Why Worrying About the Pandemic, and Everything Else, Is A Complete Waste of Time
(Matthew chapter 6, verses 25-34)
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
For this week's commentary I want to write about Matthew chapter six, and with good reason. I can’t help but notice America’s inundation with the ongoing pandemic, with an alarming number of mass shootings, and its accompanying pandemic of mental illness. As these things have been ongoing, I have also been noticing for quite some time now that there is much speculation on many alternative media websites, as well as social media (particularly You Tube) about the end of the world, the “rapture” of the church, and the timing and commencement of World War Three. Maybe we could just cancel it instead?
We all have a choice – we can either waste time worrying and growing more frustrated and fearful as we wait for things to get better or worse, or we can take a proactive approach and take charge of the situation and fix it ourselves – God willing, of course. We can either sit around and serve time waiting for things to improve, or we can make the time available to us serve us. Life has taught me that chilling out and hoping things get better is little more than a cop-out because it's tantamount to taking the easy way out. Anybody can do that, but being lazy and idle, or feeling defeated, will only make our situations worse. The current state of affairs of the US middle and working classes, which is that of gross economic inequality, is only one example of many that applies here.
Worrying about being under-employed or unemployed, or of being caught in the ongoing economic vise of falling wages and rising prices while temporarily being unable to do anything about it, isn't going to solve anything for anybody. But I can truly say without hesitation that I can definitely empathize with those who are going through this economic calamity we're all experiencing. Having been there once myself, I know what it's like to be unable to find work despite being very qualified and experienced. The ultimate outcome for me was retiring early and going on disability, which I resisted at first until it finally became my only choice. It was an ordeal that I wouldn't wish for anyone to go through, even my worst enemy.
Did I worry while all that was happening to me? Of course I did! But God used that very thing to teach me patience as well as new ways to prioritize my life and the things within it. And, it turned out that it was a lesson I needed to learn. God didn't allow me to go through a 5-month period of homelessness in my life to punish me. He did it to strengthen me, to build me up, and to make me a better person, and I'm glad He did. The Middle East situation as it currently stands could explode into all-out war at any moment, which would send fuel prices through the roof. Then again, there are millions of good people out there who have well-founded concern about being unable to find suitable work – or any work at all – or who may be facing the loss of a vehicle and a home, or the breakup of a family, as a result of long-term unemployment because of the pandemic.
If people waste time worrying about these things over which we have little or no control, is it any wonder that so many people take anti-depressants and mood-stabilizing drugs? Is it any wonder that 100,000 people per year die from accidental drug overdoses? Is it any wonder that substance abuse of all kinds runs rampant? Is it any wonder that 40,000 people per year die from drunk driving accidents in the United States alone? It's time for us all to pause for a moment and take a deep breath and then slowly exhale. See? That's not so bad. Now let's all take the next step together, and put all this into perspective from Jesus' point of view, which is the only one that really counts. I can sum it up in 6 little words. Worrying is a waste of time. It's just a colossal waste. This sounds simple enough, but it can be hard to do in the world in which we live today. It is easy to get stressed out by all the things I just wrote about. The cure for all this can be found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6, verses 25 through 34.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body; what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith? So do not worry, saying 'what shall we eat', or 'what shall we drink', or 'what shall we wear'? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.
There is plenty to worry about in life, and all to varying degrees. We take a chance every time we drive a car, or even when we simply step out of our homes. The chances of being in a traffic accident are much higher then, say, being in a plane crash or struck and killed by a meteorite falling from outer space. Worry is based on fear of the unknown. It is one of the most basic human emotions. But worry and stress can be brought under control by using the methods that Jesus taught from the scripture I quoted above. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life; what you will eat or drink, or about your body; what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” The message Jesus was giving us here is that we need to prioritize correctly and understand what is most important. We can stop worrying when we start getting what is most important in its correct order in life. Jesus is putting first things first. Life is more important than food. Better to be alive and hungry than to be dead with a full stomach. Jesus goes on from there: ”Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” To call this 'Spiritual common sense' would be a major understatement.
