There are so many people in homes, communities, hospitals, and houses of worship that are filled with anxiety, fear and overwhelm. It is an immediate natural response to any crisis. But one that has last 15+ months can cause even the strongest to feel weak. It can even cause many to question what they once knew or believed. Worry can cause us to see things that are not there, think things that are not true, and even believe social media hacks who re-share inaccurate data.
I read a study years ago (can’ remember the source) that stated that 40% of Americans worry about things that will never happen. I can’t imagine how heightened that is during a pandemic crisis. We have to stop trying to answer the “what ifs” – the “how comes” and the “why nots.” Instead, we need to stop and just ask, “What’s Next?” What do I do now? Worry will not help you become what God designed you to be. I can promise you this: Worry will not add anything to your life, but I promise it will subtract the joy from your life. That’s why we have to choose to fight off the virus of worry.
Jesus asked, “Can all of your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). It was a rhetorical question from the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth. Think about all that we worry about, all that we focus, and all that we fear. Now, slide it behind the lens of hope.
WORRY says nothing will ever work out for me. HOPE says God will provide all I need.
WORRY says I will not have enough money.
HOPE says God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
WORRY says I can’t provide for my kids.
HOPE says God will provide everything that my kids need because He cares!
Hope encourages and enables us to keep going knowing that God loves us, He is with us, and He is for us! I am so grateful for hope. Without hope there is no reason to wake up in the morning, or to develop dreams for your life. Hope is the antidote to the virus of worry!
WORRY DEPLETES YOUR LIFE.
Jesus said, “Worry can’t add a moment to your life.” But I promise you it can delete moments from your life. When you worry your mind goes into overdrive about what “might happen.” Chronic worrying affects your daily life so much that it interferes with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and even your occupation. There are a lot of people who worry so much that they dive into negative lifestyle habits such as overeating, chain smoking, or abusing alcohol and drugs.
According to Jane Martin (LRT, CRT) worry can cause the following: fast heartbeat, irritability, headaches, muscle aches, tension, nausea, artery disease, heart attacks, unarmed immune system. Worry depletes, discourages, disarms, derails and ultimately defeats you! Worry may not add to your life, but I promise you it will subtract from it.
So, if worry depletes, what is the opposite? It’s peace! When Jesus was teaching in Matthew 6 he was basically saying, ‘Live in peace, knowing that God will provide for you.’ This season we are in as a community, and as a nation, is truly about trusting God.
GOD PROMISES TO MEET EVERY NEED
In Matthew 6, Jesus uses a few analogies in this passage. He talks about birds, lilies, and wildflowers. The birdsremind us that God provides your food. The lilies remind us that God supplies our clothes. The wildflowers remind us that God cares for us every single day of our lives. God promises to meet every need you have! The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When you worry or get stressed about the needs of your life just take a moment and recalibrate. Don’t stress about things you can’t change! Don’t focus on the negative! Keep believing. Keep hoping. God will always come through!
Joshua is sharing his final words to God’s people. He wanted to remind them of something huge, an important fact! Here’s what he says, “Soon I will die, going the way of everything on earth. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the LORD your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (Joshua 23:14). Friend, hold on to the promise that God will meet every need you have and then some! Not one will fail. He will bring you through what this pandemic has brought us to!
MASTER THE ART OF FOCUS
I live in a constant state of change. I am sure that is every single person living through the COVID-19 pandemic is sensing that things change every day. When things are constantly changing – it is really hard to maintain focus. As Americas, we have to master the art of focus! We have become an easily distracted nation.
The word worry, in Matthew 6 in the Greek means to be divided. The Greek word is formed by two root words "divided" and "mind." In other words, worry means to be pulled in many different directions causing you to lose focus! Your mind is divided.
You may have to shut off the news. Do not live the 24-hour news cycle playing in the background while you are at home. I am convinced that will add worry to your life and especially your children or grandchildren. Get your update and then turn it off. Play-by-play news that is constantly negative will nag at your mind. You may even need to shut off the news alerts on your phone or limit your time on social media. Those things often steal our focus.
Vance Havner once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere!” Social media is the same. You feel like you are doing something, but most often we are contributing to the worry and overwhelm. Worry keeps you active, but it will consume your mind with every negative possibility! And that process will weigh you down with even more worry! Remember, worry does not add to your life, but it will certainly subtract from it.
As a pastor for over 25 years, I have discovered the antidote to the virus of worry is hope. The Prophet Isaiah wrote,“… but those who HOPE in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Yes, respect those around you! Yes, wash your hands (which I thought we were supposed to be doing)! Yes, protect the most vulnerable during this coronavirus pandemic! But doing those things alone do not remove the worry. Mastering the art of focusing on hope will.
Now go outside, look up to the heavens, and say, “I am alive. Thank you, God for another day to live. Today, I choose hope.” Smile, it’s a good day to be alive.