Some years ago, a friend of mine made a new countertop to fill in an alcove (which previously had a little sink in it) along one wall in our living room. He had some extra material, and offered to help, so we accepted (since that sink wasn’t useful to us, being just around the corner from the kitchen). This particular friend is very detailed, and after measuring the space carefully, he delivered the new counter a while later.
When it came time to install this piece of countertop, my father-in-law was helping me remove the old sink and install the new surface. My father-in-law doesn’t know my friend like I do, so he was taking normal precautions.
“Should we remove the trim to get it in?”, he asked. “No, it will fit”, I replied, referring to my friend’s expertise.
“Will it be able to slide in?”, he asked. “Yes, it will fit”, I replied, trusting my friend’s skills.
“Do we need to make any adjustments?”, he asked. Here, I pushed the piece of countertop against the wall, and let it drop into place. The lower edge was beveled to keep the bottom from sticking as it fell into place. The front and back had been sized separately, to account for width deviations between the walls. The result was that the piece fit perfectly into place, such that a knife blade wouldn’t even fit between it and the 3 walls of the alcove.
This story is not meant to disrespect my father-in-law, who has successfully installed dozens more home-improvement projects than me. I just knew my friend and his attention to detail, and was confident that it would be OK.
As much as we might worry, Jesus reminds us that worrying about external things isn’t necessary:
Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
MATTHEW 6:31-33 NASB
Still, despite this command, worry creeps into our thoughts. It takes hold of our mind (if we let it), and it fills our days with the tales of “What if?”. Like a computer running at full capacity but not computing anything useful, our energy is sapped by being spent on possible outcomes that we can’t control.
(OK, so maybe you have defeated the power of worry in your life, but I’m still a frequent victim of it. I suspect that I’m not alone in this, or Jesus wouldn’t have had to remind us to resist.)
Somehow, though, we still need to follow Jesus’ instructions. History and personal experience confirms that His path is ultimately superior to any others, no matter our weaknesses. So, the command remains: Do not worry.
Yet, we try to negotiate in our own minds. We might say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, but Jesus reminds us to not worry about food & drink, and clothing. Those are pretty high up on the “help keep us alive” scale. We might rationalize our worry as, “Jesus said not to worry about specific things, but I choose to worry about others”, but I think that we’d be missing the point that closes the passage above. We might think, “I’m just considering all of the possible outcomes, and thinking ahead”, but when we let concern about low-probability events consume us (without taking any action), I think that we know when we’re actually worrying.
However, just trying really, really hard not to worry may lead to more worry than we started with. Instead, let us consider the reasons why we shouldn’t worry, and focus our attention on the solutions, instead. So, why shouldn’t we worry?
- For one thing, Jesus told us not to. When we are focused on following Jesus’ commands, we stay busy – not just living according to His example, but listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
- For another thing, as Jesus said, it doesn’t do any good. Taking control of our worrying thoughts (and understanding that they don’t help achieve useful goals) gives us a chance to “re-set” our minds, and turn to something that might make a difference. Jesus pointed out the importance of wisdom and thoughtful consideration of things, and sometimes we can take action to prevent negative outcomes. Still, there are times when the best thing we can do is to accept that we can’t change a particular event in the future, and decide that we must just wait for it patiently.
- Most significantly, though, God is managing everything. While He allows human beings to make choices, and often reap the consequences of those choices, God’s power created the universe, and He can handle our future.
Like the verse above says, we can still concentrate on something. Instead of worry, though, we can invest our mental energy into the Kingdom of God. If worry is dwelling on what could go wrong, let us instead seek out the good things that result from following God’s direction. At some point, the future will arrive, and we’ll find out that God is taking care of anything we might have worried about.
Like the cabinet surface described at the start of this article, God has already figured things out. Negative events can still come to pass, but many of them are not under our control (as much as we might like to think that they are), and none of them is a surprise to God.