THE FREEDOM FROM OUR WORRIES AND FEARS
Isaiah 43:1 (NRSV)
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you… he who formed you: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
Matthew 6:34 (NRSV)
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Philippians 4:6 (NRSV)
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Of all the burdens Jesus wants to take from us, it seems the burdens of fear or worry are foremost in his heart. All through the Bible we are told, “Do not fear,” and “Do not worry,” and Jesus repeats this quite often. Jesus and the biblical writers certainly know us well. I know how worry or fear can so easily creep into my thoughts- and how they love to linger there!
I drew a simple (“crude” 😀 ) flowchart to help illustrate the impact of worry on our lives and why worry is unhelpful. Think of our lives as a flowchart from birth to death. If we were to assign one day to each cell, we would see how all of our days leading up to today (the cell with the “T”) form a single chain of cells, each day singularly following the previous one. Whatever each cell contained- whether sadness, joy, delight, anger, love, frustration, life, health, or death- we have endured, embraced or enjoyed. We lived each cell one at a time, doing the best we could all the way to today.
But when we look beyond today and begin to worry about tomorrow, the individual chain quickly divides and expands into two chains, then three, four, and more. We may have a difficult day and start to worry if life will improve or worsen. Or we may have a great day but then worry that our good fortune won’t last. We tend to mentally chart every possibility in an attempt to control all we can. Our simple “one day at a time” expands into all of tomorrow’s possible outcomes, then all the ramifications of those outcomes, and then into further scenarios like this flowchart- extending and dividing. Tomorrow suddenly becomes way too much to handle!
And so Jesus says, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
At first this doesn’t sound too comforting, does it?! And yet, Jesus makes sense once again. Jesus knows today may be very challenging, difficult, confusing or sad. We may have plenty of trouble today- but these troubles are the certainties. Our fear and worry come from the unknown that lies ahead, not the reality before us. Today’s troubles are issues we can begin to do something about. Jesus doesn’t tell us not to grieve, or not to work to make a difference, or not to heal. He simply says not to worry about all the unknowns and uncertainties that lie ahead. Jesus knows we can deal with every present moment, because he himself is ever-present, offering us his strength, help and guidance.
No matter what concerns tomorrow may hold, we may hold the gifts of peace and hope. What is certain about today is Jesus’ presence and love. What is certain about tomorrow is Jesus’ presence and love. We especially have peace and hope when we trust that, no matter where our future cells take us, all the paths and extensions and winding routes will end at the very first cell of our eternal days. Whatever we experience in the cell before, the last cell in our earthly flowchart will be the cell of eternal joy.
May the radiant splendor of Jesus’ presence and eternal joy help us to gently surrender tomorrow’s worries.