Do you ever worry? Of course, you do; we all do.
I suppose that worry could probably be called the universal problem of people everywhere. It is something that everyone of us are engaged in, despite the fact that the Scriptures tell us expressly not to (check out Philippians 4:6,7). Worry and its resultant issues are the diet of our lives. In fact, we worry so much, you would think we were centipedes with athlete’s foot.
But the reality is that most of our worries are unfounded, unnecessary, and unfruitful. One study done several years ago pointed out that in 25 percent of all medical cases seen by doctors, the patients weren’t sick, they were just worried. And when the causes of their worries were broken down, it was determined that 40 percent of their worries were over things that will never happen, 30 percent were over things that had already happened, and 22 percent were over petty, trivial things that are beyond our control. In fact, if you look at it, all but 8 percent of the worries of the majority of those cases were over things that people could not control.
One writer stated that, “Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles!” That just about sums it up, doesn’t it? And worry can cripple us. Someone has likened worry to a dense fog covering a seven city block area. That fog contains less than one glass of water divided into 60 thousand million drops of water. Not much is really there at all, but it can truly cripple a city. That’s a good illustration of the power of worry over our lives, isn’t it?
Ultimately, of course, worry is a spiritual problem. One author has declared that worrying about anything “displays a lack of faith in the reality of God and in his ability to meet your needs (Romans 14:23). Worry calls God a liar; it doubts his ability.”
One of the most profound places we turn in Scripture is also one of the most familiar. It is one of the first passages of Scripture we memorize as a child in Sunday school, and one of the last Scriptures read at the funeral or memorial services of people who die. Psalm 23 is a short song about leaning on the Lord. When we come to Psalm 23 and read, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” we read one of the most significant verses in all of Scripture, especially for the chronic worrier. That verse tells us that when we have the Lord as our shepherd, we have the ultimate answer to the problem of worry.
Sheep are some of the most carefree animals alive. They don’t worry about anything. Why? Because they depend upon the shepherd for everything. They live in complete confidence in the shepherd – that he will provide their every need. That’s why the psalmist could point to sheep and their dependence upon the shepherd and draw the picture of the relationship between the Lord and His people. Because the Lord – He is my shepherd, I shall not want of anything that I need. Not groceries, not the paying of bills, not a job, nor even the relationships that are so necessary for my emotional well-being. He will provide everything I need for living. There is no need for me to worry about anything. Did you hear that? Anything. Therefore, my confidence needs to be in Him, not the paycheck or that employer or the doctor, or those friends I so desperately need, but in the Lord who is my Shepherd. He has not promised me wealth or fame or success or power, but He has promised me that He will not stop being my Shepherd, and He will take care of my every need.
There is the old familiar story about the fellow who was boasting one day that he had given up the constant pastime of worrying. This fellow was known for his worry wart mentality. He worried about everything. So for him to give that up was a shock and a surprise to all of his friends. When they inquired about his newfound freedom from the problem of worry, he responded that he had hired an individual to do all his worrying for him. His friends knew that his financial straits were one of this fellow’s major worries, so they inquired how much he was going to pay this newfound worrier.
“One thousand bucks.” replied the fellow. “Where on earth are you going to get a thousand bucks?” queried his friends. “Why, that is his first worry!” was the answer.
Vance Havner told a story about an elderly lady who was greatly disturbed by her many troubles – both real and imaginary. Finally, someone in her family tactfully told her, “Grandma, we’ve done all we can for you. You’ll just have to trust God for the rest.” A look of absolute despair spread over her face as she replied, “Oh dear, has it come to that?”
Havner commented, “It always comes to that, so we might as well begin with that. God’s Word tells us to bring every concern once and for all to the Lord. Since He offers to handle our problems, why not let Him?”
My friends, if you are a follower of Christ, are you worried? Or are you able to say, with the psalmist that “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want?”
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette. He also serves as pastor of Port William UMC.