“Ain’t no sense worryin’ about the things you got control over, ’cause if you got control over ’em, ain’t no sense worryin’. And ain’t no sense worryin’ about the things you don’t got control over, ’cause if you don’t got control over ’em, ain’t no sense worryin’.”
― Mickey Rivers
Over the past several years, I’ve begun to see learning less linear and more of a spiral. In other words, I used to see learning as something you built upon. So I learn something foundational, and then I learn something that builds upon that knowledge and I keep doing that.
Here’s what I’ve been seeing more and more:
I learn something, and perhaps know it as an idea. I might even state, “Yes, this is true.” But under pressure I reveal what my actual belief is. For example, I can state God requires us to forgive those who have hurt us. At the same time have a specific person I am not forgiving because, “They don’t deserve it,” or, “you don’t know what they did to me.”
Down the road, perhaps years later, I learn about forgiveness again, but in a deeper way. Perhaps I see my brokenness and sinfulness in a new way. Perhaps I hurt someone, and they respond with love and forgiveness, when I thought I broken the relationship.
Now, this thing that I used to say I believe, I understand in a deeper way. And I’m able to forgive in a way that I had not previously. And most likely, I’ll learn this again in even more profound ways over and over throughout my life.
That process continues throughout our lives as long as we’re willing to learn. It is part of why we don’t read the bible once, check it off our list and then put it a way. We know that throughout our lives it will continue to speak to us in new ways as we are willing to hear. A passage I’ve read countless times jumps off the page at one point because of where I am in life and what I am dealing with.
Over the past few years I’ve been learning a lot about worry. The comment above by former Major League Baseball player Mickey Rivers* has always been one of my favourite quotes on the topic. It is hard to argue with his logic.
I believe the issue of worry is about our ability to trust God.
And hopefully, like forgiveness, we learn about and experience trusting him at a deeper level as we go through life.
There are couple of things I’ve been experiencing on the topic of worry lately. And while I didn’t learn anything earth-shattering…I think I’m understanding it in a deeper way.
Here’s what I’ve been noticing…
The Lord’s prayer guides us to pray for our provision. “Give us today our daily bread.” It doesn’t say, “Give us today, our weekly/monthly/annual supply of bread.” Jesus tells us to ask our Father for what we need today. I’m sure you’ve heard this before…but stick with me.
While this is not true for a large percentage of the world, there has never been a day in my life where I didn’t have enough food to eat. Or where I didn’t have a place to sleep. Or where I didn’t have clothes and shoes. I have always been able to see my family have the medical care they need. I’ve never had to lay in bed upset because my kids did not have enough food to eat.
If I look back over my life, the needs of today have never been the issue.
The needs of next week…next month…they have caused me countless hours of worry and stress.
Laying in bed stressing about what might happen two or three weeks down the road and praying that God would give me today what I need for a day at some point in the future…has never been very helpful.
In fact, I usually leave those times of ‘prayer’ more anxious and stressed than when I began.
Jesus builds on this idea of ‘today’ in Matthew 6. He says to look at the birds…and the flowers. They don’t stress about this stuff. Why do you? Don’t you understand that it’s the people who don’t know God who worry about this kind of stuff? Today has enough stuff going on…don’t spend any of your energy worrying about tomorrow (and I think it is safe to assume that he also means the day after tomorrow.
So what am I actually learning about worry? Like each of you there is stuff we need to have taken care of over the next few weeks. And while my normal tendency has been to worry about next week, I’m trying instead to focus on gratitude for today. I have a great wife and 4 amazing daughters. We ate 3 meals meals. I had a bed to lie down on. We’re all healthy.
Rather than focusing on where God might potentially fail me in the future…I’m trying to express gratitude for how he provided today. (the funny thing is, that 4 weeks ago, today was something I worried about, and guess what…)
The hardest times for me to keep this up, are when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep. That is when my brain kicks into overdrive and the ‘what if’ questions begin to flare up.
About a week ago, I was having one of those middle of the night worry sessions. ’What if we don’t have enough money to pay rent this month.’ ‘What if…’ you know who those internal conversations go. You probably have your own set of what if’s that keep you up at night.
So I decided to try an experiment. Rather than focus on negative ‘what ifs’ that are unlikely to happen. What if I focused on positive ‘what ifs’ that are just as unlikely to happen.
My internal conversation went something like this:
‘What if I win the lottery?’
“You don’t play the lottery.”
What if someone gives us a winning ticket.
What if a rich uncle dies and leaves everything to us?
You don’t have any rich uncles?
Okay, what if a long lost rich uncle leave us his fortune?
I don’t remember much of the conversation after that because, well, I fell asleep.
That was a ridiculous conversation. But no more ridiculous than the ones I have where everything turns out horrible.
When we first began preparing to move to Ireland there were potential issues that concerned (okay, worried) me. None of them have come to pass. Other stuff I never imagined…wow…that happened. But as each thing came up, God met us in the midst of everything and they really have worked out for our god.
My failure to worry about them ahead of time did not make them more difficult to address.
A lot of the stuff I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of years has a lot to do with our mindset. How we look at life.
If I cannot be aware of and grateful for what God is doing today…it’s more likely that I will worry about his ability or willingness to provide tomorrow.
So I’m left with trusting what Jesus said about flowers and birds…or thinking that while that was quaint, I understand better than him how the world actually works.
Seems to be an ongoing process.
(the image above was taken at Powerscourt)
* (I choose to ignore the 4 seasons he played for the Yankees.)