Summary: Fear is a healthy emotion. Fear can protect us…often from ourselves, but an unguarded fear only causes us anxiety, or worry. Worry is incredibly unhealthy. This message focuses on overcoming worry.
Fear is one of the characters personified in the mind of Riley Anderson in the film Inside Out. Fear is portrayed as a tall, lanky, lavender skinned character with a long nose and a penchant for wearing magenta bow ties and purple slacks. He is at one and the same time, fearful, nervous, timid, cowardly, insecure, paranoid, passive, snarky, friendly, shy, conscientious, aware, diligent, concerned, frightened, unnerved, good-natured, responsible, loyal, hardworking, dependable, embarrassed, intelligent, and self-conscious. But, mostly, fear is portrayed as anxious. The best word we can use for anxious? Worried!
I personally think the character would have been better named “worry,” but I’m not the author, so my opinion doesn’t count. The character spent much more time worrying than he did in fear. Fear is a healthy emotion. Fear can protect us…often from ourselves, but an unguarded fear only causes us anxiety, or worry. Worry is incredibly unhealthy. That’s what I’d like us to focus on this morning—overcoming worry. We don’t need to overcome the emotion of fear. Remember, it is helpful. It is appropriate to “fear” God. It is appropriate to fear snakes—the only good snake is a dead snake! Proper fear guides the “fight or flight” reaction in each of us. Worry, however, is a different animal altogether.
We first need to distinguish between what are legitimate fears and fear that causes us to worry. Some of the things fear reacts to in the movie is when Riley discovers she’s moving to California, and fear overreacts to the ideas of earthquakes. Joy has to squelch Fear with the idea that earthquakes are just a myth. You know what else earthquakes are? Out of our control. If a situation is out of our control, there is little reason for us to worry about it. There is a fine line between fear and worry. Think about it this way: I have a legitimate concern over an upcoming test in school. That is a situation within my control, and I can alleviate any fears or worries about it by one simple act—studying. Perhaps I’m concerned about my finances, and I’m afraid of not having as much money as I have month. That, too, is within my control. I can put myself on a budget, or better yet, I can attend Financial Peace University, which has its second preview night on January 13th at 6:00 p.m., in The View Sunday school room. Or, I’m fearful because I’ve discovered a knot on my neck that wasn’t there before. That fear can motivate me to go to the doctor to get it checked out. Fear is helpful in all those cases.
Worry, on the other hand, asks the question, “What if?” Inappropriate fear focuses on the improbably, uncontrollable circumstances for which there can be no action. Let’s use the same scenarios we just used. Suppose I study for the test, but I worry, “What if I forget everything? What if I fail?” Or, I go see a financial counselor and begin to follow a budget, but I still worry, “What if the stock market crashes, or the car breaks down or I lose my job?” Or, I go to the doctor, get the tests done and the doc gives me a good report, but I’m still fearful and worry, “What if I get cancer? What if the tests are wrong?” Worry focuses on those things we can’t control or change. That is what Jesus wants us to avoid because that kind of fear can have lasting negative effects, and can rob the joy of our lives.
What are some of the negative effects of worry? First, worry wastes our time and energy. Worrying is like racing your car engine while it’s in neutral. All that does is waste fuel, stress the motor and get us nowhere. One study showed that the average person worries:
• 40% of the time on things that will never happen
• 30% of the time on things about the past that can’t be changed
• 12% on other people’s opinions that can’t be controlled
• 10% about personal health, which only deteriorates with stress, and
• 8% on real problems that will soon be faced.
Ninety-two percent of the worrying we do is about things we can’t control. What a waste of time!
Secondly, worry erodes our health. Jesus asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” What are the health problems caused by worry? Ulcers, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and sleeplessness among others. Worry really does shorten our lives.
Did you hear about the father who worried over his rebellious son? The father told his son, “Every time you act like that, you give me another gray hair!”
The boy replied, “Wow, Dad, you must have been a rotten kid—look at Grandpa!”