. It never dried a tear, lifted a burden, or solved a problem. Worse yet, it’s harmful.
Like sand in machinery, worry won’t lengthen your life, but it may shorten it. You can worry yourself to death but not into a longer life. Worry is contagious—it spreads gloom everywhere, taking the joy out of today and the strength out of tomorrow. When we pile tomorrow’s problems onto today, it breaks us down. You arrive at tomorrow out of breath because you’ve been carrying today a double load that God didn’t intend. Worry buries our blessing and steals our joy and strength. Worry is a wound in the heart of God. “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Mathew 6: 30). Worry is an insult to God. Thus, Worry is not just a weakness; it’s wickedness. When we walk with God, our faith will consume our fears. Because God provides for us, we can blossom and thrive. Peter says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7). God is big enough and strong enough to handle all your worries. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Jesus says, redirect your focus to what really matters. “Worry is a warning light that you have an area you haven’t fully given over to God. When God isn’t number one, in your life, you’ll worry. When you love something more than God, it becomes a source of stress and anxiety in your life. Even good things—like your marriages, your children, and your work—can become sources of worry if you give them first place in your life. When anything becomes an idol in your life, it creates insecurity and worry. When you worry, it is a sign of an unhealthy relationship with God. It shows that you value material goods more than you value the heavenly Father. You need to see him as a loving father who may allow you to experience life’s difficulties but who always takes care of your needs.
Instead of worrying, you need to choose faith, and the only way to increase your faith is to seek God and start praying. When you put God first, you will find the proper balance in your life because God will provide for your needs. Jesus says in John 14:1, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” You could say this beautiful prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943. It is called 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.” (The writer is the Director, Don Bosco Institute of Management, Guwahati)