Since I was a little kid I’ve struggled with the sin of worry. Some of my fears were normal little-kid fears like, “What if my mom and dad die?” But I was afraid of some pretty strange stuff too. When I was three years old I was convinced that Cookie Monster from Sesame Street was under my bed, which pretty much scared the pajamas off me. When I got a older I was terrified that a storm might arise during the night, causing a lightning bolt to come rocketing through my bedroom window, which would in turn electrocute me. I was also afraid that at some point a tornado might hit our house, even though the odds of that happening are about the same as Mr. Rogers getting into a fistfight. I admit, I had some strange fears.
Unfortunately, worry doesn’t go away when you grow up. It just takes on different forms. Now I fear for the safety of my daughter Charis, and my wife Jen. Sometimes I go into Charis’ room at night just to make sure she’s still okay. I worry about paying the bills on time, and being successful at my job, and the health of my parents and siblings. I’m a grownup now, but I’m still a worrier.
That’s why I’m so grateful for the book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Ed Welch. This book was written for sinful worriers like me. At one point in the book, Welch says that worriers live in the future. He says:
Fear can be triggered by the past, react to crises in the present, or anticipate them in the future. It’s preferred time zone, however, is the future. Dread, panic, nervousness, worry, and anxiety all speak of our potential future vulnerability…Anxiety and worry are less oriented to the present. They say, “I think there will be a danger;” “Something or someone I love might be threatened in the future.”
These words spoke to me. Generally, my worries are future oriented. Will my daughter be safe? Will I have enough to pay the bills? Will I preach well next Sunday?
As I pondered my fears, God gave me a particularly helpful insight. When I worry, I’m imagining a future apart from the grace of God. For example, I worry that Charis might become seriously ill at some point in the future. I vividly imagine doctor’s appointments and doctor’s appointments. And yet in all my imaginations, God and his powerful, loving, sustaining grace is nowhere to be found. If Charis became seriously ill, it would be a trial beyond my imagination. But I also know that God’s grace would be present each moment, sustaining me, encouraging me, and refreshing me. The Lord would carry me through the trial.
When I worry about the future, I’m essentially functioning as an atheist. I’m envisioning a future devoid of the almighty God who sustains me and carries me through trials. When I ponder the future, I must remember God.
What are you tempted to worry about? Today, as you consider these things, rejoice in the grace of God that will sustain you through every trial!
Originally published April, 2008