Altar Call –
August 23, 2009
It is best not to fret about things that are out of
Stress can kill you. It almost killed me in my mid-forties. One morning I passed out from loss of blood. An ulcer had caused internal bleeding. But the frightening ride to the hospital in an ambulance was not as shocking as the doctor’s diagnosis.
After explaining that my problem was a tiny stomach ulcer, the doctor said compassionately, “Surgery will not be necessary. We can stop the bleeding with medication.” Relieved and thankful, I asked what causes ulcers.
I wished I had not asked. The doctor replied, “We are pretty sure that ulcers can be caused by stress. Ulcers may develop when we do not handle our stress very well. So I have asked one of our counselors to talk with you about this.”
That was the day I learned that anxiety can kill you. It was also the day I began asking God to help me learn to trust him more. Confession was necessary. Tearfully I confessed that all my life I had been trusting far too much in myself and not enough in the God I preached about. My confession led to new understanding and a renewal of my health.
After a week’s stay in the hospital, and two weeks out of my pulpit, I chose as the text for my next sermon these words of Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” I admitted that I needed to learn how to stop fretting about things over which I had no control. I realized later how much it helped me simply to tell the truth about the poor way I had been handling stress. Becoming transparent about the condition of your soul can facilitate healing.
Since then I have made progress though I still have a way to go. Trusting God in all things is not easy. Like the common cold, anxiety keeps hanging around, waiting for an opening into the mind. To avoid catching the flu, we are reminded constantly to wash our hands. We should be just as concerned to prevent anxiety from gaining control of our minds. Like the flu, worry is also a killer. We are warned not to worry for a very good reason. When we worry excessively life gets out of balance and we can become dangerously ill.
Jesus told a story about a rich man and his barns. The rich man’s problem was not worry but greed. He wanted more and more to store in bigger and bigger barns. But abruptly his life ended just as he realized he had been a fool.
Jesus used the man’s covetousness to teach the disciples not to worry about food and clothing. The meaning of life is not found in these material things. As the rich man was a fool to wish for bigger barns, so are we foolish to spend time worrying about food, drink, or clothing.
Instead we should learn from the birds, the bees, and the flowers to trust God rather than worry. God feeds the birds and without worrying they enjoy his gracious provision. Flowers do not “strive” for beauty but simply enjoy doing what they were made to do.
The Bible teaches that God knows what we need and delights in meeting our needs. He provides for us because he loves us and he wants us live to please him instead of living to acquire material things. As we learn to trust him as our source of all things needful, we are able to relax and enjoy the world as a gift made for our enjoyment.
It is refreshing to stop our wheels from turning and sit for a spell outdoors. There we can enjoy birds and flowers – and even the pesky squirrels. Whenever I do this, I remember that I am not the center of the world. I become thankful just to be alive. In such quiet moments I laugh with the realization that God does not need my help to manage the universe. He is in control. Such reflection clears my mind. And one wonderful result is that I fret less over situations I can do nothing about.
Healthy living is the result of many wise decisions. One decision that is certain to help us is to stop worrying about things we cannot control. Only then can we relax and enjoy draining the sweetness from the cup that is in our hands. + + +