Summary: Part 10 of a 13 week series Hearing Jesus Again. This message looks at how worry, fear and anxiety can choke out the presence of God’s Spirit in our life.
Jesus On the Irrelevance of Worry
Part 10 in series Hearing Jesus Again
Wildwind Community Church
July 19, 2008
I want to talk to you tonight not from a standpoint of success, but more from a standpoint of struggle. Throughout this series I have made no claim to have mastered all that we have talked about. None of us can make that claim. But tonight I want to talk to you about something Jesus said that I struggle with – perhaps more than anything else. It’s a complicated topic and I hope to deal with it in a way that is fair and accurate, but most of all gentle. Because I know I am not alone – that many of you, as I speak tonight, will see your own struggle in my own. Before I start I want to tell you that for the most part I have always seen my life as an open book, but this is an area that has always just been too embarrassing and humiliating to talk about. But I feel I cannot treat this topic honestly without going there.
I struggle with fear, and I have all my life. I can recall being a very small child and lying awake in bed at night and worrying. My main worrying obsession as a child was with locking the doors. I would ask about this every night and every night I was reassured by my parents that the house was secure. But this was not good enough. I would lay there listening to the sounds of the house – creaking floorboards and pipes, wind causing various rattling noises, or just the sound of silence – and I would worry. I would worry that somebody would get into my house somehow and take me and do something to me. I would worry about my parents being harmed. I would worry that Jesus would come back to take the Christians to heaven and that I would not be included and would be left to fend for myself.
As I grew up, I discovered just how much there is in this world to worry about. I can actually remember the first time I ever heard about nuclear weapons. Whoa. It’s too terrible to be true – but it is. I remember the impact it made on me at a young age when I learned that old (and sometimes young) people in my church had died. I remember developing a fear that maybe I might die. Nuclear war and fear of disease and death were the main things I worried about as a teenager. I grew up assuming I wouldn’t live to age 30 – surely I would contract some terrible disease that would take me before my time. I worried all the time. Sometimes I worried until my chest hurt and I couldn’t breathe. Then I worried that the chest pain was a heart attack – Jesus calling a 14 year old boy home with a heart attack! I also worried – a lot – about being attacked by someone. I had a mental picture in Jr. high that I would one day bend over to get a drink out of the fountain and someone would stab me. Irrational? I know. In a moment I’m going to show you that ALL worry is irrational, but this is so fun, let’s keep going. The stabbing worry was the beginning of a brand new, very scary and worrisome, realization. I’m never completely safe. If someone were crazy enough, or angry enough, it would be easy for him to hurt or kill me. The existence of terrorism (and a lot of wars that we may or may not call terrorism) in the world proves this to be true. Now I worried not only about specific things but I carried around a general feeling that I was always unsafe and vulnerable to crazy and angry people.
As I got into high school and then into my early 20’s and had logged plenty of hours of watching movies and TV and nightly news, my worries grew darker and more violent. I worried about very strange things, like being buried alive. I had begun studying, of all things, forensic psychology and was studying the methods and minds of history’s most violent killers and of course this became part of the cycle of worry and fear.
By 1993 worry had become such a huge part of my life that one day I was getting ready for work and realized I was just too afraid to go out in public. I picked up the phone to call in sick at work. Just as the manager answered the phone I slammed the receiver down. Fortunately I had studied enough psychology to know where that road leads. Make that phone call just once, give in just once to fear, to anxiety, and it takes you over. You now consider yourself “sick,” and incapable of functioning in the world, and you end up stuck in a terrible downward spiral. So I kept going to work and living my life, but I would sometimes be in a public place and would have terrible thoughts and visions of a bomb blowing everyone away, or of a flood drowning my children in front of my eyes, or even a wave of killer bees moving in and killing everyone I loved. If TV tried to drum up fear about it, it always worked on me. I was the first to sign up to worry about any and every worrisome thing. In fact, I can’t think of anything scary that I haven’t spent a good amount of time worrying about in my life. Ebola, AIDS, nuclear war, being murdered (in whatever horrible way you can imagine), practically every horrible disease you can imagine, being abandoned by my wife and children, losing my job and not being able to support my family, having my debts called in and not being able to pay them and going to jail. You name it, I’ve worried about it. And when I say I’ve worried about it, I don’t mean I’ve thought about it – I mean I’ve seen it. I’ve been there.