BRADY COLUMN: A Tall Order — ‘Don’t Worry!’

Published 9:30 am Thursday, September 22, 2022

The late Henri Nouwen, noted 20th century spiritual giant, says that one of our main causes of worrying is our preoccupations. Nouwen states, “To be pre-occupied means to fill our time and place long before we are there…It is a mind filled with “Ifs.” From our own experience with worry, most of us can take it from there. What if this happens or that happens to us or our loved ones? We worry excessively and anxiety reigns. As Nouwen continued, “Much, if not most, of our suffering is connected with these preoccupations.

What is worry anyway? Of course, worry can be defined in numerous ways, but the following is one of the most meaningful ways. “Worry is a sense of paralyzed uneasiness that revolves around a thick center of fear.” As I focus on worry, the words of Jesus come offering us are healing and hope. Jesus says, “…Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well. So, do not worry about tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:32b-34). So what steps can we take for the treatment of worry?

First, own our limitations! This means getting our thinking straight. We should resign our position as CEO of the universe, effective immediately. We simply do not need to carry the weight of the world around on our backs. This is part of what Jesus meant when he said, “Your Heavenly Father knows…do not worry.”

Second, we can get our priorities straight! “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” Jesus said. (Matthew 6:33). Notice that Jesus spoke these words immediately following his warning against divided loyalty. He’s saying that the resolve of the heart or will is really the important thing in life. Too often we put the kingdom of God in second place and the result is that we are torn, troubled, anxious and fearful. If there were less self-seeking there would be far less worry.

Third, live one day at a time! I will always remember the first time I went dove hunting. My uncle took me with some other friends to a large field. I was left by myself in a ditch with a shotgun and a box of shells. Within minutes the sky was filled with doves. There was no way I could miss. I just blazed away, shooting into the sky. Of course, no dove fell, finally, it dawned on me that I had to aim. At that point, I aimed at one dove flying by and then another and got them. I succeeded only when I forgot about the rest of the covey and took aim at just one dove.

Fourth, count your blessings instead of your worries! I read an article somewhere about the power of self-talk. The writer discussed the advantages of holding an internal dialogue with yourself. She stressed replacing your negative self-talk with positive self-talk. How does the old hymn go? “Count your many blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you, what the Lord has done.”

Fifth, we can trust in God and act on faith! Personally, I know of no other way to overcome excessive worry. During World War I, the King of England sent a Christmas card to all the soldiers in the army. There was one soldier who had no friends or family. He received no Christmas presents. Then the Royal Christmas card came. He thought to himself, “Even if no one else remembers, my king does.” “Don’t worry” Is a tall order, indeed! But our God is of a taller order, and he remembers us — every one!