Are You Worried?

Since we will not be holding in-person worship this morning, I wanted to offer a short meditation. I hope you will read it as you take a little Sabbath time to sit with God, reflect, and pray.

Worry.  Can we be honest and say that there’s a lot of worry going on right now in our communities, nation, and the world because of the Coronavirus outbreak?  Yes, it seems worry is on the uptake right now.  When I experience worry or other negative emotions, such as anxiety and fear, I turn to scripture to search for words of comfort, hope, peace, and assurance.

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about Paul’s letter to the Philippians (what some like to call Paul’s joy letter, which he wrote from a prison cell).  In it, he writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”[1]  These words from Paul are the antidote to the ‘worry problem.’
Yet, following Paul’s advice about worry and focusing on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, and worthy of praise is often easier said than done.

Even so, worry is what you make it.  The word worry is from an Anglo-Saxon word which means “to choke or to strangle.”  And, that is exactly what worry does.  It destroys our joy and it can affect our total being; affecting even our physical well-being. Worry is an energy-depleting cycle.  If you are going to change the worry habit try thinking about this: “If it is to be, it’s up to me!”  Even God cannot help us until we place our trust in God.

When I was a police patrol officer, I often had to handle animal complaints when the animal warden was not on duty.  One afternoon, there was one such call in which the animal warden had loaned a trap to a woman in order to capture a raccoon that had made a home under her deck.  The woman called the police department to say that the trap worked, but it had caught a squirrel instead.  When I arrived, the squirrel was frantically running around and around in circles trying to find a way out of the cage.  A squirrel in a cage is one way to describe worry; around and around it goes and achieves nothing!

It has been determined by case studies that 92 percent of what we worry about never happens.  Perhaps that is something we should all remember when our worries seem to overwhelm us.  For instance, a man in his 80’s was respected for his good disposition.  When asked about such spirit and cheerfulness, he replied: “I have it all figured out,” he said.  “Only eight percent of the things I have worried about in my life has ever come to pass.  So, I don’t worry because if 92 percent of my fears fail to come true, I have at least enough faith to handle what’s left.”[2]   Now that is the proper attitude!

Worry, for the most part, is a matter of focus.  When you worry you focus on things out of your control instead of things you can control.  So, if you want to begin living out Paul’s advice about worry, then take charge of your own destiny and decide today to trust God and let God help you.  With God, you have the power to change your circumstances and your life!  With God, you can change your focus.  Use your God-given power and turn negative thoughts around to positive thoughts.  Smile and laugh every chance you get and associate with positive, hopeful people.  Read a good book.  Go for a walk.  Get some physical exercise; physical activity breaks the cycle of doom and releases energy into your lethargic body.  Listen to music.  Sing your favorite hymns.  Think of happy times and happy thoughts.  Say to yourself several times a day: “God loves me and nothing can change that!”  Sit quietly while you concentrate on and visualize the presence of God all around you.  Above all, pray!  Prayer helps you think with perspective and sound logic about what’s bothering you.  Prayer changes your focus and puts you in touch with the power of God.  Before long the peace that passes all understanding will be yours.

Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and the things of this world.”[3]   That is the root of the ‘worry problem.’  When we worry, we shift our focus from God to worldly things.  Thinking of worldly things always leaves us going around like a squirrel in a cage.  Why?  Because it offers no permanent solution to the insecurities of life.  All worldly solutions are temporary; here today, gone tomorrow!  Tomorrow, troubles will come again.

My grandmother used to say, “If you’re worried, do something for somebody else, and you will be surprised how quickly you forget your worries.”  She was right.  It dispels that hopeless sense that is at the heart of worry.  Therefore, another way to banish worry is to serve God.  When you are serving God, there is little room for worry.  So, during this time of “social distancing” maybe it would be a good time to call and check up on a friend or neighbor to see how they are doing.  Offer them the love of Christ.  Let them know you and our congregation are here for them if they need something.  By the way, this is a great time for us as a church to think of creative ways to help others outside our church walls since we cannot use our building for the next few weeks.

Finally, start seeing things from God’s point of view and “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”[4]  Have a safe and healthy week everyone, and I pray “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Be sure to reach out to me if you need anything.

In Christ,
Pastor Matt

[1] Philippians 4:6-8 NRSV
[2] Glendon Harris, Lection Aid
[3] Matthew 6:24, paraphrased
[4] Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus, UMH, 349

The photo of our Lord’s Table shows the flower arrangement designed and offered by Judy Hillow for Sunday, March 15th.