Worrying is useless. Stressing out is pointless. There is documented medical evidence that this is so. This is not merely my opinion. Worry raises your heart rate, your respiration and your blood pressure. Stress and worry can give you a heart attack or a stroke. I should know, I was fortunate enough to survive a stroke 16 years ago, but I learned my lesson well. I can truthfully say that I am at a point in life where I just don't let things bother me like I did when I was younger. Doing so can only make each of us die a little younger, so why go to such trouble? Worry is a completely negative emotion. Negative emotions produce negative symptoms like anxiety or anger. Anxiety produces all kinds of ailments including physical, emotional/psychiatric and spiritual. Anxiety and worry can literally make you go crazy. They can literally make you sick. The thing to do instead is to replace all the negativity associated with worry (or anger, or fear) and turn it into something positive.
There are those who may say, “That's easier said than done”, and they'd be correct. But when we take the anxiety, the worry and the stress in our lives and replace them all with the exhilarating peace of Christ, we come to an understanding that worrying can't change the outcome of anything. The apostle Paul wrote that the peace of Christ was “a peace that surpasses all human understanding” (see Philippians 4:7). Once we occupy ourselves with the task of attaining this Peace – and yes, it is definitely a reachable goal – you will find that the worry and stress you've been suffering from for God-knows-how-long is suddenly not worth the time it's been taking up. There are simply not enough hours in the day to be bothered with one single minute of worry, stress and anxiety. Instead of making things better, they hold us back.
But what did Jesus say to do instead? “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). We need to get our priorities straight. God first, above all else. If we're not taking this crucial first step then we are missing the mark. This means letting go of our hatreds, our fears, our anger, and our irrational need for material possessions. Why do we need a bigger house, a newer car or new clothes? Remember what Jesus said: “Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Indeed we are, in God's sight! Just knowing this can alleviate a lot of stress and worry, and it turns anger aside. For example, does it scare you to think about what might happen if things in your life were to get completely out of control, even through no fault of your own? Hey, that's normal for a lot of people, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. The key is to learn to let go of our pride and the notion that it's up to us to solve all our own problems, and to let go and let God take charge. He can do so much more than we can anyway, provided we allow Him to work through us instead of trying to do it all ourselves.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. This is what I call the pure genius of Christ. Worrying is pointless and counterproductive, that's what Jesus was saying. You may not hear much of Jesus being spoken of as a genius, but it's the truth. Jesus wants us to stop worrying about things that don't matter and to focus on the things that do. He wants us to not be anxious or stressed out about things that may be beyond our control. The things that matter the most are the things that matter to God. The things that matter only to us are the things that matter the least to God. Don't worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Instead of worrying about bad things happening, take whatever steps you need to take to make sure good things happen in their place. That's how we keep in mind that God is in charge. It's all about correct spiritual priorities.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter eight, “If God is for us, then who can be against us?” This is the ultimate antidote to worry and fear. We really need to stop being so fearful, especially when it is to the point where fear prevents us from becoming all who we are meant to be. Fear can actually prevent us from succeeding and can hold back our development as individuals. That's why replacing fear and worry with the peace of Christ is a crucial first step towards banishing them from our lives for good. I have simply made up my mind to stop wasting time worrying and to start living well. God has already given each of us the power to do the same. To tap into this power, just follow the example of Christ. To learn how to do that, get a Bible and start reading it. All the answers are right there. (For those readers who don't own and can't afford a Bible, you can download them free of charge, just search “Bible free download”) Knowledge of God, wrote King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs, is the beginning of all wisdom. So if you want to be smarter, or if you simply want to enrich yourself, the Bible is the best place to start, and reading our Bibles is the cure for worrying and fear.
Worry is a disease that eats us up inside and keeps us from growing. We waste our time worrying about whether something bad is going to happen or not. In 99% of the cases it turns out that what we worried about never occurs anyway. We can all fight worry with anticipation. Follow Christ's example by anticipating the future as a series of opportunities, expecting a positive outcome rather than fearing a negative one. You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference this makes. Besides, anticipating the future in a positive way is so much more fun than sitting around worrying about the opposite. Banish worry from your life today! It's an important first step towards personal growth in Christ. Follow Christ's example and He will guide you, pray for guidance and your prayers will be answered. Keep this in mind in your everyday living and live without worry. It improves your quality of life immeasurably.