Do Not Worry

They tell me along the rural paths in India, there are shoulder-high posts with a shelf on top. They call these posts a Soma Tonga, which means “resting place.” Travelers on foot often carry heavy loads. When travelers come upon one of these posts, they place their heavy loads on the shelf to rest. When Christianity spread to India, the new converts started calling Jesus, “My Soma Tonga.” Jesus was the one who gave them rest. Jesus was the one who shared their load. Jesus was the one who gave them strength. I like that simple illustration because that is my story.

We find ourselves in the twelfth chapter of Luke, verses twenty-two through thirty-four. This section of Luke begins in the previous chapter. It is a busy section of scripture because the author clusters various teachings of Jesus together. The teaching on worry is just one of many topics the Master covers. However, Jesus’s teaching on worrying grabbed our attention because everyone worries about something. You are not alone. Can I make a confession? I have spent many hours in the middle of the night worrying. Worry is one of those topics that unites the entire world. Our is not the first generation and ours will not be the last. That leads us to an interesting question.

What are you worried about today? Are you worried your health? There is an imperfection in your complexion, and you are afraid it is skin cancer. Or are you worried about your age? You are now the exact age your father was when he died. Are you afraid you are going to die in the next 365 days? Or are you worried about your left knee? It hurts and you don’t want to have that operation, because you don’t want to go to a rehabilitation center. They are creepy and smell bad. Are you worried about your finances? You live on a fixed income and life seems to be getting more expensive. Or you are a college graduate, but your degree is useless. Are worried about your children?  They are now in high school, and you haven’t started saving for college yet. Is anyone here worried about the weather? My sister-in-law is preoccupied with the weather. They say the heavy rain in California is caused by “Global Warming.” Do you know of anyone who is worried about global warming? Are you worried about the future? The world can only support so much population. Are you worried about the future of America? The face of America is changing. Caucasian Americans will soon be a minority. Does that fact make you anxious? Are you worried about the future of our world? There are so many hot spots and complex situations. Our society is filled with worried and anxious people. Study after study tells us, it is true.

According to the people at quickcountry.com these are our greatest worries:

  1. Health issues
  2. Memory issues
  3. Independence issues, nursing homes
  4. Sight issues
  5. Hearing issues
  6. Financial issues
  7. Being a burden to others, living with loved ones
  8. Their mind failing but their body staying fit

Research from the APM Research Lab, tells us 84% of Americans feel extremely or very worried. So, when Jesus says not to worry, his words fall on deaf ears. Worrying is one of the things we do naturally.

Verse 22 is the perfect example of why you must read the Bible in context. It says, Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” What is Jesus really trying to say? Jesus knows it is impossible to eliminate our worries, but he also knows it is possible to control our worries. Jesus wants us to control our worries for one reason. He wants you to enjoy every day of life. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” The next time you are overcome with worries, remember three things.

First, the next time you are overcome by worries, remember you are valuable to God. You are so valuable God came into the world to have a relationship with you. That is why we celebrate Christmas. It is a time to stand in awe of the Incarnation. God became one of us. It is obvious, but Jesus said it. You are more valuable than a raven. You are more valuable than a lily. You are so valuable to God that Jesus, the Incarnation of God, died on the cross so God could spend eternity with you! Never forget it. You are valuable to God!

Second, the next time you are overcome by worries, remember to seek the Kingdom of God first. In the tenth chapter of Luke, Jesus visits Mary and Martha. Prior to his arrival, there are a million things to do, so Mary and Martha are working hard. The problem begins when Jesus arrives. There are those last-second things that must be done. Martha continues to work hard but Mary stops working to listen to Jesus. Martha goes to Jesus to express her frustration, but her words fall on deaf ears. He reprimands Martha for her poor priorities and praises Mary. That story teaches us one major point. Filling your life with good things isn’t good enough. The driving force in your life must be the best thing, Jesus!

