One of the good things about journaling is the ability to occasionally glance back and see what was going on in one’s life a year – or a decade – ago today. This week I did just that and was reminded of a breakfast I had shared with an elderly saint whose disposition, speech and evident sense of humor gave no hint of his financial challenges, recent widowhood or chronic physical pain. A year later he continues to carry on with a radiant and infectious smile.
In contrast, many who have good health and plenty of money live in fear of what may be ahead, always expecting some tragedy to befall them. “Whenever I board a plane, I expect it to crash,” one man told me. “Then, if it lands safely, I feel good.”
Some have chosen this fearful frame of mind for their outlook on life. They make Murphy’s Law (“Whatever can go wrong, will”) their guiding light and live as if God operated the world on this pessimistic principle.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In “Letters To An American Lady,” C.S. Lewis comforted a troubled woman by telling her not all the things she feared could happen to her and the one (if any) that did would probably turn out very different from what she expected, adding: “The great thing, as you have obviously seen, (both as regards pain and financial worries) is to live from day to day and hour to hour not adding the past or the future to the present.”
Our Lord agreed, telling His disciples to stop worrying about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). To fret when we don’t have the facts is then both disobedient and faithless.
Sometimes when preaching, I have asked the members of the congregation how many of them have ever worried about things that didn’t happen. Many hands have always been raised immediately. Then I have told those who didn’t respond that I would speak to them the following week about lying.
In his published sermon, “The Sin of Borrowing Trouble,” the eloquent nineteenth century minister, T. DeWitt Talmadge said, “The majority of the troubles of life are imaginary, and most of those anticipated never come.”
The Psalmist warned against frivolous fretting in one of his most loved songs, a Psalm to which I have often turned during times of trouble (Psalm 37). The first two words of this comforting Psalm are “Fret not.”
A pastor, trying to comfort a troubled woman in his church asked her it she knew this helpful Psalm and when she replied that she did, He wisely pointed out that she evidently was only familiar with the first word: “Fret.” He then wisely suggested she add the second word: “not” and stop her faithless fretting.
The wise minister’s good advice would quickly turn fearful days to times of faith and enable us all to be free from our faithless fretting.
No matter what fears plague you today, don’t despair.
And don’t expect the worst.
When you trade your fears for faith, God will give strength for today and tomorrow will likely turn out better than you think.