Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?
Matthew 6.27 (NIV alternate translation)
What causes us to worry? Factors we can’t control. Outcomes we can’t predict. People we can’t change. Inevitabilities we can’t escape. Indeed, we can list all our worries under one umbrella: things beyond our reach. They may dramatically affect our lives one way or another. Until the moment of impact arrives, though, fretting about attitudes and developments outside our influence wastes energy better used where we can make a difference.
We call overly anxious people worry worts. Yet we can also compare worries to warts. They spring up, unannounced, often overnight, in inconvenient places. Their sudden intrusion and ugliness win them disproportionate attention. Unless we nip them in the bud, they grow, reproduce, and spread. Like warts, worries are viral.
The Evil Twin
Worry is the evil twin of care. On first impression, they look identical. Our acquaintance with both of them—their dispositions, habits, and habitats—helps us distinguish worry from care. Care is guided by eagerness to help. It’s remarkably efficient and undemanding. It gravitates toward areas where it’s most needed and welcome. By contrast, worry promotes helplessness. Its methods are futile, its cravings constant. It seeks out situations where it has nothing to contribute and makes things complicated and inhospitable. We need not trick ourselves into mistaking one for the other. We’re aware of their differences. Therefore, we’re fully capable of caring more and worrying less.
During times of high anxiety, my mom always says, “Why pray when you can worry?” As often as I’ve heard it, it’s like a splash of cold water every time. If I prefer to worry, I’m free to stare at mounting issues like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights. But if I genuinely care, I talk it over with God. Since He covers all space and time, He’s already there, in the middle of dilemmas I can’t access, speaking to hearts and minds I can’t reach.
Jesus said worrying doesn’t make us taller. We think it raises our profile, proving we really care. In fact, worry diminishes us. It inflates our challenges and deflates our confidence. There’s plenty to worry with: families that don’t understand or accept us, strangers who hate us, Christians who disown us, systems that discriminate against us—and those are just the big-ticket items. If we truly desire to stand tall as followers of Christ, though, we shouldn’t worry about anything. So how tall are you?
One worries; the other doesn't.
(Tomorrow: Caring Dos and Don’ts)