If there’s something most of us excel at, with little training, experience or effort, it’s worrying. Even when we have nothing to worry about, when things are going well, we sometimes find ourselves imagining what bad things could happen.
Frankly, our world provides much for us to worry about. For instance, some people believe the ancient Mayan calendar has prognosticated a cataclysmic global event for Dec. 21. It has something to do with the winter solstice and a calendar cycle they called the 13th b’ak’tun. (I didn’t even know there was a 12th b’ak’tun! As for the calendar itself, I have no idea whether it was designed for a wall or desktop.)
What if some massive worldwide disaster does occur? Are we talking earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, blizzards? Maybe the Internet will crash. What if our cell phones become useless? Or Facebook and Twitter disappear?
Of course, we don’t need global catastrophe to start worrying. The economy has stressed many of us. We worry about loved ones – their health, safety, decisions they make. We agonize about personal finances, fearful we won’t make it to the next paycheck. We fret over careers – what if I get fired or laid off; what if I don’t get that promotion or pay raise I’m counting on? We worry about whether a sudden pain is something more than a minor twinge.
And if we’re not worrying about any of the above, we fret about whether our favorite TV show will be cancelled; whether our college team will get that heralded recruit; or whether kumquat prices will soar. The future is a scary place.
Yes, we love to worry, even though at least 90 percent of the things we worry about never come to pass. Of all human pursuits, worry is among the least productive. I’ll never forget the wisdom of someone that pointed out, “Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday.”
How counterproductive is it to worry? I understand that in German, the word for worry means, “to strangle.” The Greek term for worry can be translated “to divide the mind.” Neither definition puts a positive spin on worrying. “What are you doing?” “Oh, I’m just sitting around, strangling my sense of tranquility.” Or, “I’m just trying to split my brain in two.”
I’ve heard another description of worry as “a futile thing. It’s somewhat like a rocking chair – although it keeps you occupied, it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Sound like anything you’ve been doing lately?
Down deep we know these things, but for some reason, worrying gives us a small measure of solace. It enables us to feel like we’re doing something when there’s nothing else to do.
There is an alternative. We can stop worrying. Yeah, but how? Well, we could let God do the worrying for us. We’re told in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” He’s willing to take our burdens and cares. And since we worry about things we can’t control anyway, why not hand them over to the One who is in control?
We find similar counsel in Philippians 4:6-7, which tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”