The Wasteland of Worry

Of all the human emotions, I believe worry is the most useless. If you look hard enough in the Bible you can find appropriate times and circumstances for almost every other emotion, except worry. Yet, many (yours truly included) seem to spend an inordinate amount of time either visiting, or taking up permanent residence, in the land of worry. Some have built elaborate emotional palaces there and it seems they have sequestered themselves behind massive stone walls of worry with a moat of anxiety encircling their fear-filled lives. Others may only pitch an occasional tent in worry-land but all seem to know how to get there, at least as part-time visitors.

So…what is worry? First and foremost it always concerns the future—what might happen. I believe worry stems from a desire on our part to pre-determine the outcome of circumstances or events. We decide how something should be, how someone should behave, how we should be treated, or provided for, or any of a million other things.

Did you catch that? “Should” is a banner that hangs inside the dwelling of worry. Near it is the family motto: “What will we do if…”

Worry occurs in the time between concern and outcome, and it is proof of our desire to be like God. Yet, it is proof positive we are not. For God is omniscient. He knows the end from the beginning…he knows the outcome of everything so He never worries about anything.

Worry also is a paralyzing mental activity that keeps us from more productive pursuits.

“But,” you say, “…I have genuine concerns about people and events. What am I to do with these?”

Great question; let’s take a little walk. Pretend you are traveling down the road of life and you come upon a circumstance…it could be almost anything, and interestingly enough, you may consider it either good, or bad. So now, choose a circumstance…how about a long lost aunt has died and willed you a large sum of money? Or how about you receive a phone call and your child has been picked up by the police for shoplifting. Immediately the road of life forks and you stop to consider which way to go. Your burden is heavy; you need to decide quickly. You can only carry this for so long. As you ponder, from your left, you hear friendly-sounding voices. You can’t see them, they must be around the bend, but their words sound reassuring enough. “Perhaps you could….” “You know, if you only do….” “If they would just…then you could….” “I can see how it will all work out….”  You look to the right, but you hear no voices to guide you. Both paths look the same—from where you stand one doesn’t look any harder to navigate than the other. And the burden feels heavier by the minute. It makes sense to go where you know you will have some help and won’t be alone with this situation. So, you take the road to the left.

And off you go. Pretty soon, what looked like a smooth path becomes slippery and muddy.  You still hear the voices, but they’re getting louder; it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. “Perhaps you should…maybe you should…if only you would…if only they would…if I were you….” Confusion sets in. The mud is thicker and thicker; it’s hard to raise your foot for the next step. You find yourself bogged down in the mud of your situation, unable to proceed and afraid you will make the wrong decision, afraid of the outcome. The voices continue, louder and louder. Doubt and fog settle over the path. Not only are your feet stuck, but now you’re in danger of dropping the burden you’ve carried all this way. So, there you stay, stuck in worry, unable to find your own way out; hoping someone will come to rescue you.

But…there was another path. Even though there were no audible voices encouraging you to take the path to the right, there is a voice in your heart saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” So, you ignore the voices to the left and you start down the path to your right. The path is not completely smooth, a few potholes to dodge, a steep hill every now and then. But you notice every time the way gets rough, there is a sign illuminating the path and making it easier to navigate, with words of encouragement. “I AM the Way.” “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” “You are My chosen one.” “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” With each encouragement you choose to keep going even though your hands and knees are bleeding from climbing the hills and stumbling on the rough terrain. Your burden is no less heavy, but there is new strength in you and a peace in your heart that urges you forward. Up ahead, you see a beautiful shade tree with a bench where you can put down your burden for a while and rest. It is very pleasant there in the shade of the tree. But you must go on. You rise and begin to lift your burden to continue your journey. Now, you do hear a voice saying, “Why don’t you let me have that? I will carry them.”

You stop in the middle of lifting your burden. “But sir, these are my concerns. If I let You have them, how will I know for sure they are taken care of? I suppose it would be nice to have some help. But I couldn’t give them all to You. That wouldn’t be right. Maybe I could let You have one or two, but this one…I think I need to keep it.”

The voice speaks again, stronger this time. “No; I will carry all of them for you.”

And finally you relent. The nail scarred hands slip the burden from your back and you hear the voice one more time, “Come, it is time to continue on your journey. I will show you the way.”

I hope in some way this little allegory has helped you look at the circumstances of your life and understand how much Jesus wants to be your burden bearer, every day. If you are like me, there have been plenty of opportunities for you to worry this year and try to carry your own burden (and maybe even some that aren’t yours). We all have a clean slate ahead of us with the beginning of a new calendar year. As God’s children, may we use the new year to “draw a line in the sand” and make a fresh commitment to allow Him to carry our burdens. Only then will we walk in His peace daily, thereby showing a dark world there is another, better Way.

God bless you in your journey with Him.

 “Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”                                                                Philippians 4:6-7 (amplified)


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