Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matt. 6:27
I can picture myself raising my hand slowly on that one. Apparently, lately, I think I can. Worry is such a deceptive temptation because it comes so close to feeling like control…if I just obsessively think about something enough, it won’t surprise me, throw me off, or turn out so badly after all. If I spend one more hour wrestling with this looming thing in my mind, one more hour working the jigsaw puzzle that it has become, and one more day not letting it out of my grip it will suddenly become clear, manageable and safe. Worry seems to be the closest I can get to controlling the stuff that is just simply out of my control in the present moment.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16-18
The anecdote that the Gospel gives for my worry, which ultimately is my answer to fear, is God’s love. What? What does God’s love have to do with these very concrete circumstances and potential catastrophes looming on the horizon? Well, for one, fear has to do with punishment and there is no punishment in addition to what Jesus has already borne on my behalf. This means that there are no gratuitous catastrophes or heartbreaks but only circumstances designed for my good, life-giving redemption and the redemption of all of God’s people and creation. Because this is all part of His love, I do not need to fear but to trust His love as the driving force even in the suffering that looks like it is my fault or by the whims of others, like with Joseph’s brothers or those who put Jesus on the cross. Even these acts of men’s wickedness were intended by God’s goodness for the redemption of God’s people.
Here is something helpful Scotty said in his prayer today: “Jesus, liberate me from thinking about the next thing, so I can be present in the current moment and conversation. May people, not projects be my greater concern and joy each day. Help me to make better eye contact and heart connection with those you give me to love. Help me to be less timid around strangers and more intrigued with new people I meet. Help me to use less words and more listening when engaging others. Turn my hair-trigger reactions into slower, wiser responses. Please unshackle me from the illusion of control and my commitment to a pain-free heart. Loving well always involves risk and pain.”
As I was thinking about my consuming worries lately and being reminded that diving into His love is where I need to go, I wondered why the moment I do that the voices of the cynics become so loud and defeating. And then I realized it is because the voice of the cynic is mine. It is so loud because it is already “inside the house” like those scary movies in high school. Oh this is why I need the Gospel today just as much as I needed to hear it for my salvation years ago. Lord have mercy on me the sinner! I don’t really believe your love is enough but would prefer to trust in my budgeting, my planning, my analysis and my own “wisdom” which is no wisdom at all if it is not directing me to Jesus. My heart is not beyond the need for mercy and extensive transformation but needs grace to be at work moving me into greater faith in the person and work of Jesus.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 2 Cor. 13:12-13
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 1 John 3:14
When I fall into consuming worry I am falling back into death – not eternally of course, but it’s toxicity isn’t hard to acknowledge. When I am consumed with worry I have no love or even time for others because my issue has become more important to me than anything or anyone else. Oh may it not be so. Thank you Jesus that the answer isn’t for me to muster up more external love for others today nor is it to fake a passionate romance with you. It is not by renewed resolve, perfect repentance or steely determination but by the completed and completing work of Jesus. You who are greater than my heart are faithful and You will do it.