During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not worry.” He then asked a rhetorical question: “How many of you by worrying can add a single moment to your life-span?” The words Jesus used were somewhat ambiguous, so some Bible scholars translate His question as: “How many of you by worrying can add a single cubit to your height?”
Either way, we do not extend our life-span or get any taller by worrying. Medical science now understands that constant worrying can make people physically ill, and therefore can reduce their life-span. (I’m not sure if worrying reduces our height, but I know a few chronic worrywarts who always seem to be hunched over wringing their hands in fear, so maybe worrying at least causes us to have bad posture.)
Jesus clearly said to His followers, “Do not worry.” The theme of avoiding worry and fear is prevalent throughout Scripture. In fact, scholars note that the Bible contains phrases such as, “Do not fear,” “Fear not,” or, “Be not afraid” exactly 365 times. Gee, what a coincidence. God has given us a different Bible admonishment to avoid fear for each day of the entire calendar year. (However, every four years on Leap Day, February 29th, you’re on your own.)
Since Jesus said we should not worry, along with the Bible’s relentless message to be not afraid, why is it then that people who follow Christ are often the most pessimistic worrywarts around?
Some of the most fearful doom-and-gloomers I’ve ever met were folks involved in church activities. To be fair, I spend most of my spare time involved in church activities. So maybe if I spent my spare time differently, such as getting drunk at bars or blowing my paycheck at a casino, I’d meet a whole new group of people who are even more fearful and depressed. (On second thought, if that’s how I spent my spare time, I would be the most fearful one of all—fearful of what my darling wife will do when she finds out.)
It’s one thing to say to someone, “Do not worry.” And even if you explain that worrying does no good and can make you sick and can give you bad posture, the person will not automatically stop worrying if he or she is truly fearful about something.
Usually we worry because we are fearful of the unknown future. We don’t know what will happen, but we’re afraid it might be something bad, so our bodies instinctively go into that uncomfortable worrying mode, which makes us skittish and anxious and downright miserable.
The only way to stop worrying is to have confidence that the unknown future will work out OK. That’s where Jesus comes in. His telling us, “Do not worry” is not merely a hollow exhortation like, “Hey pal, lighten up.” It is instead a divine promise that the future will be OK.
God is the only person who knows the future, and since Jesus is God, He too knows the future. He knows that no matter what temporary heartache and pain we endure, the final chapter of the story will be glorious: we can be with Him in the paradise of Heaven for all eternity!
Faith, hope, and love are the keys. If we have faith that Jesus truly is the Son God, hope that His promise for the future is true, and love for Him and for all the other struggling folks around us, worry will disappear. That sense of gloom and doom and fear and anxiety will be gone.