By Greg Van Dahm
I find that the New Year’s resolution tradition provides a good opportunity to look back and assess what has worked for me in the past and what has not. The older I get, the more past I have to sample. I come from a family of worriers. My dad has always worried about pretty much everything from, ‘will the basement flood when it rains?’ to ‘will my cancer come back?’, everything is fair game. My grandmother was the same way. If someone in the family was outside of her vision, she worried about them.
I’m not proud to say that in this case, the nut doesn’t fall too far from the tree. What I find interesting when I look back is that when I worry about something, in my mind, that worry becomes huge. I have worried about what the mechanic will say about a noise my car is making; I have worried about losing my job; and I have worried about the health of my children. It would seem that there would be a continuum of worry; worry a little about the car, worry a lot about the kids. Strangely enough, at the time I am struck by the worries, they all seem about the same in intensity.
So as I looked back this year, I remembered some of these worries and then I remembered the outcome of the situation I worried about. Never did the outcome match or exceed the intensity of the worry. It’s not that I have led a charmed life; it’s just that the worries always contemplate the absolute worst case scenario with no possible redemption. So, I’ve had to trash cars, I have been unemployed and my kids have suffered serious health problems and yet, the final analysis of the outcome has never been as bad as my worries. And there is always redemption.
While that might not be surprising, what caught me off guard was when I considered what I gave up to my worries. For a long period of time, I spent my Sundays worrying about the next work week. I would lie around the house, good for nothing, as I worried. Mondays were actually a relief because as soon as I got to work, I forgot what I was worrying about. What was the harm? I could have had more quality time with my children when they were growing up. I could have been more productive. There’s nothing wrong with lying around the house on a Sunday but if I hadn’t been worrying, I could have relaxed better and been far more prepared to take on the week.
In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Not exactly comforting words when taken by themselves. However, Jesus said this after two paragraphs of teaching that worry is pointless. It gains you nothing. Moreover, worrying flies in the face of a God who promises to take care of us and meet our needs. When I worry, what does that say about my faith?
This year, there will be trouble. Trouble in the world and trouble in my life. It’s a promise from Jesus who said In John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” Again, not terribly comforting words. But he followed that sentence with. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So, this year I resolve to not worry.
You should know that I have already broken this resolution. So I have replaced that resolution with: I resolve to pray. God is big enough to take on my worries. When I recognize the worry spiral, I will consider the energy lost to worries in the past, consider the promises of Jesus and pray that God’s will be done.
I wrote the following poem a year or so ago when I was struggling with worry. I’ll try not to worry about your opinion of it.
Control lost to uncertainty
Worry of dreams lost
Of love lost
Present mortgaged to
Tomorrow becomes today
Lost to tomorrow; lost forever.
Present but unnoticed
Obscured by pseudo gods
Grasped so tightly
They warp at the pressure
Of our clenched fists
And become unrecognizable.
So we grasp for more
Fists full of emptiness.
Insubordination of peace,
Sabotage of joy.
Promises of God
Lie dead on the battlefield