I once heard a story about a man who was a total worrywart. He was always stressed out, about his finances, relationships, career — even the weather.
But suddenly, one day this man completely stopped worrying.
One of his friends noticed and remarked, “You seem to be worry free. What happened?”
The man replied, “I hired someone to worry for me. I pay him $5,000 a week.”
Shocked, the man’s friend exclaimed, “$5,000 a week! You don’t make that kind of money! How in the world are you going to pay this guy?”
The man just shrugged and answered, “Well, that’s for him to worry about.”
As silly as this story may sound, it contains a profound truth about life in America today: We live in a culture dominated by worry. Millions of Americans go about their days burdened by worry and anxiety — and it’s getting worse. According to a report recently released by Gallup, more Americans experienced stress, anger and worry last year than in the past decade.
While we may think of worry as simply a state of mind, it can have a real, physical impact on us. Besides aggravating conditions such as depression and other mental disorders, living in a constant state of anxiety can lead to health complications such as gastrointestinal and chronic respiratory disorders and heart disease, according to a 2018 article published by Harvard Medical School.
Worry, quite literally, has the power to kill us. No wonder the word “worry” has its roots in an Old English word that means to “strangle” or “choke.” Isn’t that how worry makes us feel? Like gasping for air as life squeezes us from all sides?
While I’m not a doctor or a psychologist who can speak about the medical treatments for worry, I’m a pastor, and I can speak about what the Bible says about it.
Here’s what Jesus said about worry in the Gospel of Matthew: “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matt 6:26-27, NLT)
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, that’s great, but I’m not a bird. I have a whole lot to worry about besides eating!”
Of course, many of our worries are legitimate. Millions of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck — one unexpected accident or expense away from financial catastrophe. Others are battling serious illnesses, and the prospects of recovery may not look so great. And even others may be worried about the daily stresses of life.
Jesus is not telling us these things don’t matter. As a matter of fact, he tells us a little bit later, “Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” (Matt 6:32)
What Jesus is trying to teach us is to not allow our lives to be dictated by our worries but instead by our faith in God’s care and provision.
The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in one of his letters. He writes, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for what he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)
Giving thanks when we are worried may sound contradictory, but doing so reminds us of God’s faithfulness in our lives. If he has cared for us in the past, we can rest assured he will care for us today; we can give him our worries knowing we can trust him.
People are tired of living anxious lives and they are looking for hope. That hope is available through God, who loves us and wants us to know him and trust him. Then, we can do as Martin Luther once said, “Pray and let God worry.”