THE TYRANNY OF WORRY
By George Henderson
One does not need to travel very far along the road of life before one discovers that probably the greatest foe with which the human heart has to contend is worry. The terrible havoc which it works is written on the faces of men and women everywhere. It destroys the vitality of the body, turns the mind into a seething cauldron of unrest, and robs the soul of peace. No one is exempt from its attacks; for it possesses the fatal power of entering the palace of the king as easily as it does the humblest cottage in the land.
Since the grace that makes us Christians still leaves us men, we too—believers in the Lord Jesus Christ—are faced by this demon of worry; and it may be helpful to enquire how it is that we so frequently get into its grip; to show how sadly it hinders us in our witness for God; and to point out how we may be finally delivered from its power. Our theme then is: Worry—its prevalence, uselessness and baselessness; its causes, consequences and cure.
I. ITS CAUSES
By reason of our complex personality, we stand related to three realms of being physical, mental, and spiritual; and worry may come to us from any one of these. On the physical plane, life for very many is a constant battle for the bread that perisheth; and the worry that reaches us from this source is largely occasioned by such questions as: what shall we eat? what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? Mentally, some are so constituted that they live in perpetual dread of coming disaster. “An incurable malady is imagined to be on its way, an impending doom is thought to be in sight, an overhanging sword is already perceived,” and these imaginings, continued year after year, produce consequences which are serious in the last degree. Finally, in the spiritual realm, the happenings of the hour frequently furnish occasion for our faithless hearts to doubt the tenderness of God.
Now it is an indisputable fact that, generally speaking, people worry more about their vague imaginary troubles than they do about those which are actually upon them. The story is told of a lady who, for a time, kept a list of impending troubles. It was a relief to see them down in black and white. Some months later in looking over the list, she was surprised to find that nine-tenths of these troubles had never materialized. They had an existence only in her imagination.
The troubles that never come form the heaviest part of our daily load. The worry and the fear caused by these apprehended miseries often work sad havoc with brain and nerves. The actual sorrows, the bereavements, the disappointments, have their comfort and cure. But there is no cure for the troubles that never come. They are haunting ghosts, unsubstantial as mist, yet very real in their depressing and harmful power over us.
II. ITS CONSEQUENCES
These are so apparent that one needs scarcely stay to discuss them. “Worry is one of the most fatal of all transgressions. It is a sin against not one organ of the body, but against the body as a whole. It is a demon whose pressure is felt upon the heart, and there is not a capillary in any gland or tissue which does not shrink under the glance of its gloomy eyes. Man who worries is slowly draining the springs of life. He not only stunts himself, but he makes it harder for others to grow and blossom.” It unnerves, paralyzes, and unfits one for the battle of life. It whitens the hair, saddens the heart, and sends multitudes to untimely graves. A dying man called his sons and daughters to his bedside and said, “My children, I have seen a lot of troubles in my time. I have seen so many troubles that they have quite worn me out, and that is the reason that I am now dying, when I ought to be in my physical and mental prime. But the saddest part of it is that most of my troubles have been imaginary troubles. They have been unnecessary troubles. They have not been troubles of the imminent to-day, but of the visionary to-morrow. They have been troubles which would never have bothered me if I had not gone forth and hunted them out of their lairs and troubled them. The things that have given me most concern have been the things that never happened. So I charge you, my dear children, if you would serve God with your best physical, mental, and spiritual powers, always obey the words which Christ spake in His famous sermon, “Take, therefore, no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
The Arabs have a legend which points to a grim truth. They tell of a plague that went stalking through the land, and one met him, asking if he could stay his cruel hand. The Plague replied that he fully intended to be merciful; he would take only five thousand from the earth. Some time after, the two met again. “So thou art a liar as well as a plague,” said the other to the Plague, “thy five thousand meant fifty thousand.”“Not so,” answered the Plague, “I took but five thousand; Fear and Worry killed the others.” If we give this enemy the slightest quarter we shall find ourselves
“Waging a fruitless warfare to which we were not sent, Meeting in our own strength a foe without form or name, And hurt and beaten in a fight with ills
that never came.”
