When Worry Is Wrapped In Fear And Future Grief

Text: Matthew 6:24-34

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Will I get sick and die from the Delta variant? 

Will my social security checks keep up with rising inflation costs?  

Will my husband be deployed to Afghanistan again?  

What do I do when unemployment runs out?  

Will my cancer test be positive?  

Will my children be safe?  

Can I afford college?   

Will I lose my job if I don’t get vaccinated?  

What am I going to do after High School?  

My friends, it seems that there is no shortage of things to worry about these days. And, yes, contrary to what people say, people are very worried in America. Those who puff up their chest and raise their noses saying, 

“I’m not worried!”

Well, they are lying to themselves – and you. In other words, when they say, I’m not worried; it typically is an indication that they are worried. People who aren’t worried don’t say they are not worried; they simply don’t worry. 

But is worry really such a big problem? Is it something that should be avoided or frowned upon?  

Well, first of all, we must understand that there is a huge difference between worry and being wise. In the Old Testament, Solomon teaches us that it is good to be wise to the events and circumstances of life. For example, if one sees a dark rain cloud in the distance, putting the car in the garage is good to avoid possible hail damage. Or, a heavy vehicle should avoid a bridge full of cracks. In other words, wisdom teaches us to look to cause and effect and then adjust proportionately. And so, pointing out problems, or being aware of problems, and then telling others to be alert is not worry but wisdom.   

Worry, though, is quite different from wisdom. For example, the worry that Jesus condemns in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew is the kind of future thinking that is wrapped with fear. Yes, it is the kind of thinking about the future that is soaked, confined, and surrounded by fear. For example, if one sees a dark rain cloud in the distance, they can get the car and put it in the garage, which is wise. But when they scurry inside, sit in a chair, frantically rock back and forth while biting their nails with intense thoughts of the storm hurting their car – to the point that they can do nothing else… well, that is unhealthy. You see, where worry is different from wisdom is that it causes us to fixate on a future loss. Worry is much like grief, but the kind of grief that hasn’t happened yet. It is like future grief of losing something but experienced in the present. Think of it this way. When our minds, thoughts, and words grab ahold of some uncertainty in the future – and when fear paints a picture of loss and suffering – and when we experience the trauma of loss and suffering in the present – even though it hasn’t even happened… that is worry.

Now, I don’t have to convince you about the effects of worry. Worry causes our blood pressure to increase. We can lose sleep over worry. Worry causes us to drink more alcohol and take pills to ease its uneasiness. Worry causes our heads to lower and our feet to drag. Pessimism can also sets, or we pretend that we are optimistic and strong – a true tough guy. And to make things worse, worry causes us to become edgy with our co-workers, family, and friend. And just in case it is not bad enough, worry causes us to begin lecturing everyone else us to be worried just like us. The reason why? If people are not worried like us, it makes us more worried. We find comfort in similarity. After all, if they are not worried, they are obviously reckless, and they might make things worse.

In the end, the reason why Jesus condemns all of our worrying is that it not only torments and divides our minds but is rooted in fear. And fear, as you know, is a consequence of sin.

So, perhaps a beneficial question is this: what sin is present with worry? What sins fuel our worry so much?

Well, for starters, we imagine that we are immortal – that we will live forever. We know that we won’t live forever, but we like to pretend that we will. And so, think about this for a moment. If you and I were able to live forever, we might have a justification for worrying about things like money and possessions. However, quite bluntly stated, I am amazed by how many people worry about money when death is knocking on their door. We believe the mantra, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.”  But this is simply not true. Whoever dies with a lot of toys – dies. They can’t take it with them. We need to listen to the Apostle Peter that everything will burn in the end before Christ creates all things anew. We forget that everything in this life under the sun is but a moment. We are mortal.     

We also worry because our worry is tied to the idols that we have created and cling to more often than not. Think of it this way. If our hope, joy, identity, and worth are connected to an idol, it creates worry in us if that idol is threatened. For example, if a man’s security is in their pension, they will always have tremendous worry when the stock market drops. Quite frankly, if the stock market drops, it is a decline in the person’s security, thus the reason for worry. Or, if a women’s identity is tied up in being a mother, her worry over kids leaving the house for college may not be over the kids’ safety but over a loss of the mother’s identity. Again, worry is - more often than not - wrongfully tied to our idols that are threatened in life.

But perhaps the biggest reason why we worry is that we believe that we are alone in this life under the sun. As we know, sin caused Adam and Eve to run from God and hide in fear. And, my friends, we act as if we are alone in this life too much of the time.  

I believe this is one of the Devil’s best strategies – he encourages us to hide in the shadows without sins, which only fan the flames of fear. And fear gives birth to worry. We end up believing the myth that we are all on our own to muddle through this life. Frankly, again, worry kind of makes sense – if we were alone.

But we are not alone. We are not left to ourselves. We are not left in the shadows of fear. Jesus tells us otherwise.  

Listen to the reading from the Gospel of Matthew. Listen to what Jesus says, 

Look at the birds of the air … are you not of more value than they? If God so clothes the grass of the field . . . will he not much more clothe you?”   

Baptized Saints, we need to repent of our worry. Not wisdom, but worry. Repent of believing the lie that you are immortal. Repent of clinging to your idols – having more fear of losing your idols than having proper fear before God. Repent of believing the lies of the Devil that you are alone.  

Hear this loud and clear! You are not immortal. You will die. However, do not be tricked into fearing the bullies of this world that threaten your body. There is nothing they can do to your soul – your core being. Save your fear for God who holds all of you – body and soul. You are in His hands; even though you will die, He will resurrect you on the last day. 

And your idols? As we have heard many times before from this pulpit, the idols you cling to do not love you back. They cannot bleed. Instead, rest in the living God that neither withers nor fades in this life. Christ is living for you, not dead in a grave. 

And tell the Devil this! When you feel at the end of your rope – alone in the shadows with your fear and worries - make the sign of the cross and say, 

“O Devil, Jesus promised to neither leave me nor forsake me, for I am more important than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. I belong to assurance, not fear. I belong to certainty, not worry. Jesus created the world and holds its end – He holds all things, especially me. And so, be gone to the shadows of fear, O Devil; I rest in Christ and His forgiveness for me.”

And just in case anyone might accuse you of being reckless in having assurance in Christ?  Remember this! Fear is what produces recklessness, not faith. Being sober in the moment (while resting in Christ) is the opposite of being recklessly strangled by worry and fear. Fear causes one to stumble in darkness; assurance one walks with eyes wide open. 

And so, Baptized Saints, come what may, you shall not fear for you have Christ. As good or as bad as it gets in this life, Christ has you.  

Do not worry, little flock, your Savor is bigger than this world, the Devil, and especially your sins.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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