So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.
[This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching about materialism and worrying. He is explaining to his disciples how they can be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23)].
I remember when I first read this scripture I felt really hopeless. For one thing, I was reading the whole Sermon on the Mount wrong. I wasn’t reading it like a commentary on how to interpret the Law and how to live an abundant life; I was reading it through a lens that said, “If you don’t do all of these things perfectly you are a worthless piece of crap and will surely go to hell.” This particular scripture was a big problem for me because I have always been a worrier, even as a child. A chronic worrier with anxiety, panic attacks, and all the rest of it (see Day 50).
I guess there are a lot of reasons for it. My mom was a worrier. She worried about money and also that my dad would die of lung cancer because he was a smoker. My dad worried about the Cold War so we had a fallout shelter. I was instructed both at home and at school what do in case of a nuclear apocalypse. As I grew up I worried about getting sick, being a social outcast, getting hurt in a car accident, being left homeless by a tornado, losing my parents, failing at love, being poor, and being spirited away by things that go bump in the night. I really thought that worrying was an inevitable consequence of intelligence. I worried because I saw the world as cruel and dangerous place and was convinced it was an appropriate response. I thought that if I stopped worrying, I would get careless and open the door for whatever disaster was lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce.
On November 5, 1997 when I had an experience with God that changed everything. On that night, after evening prayer, I had a powerful experience with the Holy Spirit. I found myself immersed in a sea of love and peace and calm. Wave after wave of love and goodness washed over me for about a half an hour. This experience, which I later learned is referred to in the tradition of the church as an ecstasy, initiated a 3-year period for complete freedom from worry. For three whole years I didn’t worry about a thing. It was like I was floating through life on a cloud and nothing could touch me. Gradually it kind of wore off and many years later I’m back to worrying, but nothing like before. Once you’ve had an experience like that you are not the same.
God met me and healed me of something that I thought was such an essential part of me that I never dreamed I could change it. I thought I was a worrier and that’s the way it was. What a great gift it was to be free from worry, even for a day or a week let alone 3 years!
My perspective is different now. I know that most things aren’t worth worrying about because things usually turn out OK in the long run. I still get nervous, afraid, and anxious when life gets tough, but since my “vacation from worry” I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Catastrophes are very rare. Not every storm is a tornado. Not every pain is cancer. People don’t die every time they get sick. Not every accident is fatal. Perhaps most important, you only die once. I learned that it’s God’s intent that we should have a positive view of the world and of our lives. I learned that having an optimistic view doesn’t make me weak or vulnerable. I was never stronger or more productive than I was when I was in that worry-free state.
Jesus is right. Worrying accomplishes nothing. It just increases your stress and adds to your troubles. Now when I worry I recognize it as unhealthy thinking. For me it causes headaches and sleeplessness. And serious crabbiness. Yup, more trouble.
And of course life does indeed have its problems. Jesus confirms this. But when you persist in mentally rehearsing for something bad to happen, it can become a reality in your mind. It wears you down so that you have even fewer emotional resources available when something bad really happens.
So in this last installment on this subject, Jesus encourages us to stay worry-free. We should enjoy every problem-free moment so that we will be better able to cope when challenges actually arise. We should rejoice in our lives and celebrate each new day! Don’t let the devil get into your head and steal your joy! Whatever lies ahead will take care of itself. Just stay connected to God and share your love with those around you. Rest in the Spirit and soak in God’s love. It will all come out OK in the end.
Like cartoonist Bil Keane said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
A very good gift indeed. A worry-free zone called the present.
What does this scripture say to you?