Worry Only When You Can’t Trust God
I was a teenager from 1977 to 1984. Some of you are thinking, “Aaah, he’s just a baby.” Some others are thinking, “Oooh, he’s older than my parents.” Some who will go unnamed have actually asked if I knew I had gray hair; and a couple of them how often I color my hair. I tell them, not often. In fact, the last time was before I was born. People never cease to amuse me. From this I gather people will notice external appearances. Someone might actually say out loud what everyone else is thinking. “You know those pants went out of style when Gandhi stopped wearing pants.” No one says that. While some will just smirk or roll their eyes because it takes too much energy and effort to say something constructive. So people will walk around all day with toilet paper stuck to their shoe, or a label sticking out of their shirt, or their belt missing a loop or two, or spinach in their teeth. Now I’ve made you worry I was referring to you. But some of you are smart enough to just keep looking like I’m talking about someone else.
I suppose it was as a teenager when I first learned to worry. There may have been isolated instances before, like when I forgot my homework, or didn’t study for a quiz, or when report cards came home. Actually, none of those ever happened. I got straight A’s. But for the most part, the worry gene kicked in when I started noticing things: what people wore; what they said; how they said what they said; that some people have an opinion on everything; that they liked to share their opinions—welcome or not; that you didn’t share everything you think with just anyone; that many people who think alike often dressed alike, talked alike, and liked the same things. And on the basis of things I noticed of the world around me, I learned to shape and modify my own appearance, my patterns of thought and speech, my preferences and behaviors, to change from being a child to becoming an adult. The key is that before, I didn’t give a hoot. Now I do. And because I give a hoot, I have become easy prey to forces beyond me—which is both a blessing and a curse.
I want to share this little bit of wisdom with you. I’m sure many of you already know it, but not all. And like all things wise, life lessons only hit home the moment we no longer need them. We could have benefitted from such wisdom if we had known it before, but we weren’t paying attention when it mattered. And when the day finally arrives and we have such amazing wisdom to share with others, more often than not no one wants to hear it. C’est la vie. So for whatever it’s worth, here it is. “Life is easier, more pleasant, more fulfilling, and less stressful when I worry only about things I can actually do something about.” You already knew that, didn’t you? Then how come you still worry about the weather, and the stock market, and March Madness. You realize people on TV can’t hear you when you yell at them, right?
In the gospel, Jesus tells us to “not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” All of these actually fall under the category of things we can do something about. Consequently, they are things that will concern us whether we want them to or not. But “worry” is an entirely different reality.
I do my laundry because I want to wear clean clothes that accurately express my true personality. What I wear in church for the most part is governed by liturgical law and what the parish can afford. I don’t own most of this stuff. Now I might exercise some personal preferences, but my choices are limited. Don’t think I like wearing robes and such. But using the proper liturgical vestments is a legitimate concern. It’s just not something that rises to the level of “worry.”
What Jesus refers to is that self-destructive habit of assigning value, real or imagined, to any gain or loss resulting from my knowledge of things that are clearly beyond my influence. “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” Scientific research is constantly telling us that we can extend our life-span with proper nutrition, regular exercise, adequate rest, meaningful relationships, and healthy outlets for our creativity. Most of this is common sense, that is, to those who value that kind of information. And as long as things are within our control, we can do something about them. Now consequences result from our action or inaction. And if you don’t care about consequences, you might choose to do absolutely nothing, nada, zip, zilch. It is true you can change your mind about the consequences after the fact. But you don’t always have the option of changing the choice you made previously when you didn’t care. If you worried about it when you could have done something, you wouldn’t be worrying about it when you can do nothing. I’m just a fountain of wisdom, aren’t I?
So when we worry needlessly, it is perhaps because we don’t believe anyone else can do anything when we can’t do anything, not even God. If we truly believe God is at work in the world, that God is truly and absolutely in command, that God brings about the fulfillment of his will, which is directed to our good, then we can lay our worries to rest. We can still have legitimate concerns, and we express our concern by doing as much as we can to bring about a favorable outcome. But what is beyond our control we can trust into God’s hands. But before we can trust our concerns into God’s hands, we will need to be able to trust God.
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” The prophet Isaiah writes these words as coming from God himself. And they echo Jesus’ own compassion toward the poor, the vulnerable, the sinner, and children. Never did anyone who came to him seeking healing did he turn away. He fed the hungry. He touched lepers. He blessed children. He forgave sinners. The outcast he welcomed. The lame, the blind, the deaf, and the mute he made whole. He cast out demons, and raised the dead to life. When we think God forgets or God does not care, it is because the Evil One has successfully convinced us otherwise. He is the Father of Lies after all. That is his field of expertise.
“We are servants of God and stewards of the mysteries of God,” says St. Paul. As servants and stewards, we need to be trustworthy. God wants to trust us. And for some of us, that doesn’t come naturally. So we shouldn’t give up trying so easily. We do what we can with those things that are within our control, to bring about a positive outcome, to bring about the fulfillment of God’s will. And we can trust that God works on those things beyond our reach. “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” Jesus tells us. That means the Kingdom of God is well within our reach. But are we even trying? Worrying is what we do only when trusting God is not enough.
Rolo B Castillo © 2014