Imagined fears are worse than they really are

Published 5:03 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2020

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By Hal Brady
Owner of a Christian ministry in Decatur, Georgia

It disturbs our sleep and impairs our vision. It makes us uptight and immobilizes us. It warps our character and saps our bodily strength. What is it? You guessed it if you said “worry.”

Worry has been defined as: “That cycle of ineffective thought and emotion which whirls around a thick center of fear.” Another definition of worry is “the feeling of being trapped.”

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Now, against this very human condition, we hear some blessed words of Jesus.

Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life” (Matthew 6:25). It is not ordinary, prudent foresight that Jesus is forbidding; it is worry. Jesus is not recommending some kind of reckless, thoughtless attitude toward life.

Rather, he is simply going against that worrisome, negative attitude that seems to get us down and destroys our lives.

Before we go any further, we need to acknowledge that not all worry is bad. Carl Mickelson noted, “Nothing significant is ever accomplished without worry, because worry spurs us to action and promotes conditions favorable to the carrying out of our commitment, thus reaffirms, the fact that we are supposed to worry about some things.”

Another helpful thing to worry about is the danger of the coronavirus if it causes us to heed the advice of our medical, scientific and governmental officials and do the common sense things that are recommended-washing hands frequently, using a sanitizer, wearing a mask if the situation demands, and staying home and in touch with a physician if ill.

Simply put, we are suppose to worry about some things.

Some worry is good. But excessive worry is not good, and this what Jesus is concerned about.

First, consider the fact that we worry about things that have already happened. Somewhere Soren Kierkegaard has written that anxiety or worry is the “next day.” And yes, it is the future that scares us, but yesterday also seems to have a strong hold over us.

In reality, what can be more futile?

It’s already happened. For good or ill, yesterday is gone.

Even if we regret it and would like to change it, we can’t. And the situation is not going to be changed by needless worry.

Someone said, “It’s a find thing to have a good memory, but it is a finer thing to have a good forgetter.”

Second, consider the fact that we worry about things that haven’t happened. A man shared, “I have had a lot of troubles in my life, most of which never happened. The different nature of worry sometimes grabs hold of our imaginations with such fierce force that we ourselves wind up living in a dungeon of our own making. Who can deny the fact that our imagined fears are worse than they really are?

More often than not, we live in a world of a million “What ifs?” What if I don’t make a good impression? What if I don’t get the job or lose the job? What if she says no? What if I or my family or friends get the coronavirus? What if? What if? We live in a world of a million imagined disasters? And some of these things may, in fact, happen to us, but few things are ever as bad as they seem.

Third, consider the fact that we worry about things that God is perfectly willing and able to handle. At a conference someone asked Jackie Pullinger, a British missionary, who lived for decades with the poor in Hong Kong, how she had really made it serving the poor for so many years? She answered, “You have to resolve in your heart that God is good. No matter what happens, you must know in your heart that God is good.”

One day years ago, a man came to our parsonage door in another city. After being admitted into the hall, he stood for a moment as though searching for the right words to say. As his minister, I waited. Then he said simply, “Thank you for everything — I’m moving this week.”

I looked at him, searching in my mind for anything I had done to assist him. I could think of nothing. I told this friend, and the answer I received back was one I will always remember. He said, “You were always there if I needed you. It helped me so much to know that.”

In a much greater way, this is how Jesus pictures the Fatherhood of God — always there and caring, providing and sustaining-and always faithful.

Something to remember during the pandemic of the coronavirus.