The virus is jumping our firewalls. Millions have been laid off and are spending down their savings. Equity markets are sinking. Most kids have just begun a 5 month spring/summer break (…okay, if you’re a child, maybe the news isn’t all bad). Isn’t it time for us to panic?
There’s a long section in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount about worrying and why we shouldn’t do it. The Lord offers one insight in particular that’s deeply relevant for us today. It comes at the end. It’s the punchline that sums up his teaching: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has trouble enough of its own." (Matthew 6:14)
For a long time I thought Jesus was just reminding us of something we already know: that worry does no good – that no amount of worry can change our circumstances. It wasn’t until I crossed the line into middle age that I began to understand the deeper message. The Lord is revealing something vitally important about us – about our nature and character as humans. God created us to handle only one day’s worth of trouble. The rest we have to give over to him.
That squares well with what I’ve observed all my life. Within the scope of 24 hours, there’s almost no limit to the amount of trouble we humans can endure. More than that, our ability to work, learn, build, plan and problem-solve over the course of a day is amazing. That’s doubly true when we’re up against a deadline, or when something really big (like our life) is at stake.
But here’s the key point: all bets are off when we drag tomorrow’s trouble into today – and we do it day after day after day. Though we might not realize it for months, years or even decades, when we worry about tomorrow we’re diminished in all kinds of ways. Our work becomes burdensome. Our outlook becomes dark. Fatigue sets in. We have trouble sleeping. We become more susceptible to a range of health problems: headaches, ulcers, back pain, bronchitis, high blood pressure, even cancer. We wear the stress on our face. Worse still, all of this suffering impacts our relationships. When times are hard we want to love and support our family, friends and co-workers. Instead, we find ourselves becoming impatient, moody and disconnected.
What’s the remedy? The world offers a smorgasbord of choices: psychotherapy, anti-depressants, binge-watching, power walking, shopping, cruising to Cabo (well… maybe not this month), sleeping pills, Yoga, cat videos, Scrabble.
Though some of these coping strategies can help – my favorite is the late afternoon nap – none qualifies as a remedy.
The only remedy, Jesus tells us, is faith. If we want to conquer worry – and if we value our physical, emotional and spiritual health – we have to hand tomorrow’s troubles over to our good and gracious God and trust him to make things come out right.
We’re all being tested. A microscopic virus has turned our world upside down, and now we have to decide: Am I going to live by fear or by faith? When I wake up in the morning am I going to turn on my phone or TV, drink in the latest headlines and add to the stockpile of impending disasters that I need to worry about? Or am I going to go to the Lord and say: “Tomorrow is in your hands. You’ve promised to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, and I trust you to fulfill that promise. Show me this day what I can do to help.”
Here’s another verse to tape to your refrigerator and memorize. It tells us in one sentence why we who love God shouldn’t worry: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)