III. ITS CURE
Can we be delivered from all the sad things of which we have been speaking? Is it possible to be emancipated from the thousand and one forms of pressure to which we are subject so long as we remain in a world which has been disarranged by sin? The answers to these questions will be very largely determined by our attitude to the Book which we call the Bible. For, if we believe that Book to be the completed revelation of God to man— literally given by inspiration of God—we have within our reach here and now, assurances and promises by Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, our heavenly Father, which will not only counteract all tendency to worry, but which will also enable us to live sunlit, care-free, victorious lives. This will be your glad experience:
(1) As you restfully recognize God’s all- wise providence
The reader will find it helpful to consider prayerfully Luke 12. 22-34. “That sublime passage is the chart by which, if we sail, we shall not worry. For it is inconceivable that He Who died for our sins, will leave us to struggle with the burdens and difficulties of life, and come to our aid only when at last, wearied in spirit and body, we lay ourselves down to die.” It is a complete and inclusive utterance, in which the model Preacher argues (verses 22, 23), illustrates (verses 24- 28), and appeals (verses 29-34). Here the Master unveils some of His most wonderful teaching. He points to the little birds of the air which pour forth their profuse strains of unpremeditated art, and shows that God knows and cares for even the most worthless of them. He takes up the flower of the field with its simple natural adorning, and shows that its glory outshines that of the greatest of earth’s potentates. “I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” And from the fact that God feeds the sparrow and clothes the lily, our Lord goes on to assure us that our heavenly Father is intimately acquainted with our needs, and to urge us to banish from our hearts all carking, corroding care.
“God is great in great things, but very great in little things,” says Henry Dyer. “A party stood on the Matterhorn admiring the sublimity of the scene, when a gentleman produced a pocket microscope, and having caught a fly placed it under the glass. He reminded us that the legs of the household fly in England were naked, then called attention to the legs of this little fly, which were thickly covered with hair, thus showing that the same God Who made the lofty Swiss mountains attended to the comfort of His tiniest creatures, even providing socks and mittens for the little fly whose home these mountains were. This God is our God.”
When Luther was at Coburg, he wrote to a friend “I was lately looking out of my window at night, and I saw the stars in the heavens, and God’s great beautiful arch over my head, but I could not see any pillars on which the great Builder had fixed this arch; and yet the heavens fell not, and the great arch stood firmly. There are some who are always feeling for the pillars and longing to touch them; and, because they cannot touch them, they stand trembling and fearing lest the heavens should fall. If they could only grasp the pillars, then the heavens would stand fast.” Thus Luther illustrated the faith of his own soul, and wished to inspirit others with the same strong confidence in God.
There is an unslumbering eye upon us; there is a heart of infinite love beating responsive to every need of our earthly life; there are arms of Omnipotence underneath and around us. Let us be still—quiet as an infant in its mother’s arms. Let us commit all our interests to the keeping of our heavenly Father.
(2) As you habitually enjoy His knowledge—surpassing peace
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phillippians 4. 6, 7). It is clear from these words that the heart of the Christian is like a castle besieged by malignant foes. These enemies are care, worry, doubt, anxiety, unrest—any one of which, if admitted, will destroy that rest of heart which is essential in all who would bear witness for God. To guard against such invasion a heavenly garrison is placed at our disposal; and this heavenly garrison encampeth round about those who comply with the conditions laid down in verse 6, in order to give them the protection promised in verse 7. The result will be a peace that out soars and transcends the loftiest conception of the human mind; and, in the enjoyment of it, we shall be able to face all hostile intelligences and say:
“In the centre of the circle
Of the will of God I stand;
There can come no second causes,
All must come from His dear Hand.
All is well I for ‘tis my Father
Who my earthly life hath planned.
Shall I pass through waves of sorrow?
Then I know it will be best;
Though I cannot tell the reason,
I can trust said so am blest.
God is Love, and God is faithful;
So in perfect peace I rest.
With the shade and with the sunshine,
With the joy and with the pain,
Lord, I trust Thee—both are needed Me,
Thy wayward child, to train.
Earthly loss, did we but know it,
Often means our heavenly gain.”
A word of caution, Philippians 4: 6, 7 counsels us unreservedly to make known in the presence of God, all that concerns us; but these verses do not say that God will answer all our requests at the time at which, and in the way in which, we ask Him. “Some time ago,” says Mrs. Groben, “when it became necessary to break her of the habit of sleeping with me, I laid my little child in her crib, kissed her good- night, and turned out the light. She cried long and bitterly, thinking that I did not hear her cry and that I did not love her, not knowing that I was, in reality, not far away—only hidden by the darkness—and that my mother-heart was aching for her. I indeed heard her cries, and longed to do what she wanted, but, for her own good, I must hide myself.” In the presence of many of the dark problems of life, we are as devoid of understanding as the little girl; but, unlike her, we know that our Father is standing by, and that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
(3) As you constantly verify His all inclusive promise
“As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33: 25). “Sometimes,” says John Newton, “I compare the troubles we have to undergo in the course of a year to a great bundle of faggots far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once. He mercifully unties the bundles, and gives us first one stick, which we are able to carry today, and then another, which we are able to carry tomorrow, and so on. This we can easily manage, if we could only take the burden appointed for us each day; but we choose to increase our trouble by carrying yesterday’s stock over again today, an adding tomorrow’s burden before we are required to bear it.”
“Apart from the woes that are past and gone
And the shadow of future care,
The heaviest load of the present hour
Is easy enough to bear.”