It is easy to fill our lives with good things. I see it all the time. There is nothing wrong with celebrating birthdays. There is nothing wrong with spending time with family and friends. There is nothing wrong with looking fashionable. There is nothing wrong with eating a delicious dinner. There is nothing wrong with watching football or baseball. There is nothing wrong with reading a good book or listening to your favorite tunes. There is nothing wrong with any of those things. The problem is those things are only good. They will not sustain you during life’s worries. They are not the best thing. The best thing is God, who never fails. Jesus is our Soma Tonga. That is why Jesus said to seek the kingdom of God first! We need rest from our worries. The next time you are filled with worry, remember you are valuable to God and to seek the kingdom of God first.

Third, the next time you are overcome by worries, remember to live life one day at a time. Looking ahead and guessing about the future can be overwhelming. You know it is true.Most of the things we worry about never happen. Most of the things we worry about are out of our control. Don’t let tomorrow’s worries rob you of today’s joy. Live one day at a time.

When my children were young, we ate dinner together every night. It didn’t seem like a big deal then, but it does now. It has been years since the four of us ate together. The menu changed but it was the same every night; we talked about the various things that happened throughout the day. Everyone talked. The girls talked about their friends. They talked about their teachers. They talked about what they wanted for their birthdays and Christmas. Often, they would talk about their worries. They spent a great deal of time worrying about things that might happen. If I said it once, I said it a million times, 90% of the things we worry about never happen. I don’t know where I came up with that wise advice, but it is true. Just think about it. Most of the things you worry about don’t happen. The best you can do is the best you can do. Your worries don’t change anything. The next time you are filled with worry, remember you are valuable to God and to seek the kingdom of God first. In the end, the best thing you can do with your worries is trust God.

My wife Kathryn is a proud graduate of Vanderbilt University. I am extremely proud she is a Vanderbilt graduate. It is an outstanding academic institution. Her days in Nashville were filled with all kinds of wonderful memories. She tells the story of being in a history of Methodism class. Like all classes at the Harvard of the South, it was demanding. The only saving grace in that class was the announced quizzes. Periodically, the professor announced there would be a quiz on a certain day, covering a certain amount of material. There were numerous quizzes throughout the semester. One day, the professor announced a quiz would be issued during the next class. Only a fool wouldn’t study that material for the next class. Kathryn isn’t a fool, so she planned on studying the night before the quiz.

Just as she opened the book to study the assigned material, a friend called and needed to talk. She was a young woman by the name of Marion, but everyone called her by a nickname, Mimi. Kathryn said to come and thought she would only stay a few minutes. She had to study for a quiz. When Mimi arrived, she began to talk and a short time later, her words became emotional. Mimi talked about her boyfriend. Mimi talked about their relationship. Mimi talked about their physical relationship. Mimi, it pains me to say it and I never met her, talked about her abortion. Mimi talked about her grief. Mimi talked about her shame. Mimi talked about her regrets. Mimi talked, and Kathryn actively listened. She listened for a long time. After all the words, tears and emotions, Mimi left. Kathryn was exhausted. She looked at the clock, and the hour was late. It was too late to study for the quiz. She was too emotionally spent to study for the quiz. She went to bed and tried not to worry about the quiz. She tried not to worry, but not worrying was impossible. With no other option, she prayed for help.

When she got to the history of Methodism class, she was sick with worry. Then, the miraculous happened. The professor walked in and announced to the class there would be no quiz that day. He simply changed his mind. According to Kathryn, it was the greatest announcement in the history of Vanderbilt University. That leads me to an interesting question.

When was the last time you worried about something that never happened? The only thing that matters are those things that matter in one hundred years. The only thing that is going to matter to you in one hundred years is Jesus. Your worries really do not matter. However, worrying is a part of life. Our worries are part of the human experience. We can’t stop worrying, but our worries can be controlled. Never forget it. In the end, God is in control. American author Leo Buscaglia (1924-1998) once said, “Worry will never rob tomorrow of its sorrow, it can only sap today of its joy.” Jesus said it best, do not worry.