I think I am very well qualified to write on the subject of “The Sin of Worry,” for I have had considerable experience with both. In one of the books Valere and I wrote, our first chapter was entitled, “Kicking The Worry Habit”:
“Larry used to be a worrier. He worried before something happened; he worried while it was happening; he worried after it happened; and he worried if it didn’t happen! In a sense, he covered all the bases with worry. When admonished not to worry so much, he would usually respond, ‘I can’t help it; that’s just the way I am.’ ”*
Eventually, I learned four facts about worry: 1. It was something I learned to do – and do well; 2. It had become a habit, an automatic response, a way of life; and 3. If I had learned how to do it, I could also learn how not to do it. If it was a habit, I could form a new habit. And eventually, 4. I realized that worry is a sin in the eyes of God. MISSING THE MARK
Now I realize you are probably gasping, “A sin! How could that be?” One of the enduring definitions of sin is very ancient: Sin is missing the mark. The term obviously originated in the days of bows and arrows and it was applied to anything that kept the archer from hitting the target. The implication, of course, is that in a broader sense, sin is whatever mars our relationship with God and keeps us from aligning ourselves with his will. Worry certainly qualifies as doing just that with our relation to God.
I know you’re still probably dubious, so turn to our text for this week and I think you will see why worry is “missing the mark”– it is not the relationship for which God cre- ated us and for which Jesus laid down his life. The habit of worry is very obviously a threat to our faith in God. If we think we have to worry about this and that, it may well be that we think God is impotent to help us. Our worries loom larger than our God.
We need to understand that Jesus is not denouncing prudent foresight and problem-solving. He is not saying that if we don’t think about it, our problem will go away. Reasoned thought and problem-solving are not worry. In fact, worry keeps us from solving problems. There are also those who would rather worry than solve their problems. Do we not all know of people who will talk for hours about their problems, but never move in the direction of doing something about them? Worry is like a cancer that spreads throughout our body, mind, and spirit, infecting our life in multiple places and circumstances. Worry is the enemy of faith. Jesus says: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
Worry is a characteristic of those who know no God, but not of true disciples of Jesus. GOING NOWHERE
Someone has said that “worry is like a rocking-chair; it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” There is a biological side to worry. Dr. Paul Rosch, Director of the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York, says that “People today have become addicted to their own adrenaline secretions.” Different emotions trigger the secretion of biochemical solutions in the body. People thus may allow themselves to become accustomed to excessive – often destructive – amounts of hormones. Many people grow to like the feelings that are caused.
If you have become addicted to worry, try some of the following. Make an agreement with yourself that each day you will spend no more than five or 10 minutes worrying and then you will concentrate on the love and providence of God. This is a habit you can learn through repetition, just as you learned to worry. Concentrate on some of the passages in Matthew 6. For example, 6:25: “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing” (change “food” and “clothing” to what is worrying you). Or try 6:26- 32, “Look at the birds of the air…” Is God’s world one of chaos or order? And 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” If you seek God and his kingdom, your life cannot be a failure.
Jesus ends this portion with: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s trouble be sufficient for the paying interest in advance day” (6:34). Dean Inge said that “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” That is bad business. It is also a destructive way that leads to spiritual bankruptcy. Bishop William Quayle went to bed one night and because his mind was focused on some problems, he could not solve them and could not sleep. Then he heard the voice of God saying, “Quayle, you go to bed. I’ll sit up the rest of the night.”
*(For more on “Kicking The Worry Habit,” see Chapter 1, What You Need Is What You’ve Got by Larry and Valere Althouse, Samuel Weiser Co., 1993)