"Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear."
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength."
These two quotes are from Corrie Ten Boom, who survived concentration camp imprisonment after she and her family hid Jewish people in their home in the Netherlands from certain death at the hands of the Nazis. If anyone had something to worry about, it was certainly Corrie!
I've had the second quote attached to my computer monitor at work for years. I look at it often. I'm afraid I haven't mastered the key to worry-free life as of yet.
Are you old enough to remember him? Alfred E. Neuman never seemed to have a problem in the world. At least he put on a happy (idiotic) face for every MAD magazine addition.
Unfortunately, the rest of us do have worries. But are we supposed to worry? Not according to Jesus in Matthew 6:
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
The Message says that last verse this way:
34 Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
The old King James Version says for that last phrase, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." I think I like that the best of all.
I remember when I first really made that passage my own. It was the summer after my senior year in high school. I had been counting the days to college since early in my junior year when I had visited our denomination's campus in Oklahoma. For some reason, I had felt right at home there and could not wait to move in.
I spent the last two years of high school in Omaha when Dad took a pastorate there. We went to a small school outside the city, and had a wonderful experience. I've chronicled some of that time in previous posts, particularly my stint as co-editor of the school newspaper (especially here). This class embraced me as one of theirs, even though I was only there for 2 years and most of them had been together since kindergarten. I still keep close touch with two of those girls that I slumber-partied and pep clubbed with.
At the same time, we had a great, though small, youth group at our church. We created our own lessons for Sunday night youth meeting, we planned the programs and decorated our banquets, we went to camp together, and we had a teen choir. This was during the days when teen choirs were burgeoning and traveling all over the country and world. We didn't have a budget, great outfits, or choreography. We just sang for fun and the love of God, and went to a couple of churches around the state to share the joy.
After graduation, I was not able to get a summer job. So I went to camp - 3 camps that summer. One was my own camp to attend and the other two I worked in the kitchen to pay for my way to my camp. But that was not getting me in very good shape for college bills. I blissfully went through that summer, not worrying. Which is a good thing, to not worry. But I was sort of like Alfred E. up above, "What me, Worry?" I didn't have a cent to my name. My parents didn't either. They had 4 kids after me.
I had never given it a second thought that I would do anything but go to college. I applied, was accepted, was excited. There was no school counseling in those days, at least in our little school. The school counselor helped you with your schedule and that was about it - at least that was all he did for me. He didn't guide us to our college choices or career options, or financial aid - especially financial aid!
The summer was drawing to a close. The excitement was mounting for me. I can't imagine how naive I was - and my parents must have been as well. At least they never mentioned a word to me about their concern for how we were going to pay for this venture into higher education. That's one great thing about my parents - we were poor, but we didn't seem to know it as kids.
It must have been in August. I had begun to pack for college. I went to bed that night, but could not sleep. I tossed and turned and fretted about how this was all going to work out - suddenly reality was hitting me in the face. How WAS I going to pay for college?? I heard some low voices down the hall at the other end, so I padded down to Mom and Dad's room to share my concerns with them. Seems as though they were having the same thoughts and conversation. When I realize now how young they were at that time (34 and 37!), I cannot imagine the panic they must have been feeling. We had a long talk and they mentioned that I should possibly stay home a year and make some money.
I went back to my room very troubled. I did NOT want to stay home another year. I mentioned to them that then my sister and I would go to college the same year. They said maybe she'd have to do the same and it would even out. I had been looking so forward to this adventure and now it seemed to be crumbling.
I slept not a wink that night. I began to pray and ask God for answers. I had a wrestling match with Him that night. I told Him what I'd told my parents - I wanted out of there! Not that I didn't love home. I loved my church. I just wanted to fulfill the dream I'd been dreaming for 2 years.
As the night wore on and I cried tears of many different emotions, suddenly I began to see the advantages of staying home and earning some money. I could actually have some new clothes! I began to realize how many things I needed to even furnish a dorm room. I might even be able to go to school without having to work. That was a new concept! I remember as if it were yesterday the moment I yielded my will to HIS. I told Him I would stay home if that was His will. In fact, I was sure it was. A huge weight rolled off my spirit.
The very next morning, THE VERY NEXT MORNING, the phone began to ring with people from church calling to ask my mom what I needed to be ready for college. They wanted to give me a "college shower." My brother (MG's husband) and our friend (like a 4th brother) came and offered to buy my towels AND a winter coat. Someone offered an iron and ironing board. Someone gave me sheets. When I think of how naively I went through that summer without worrying, I am amazed. But God had a plan all along. He always does.
Just before leaving for college, the "Teen Quartet" (my brother, sister, above mentioned friend, and myself) went out to western Nebraska to hold a morning service for a pastor friend. I was the speaker, and I spoke from my heart about the miracle that had occurred in my life, personally and spiritually. The scripture above became my life scripture. Soon I'm going to write about the varied jobs I had to get through school - but I can say I ended up the last year of college with the school owing ME $17.00! - what a mighty God we serve.
I wish I could say that I never worry. I can't. But I always have this scripture and these two quotes that come to me when I do, and I ask for divine help to give it to Him. I have seen enough miracles to date that I should probably never be burdened with worry - I know He has a plan. I need to remember that today.