“In America, worry has become part of our national culture. You could write on countless American gravestones the epitaph: ‘Hurried, Worried, Buried.’"
I first read those words by John Haggai 15 years ago, but they seem uniquely suited to our current Age of Anxiety. An article from the Daily Mail Online says that 2012 could be “the most frightening year in living memory.” It begins with these ominous words:
The dawn of a new year is usually a time of hope and ambition, of dreams for the future and thoughts of a better life. But it is a long time since many of us looked forward to the new year with such anxiety, even dread.
The article mentions the possible collapse of the Euro, trouble in the Middle East, the rise of China, and the possibility of a global recession. “In the Middle East, the excitement of the Arab Spring has long since curdled into sectarian tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalism.” A long comparison of the world in 2012 with the world in 1932 leads to this sobering conclusion:
The lesson of history is that tough times often reward the desperate and dangerous, from angry demagogues to anarchists and nationalists, from seething mobs to expansionist empires.
Thus we enter what may be the most important twelve months in the last 80 years. Pundits grow rich by offering predictions that amount to nothing more than educated guesses. No wonder the rest of us feel shaky and uncertain. I did a radio broadcast last week with a friend who told me on the air that he felt very uneasy about the road ahead. Partly he said that because of the way the world is going and partly because of some very personal concerns.
I can’t blame anyone for feeling a bit worried right now. Even though the Bible says “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6), most of us are anxious about something. One writer called worry “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind.” Someone else said that worry is “the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.” To quote John Haggai once again, worry is “anxiety over the future that dominates the present.”
Surely that stands as a good description for the fear that grips many hearts around the world. Against the prevailing uncertainty in these early days of 2012, we have a clear reminder from our Lord in Matthew 6:27,
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Think about it. Can you add an hour to your life by your worry? No, but your worry may actually shorten your life by causing so much stress that your health breaks down. Jesus gave us this practical admonition that seems well-suited for these days:
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34).
You’ve got plenty of trouble right now. Why borrow trouble from tomorrow?
There are at least seven reasons why worry is counterproductive:
It wastes time that could be spent in better ways.
It focuses on the problem, not the solution.
It causes us to assume responsibility that belongs only to God.
It paralyzes us with fear.
It saps our joy.
It drains our energy.
It keeps us sidetracked when we could be doing God’s will.
If we want to get off to a good start this year, we need to begin in the right place. Philippians 3:12-14 helps us at the level of personal motivation by revealing the heart of our faith.
It begins with a very frank admission.
You can read the rest of the message online.