I worry about worrying. I’m anxious about my anxiety. I’m really worried that I’ll pass my anxiety complex onto my daughter. She worries a lot. There’s a lot of hand wagging when things aren’t going her way. Then she has a little freak out. Of course I wag my hands and freak out sometimes too.
A lot of the advice I hear on worry comes from Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34). “I tell you, don’t worry about a thing.” Now, that usually gets put this way: “See, Jesus commands us not to worry. It’s a commandment. So, if you worry – that’s sin!” Which makes those of us who worry just worry more. “I’m worried…now I’m worried that I’m sinning!”
Another little piece of advice that doesn’t really work is this one: Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. Here’s the thing – No. No, it’s not all small stuff. Some stuff is big stuff. Some stuff will have major ramifications in your life. You actually do have the right to worry about the big stuff.
I’ve been thinking about some friends of mine who have been going through some big stuff lately. Their son has an autoimmune disorder. It’s genetic in nature and the only real relief is a bone marrow transplant. They are equal parts thankful for the opportunity to extend his life and give him a fighting chance, and worried that the chemotherapy will be harmful. They’re literally putting poison into their son’s body to try to cure him.
Then I think about my worries. My friends have every right to sweat their stuff in comparison to mine, but they don’t. At least they don’t let us see it. They share their concerns and heartache, but every time I talk to them they have a smile in their voice and a hopeful outlook. If you ask me how I’m doing on any given day – and I’m honest – you’d think I’ve got a lot to worry about. I don’t. Not when I compare my stuff to other people’s stuff.
That’s one thing that I always try keep in mind – my stuff is small when I compare it to other people’s stuff. And no matter how big your stuff is, you can always find someone else who has bigger stuff. So, it’s not all small stuff, but your stuff is small in comparison to other people’s stuff.
I think that’s what the writer of Hebrews was getting at in chapter 12. “Consider Jesus who endured such opposition from sinners and died on the cross, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” In other words, when we compare our suffering to the Lord’s suffering, our suffering is minor. But this isn’t about a command to stop worrying. It’s about not losing heart. It’s about having hope in the face of your overwhelming circumstances.
Is hope the opposite of worry? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just the better response to worry. Instead of losing it, freaking out, and wagging our hands, we should calm down, take a breath, invite God’s Spirit to comfort us and give us hope.
When Jesus said, “Don’t worry!” he followed it up this:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
Each day you’ve got stuff. Big stuff, small stuff, medium stuff. Don’t worry about tomorrow…not because there’s nothing to worry about, but because there’s enough to worry about today! Deal with today’s issues today and then hope for tomorrow.
So, let’s rewrite that whole statement about small stuff – Don’t sweat the small stuff, because there’s plenty of big stuff to sweat about. And even when you sweat the big stuff, have hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
How do you keep from worrying? When have you sweated the small stuff when you shouldn’t have?