Monday, September 29, 2014

According to Luke: Why Are You So Anxious?

Why Are You So Anxious?

Luke 12:22-34   (NRSV)

He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Earlier this week I asked on FaceBook: “what are the things that you are anxious about?”  The answers really were not too surprising.

·         Health
Beth Caddick said:
Ben's health and all that comes with it - insurance, appointments, prescriptions, good days/bad days, fear of complications - while all manageable causes me to be anxious at times

·         Employment
          Job performance
          Job security

·         Kids --- grandkids ---- parents

·         Future
Keith Howard shared about getting his house sold here in Munster while they set up their new house in Colorado

·         Everything

Face it, some people worry about everything.

One of my favorite people of all time was a constant worrier --- Margaret McNurlan

All I have to do is wring my hands, and many of you know that I am paying homage to her!

But how does worrying help us?

A man was seen fleeing down the hall of the hospital just before his operation. A security guard stopped him before he could leave the hospital and asked, “What’s the matter?”

The man said, “I heard the nurse say, ‘It’s a very simple operation, don’t worry, I’m sure it will be all right.’”

“She was just trying to comfort you,” said the security guard. “What’s so frightening about that?”

“She wasn’t talking to me,” exclaimed the man. “She was talking to the doctor!”

Maybe in that situation we should be worrying ---

But Seriously --- how does worrying change ANYTHING?

Jesus very clearly tells us two things in our passage today.

1.       Instead of worrying --- we should TRUST GOD

2.       Worrying is at best --- a waste of time!

For whatever reason, many of us have become convinced --- maybe only on a subconscious level --- that if we "worry enough" we can prevent bad things from happening.

When my girls lived at home --- even when they were home on a break from college --- if they went out for the evening I COULD NOT GO TO SLEEP
          Anybody else do that?

I would wait up until they came in the door, and then I could go to sleep.

I am not sure what I was expecting to happen --- and how my waiting up worrying did anything --- but I was convinced it did.

Studies show that excessive worry --- not only doesn't prevent bad things from happening --- but it can also create all kinds of negative effects emotionally as well as physically.

Worrying is feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem.

With excessive worrying, your mind and body go into overdrive as you constantly focus on "what might happen."

The problem with excessive worrying is that we lose begin to lose sight of reality
          A sense of impending doom can overtake us
          Our fears become even more unrealistic

Excessive worrying can affect our daily life in that it can:
·         interfere with our appetite
·         damage our relationships
·         cause us to lose sleep
·         which of course can cause increase stress (and more worry) with work

One of the side effects of worry is that many people try to self medicate it away

Which, of course, can lead to
·         overeating
·         smoking
·         using drugs or alcohol

As if that isn't enough ---- excessive worrying can also lead to all kinds of health problems.

The hormones that are produced by worry have all kinds of potential negative effects.

According to WebMD some of the physical reactions that can happen as a result of worry related stress hormones include:

·         Difficulty swallowing
·         Dizziness
·         Dry mouth
·         Fast heartbeat
·         Fatigue
·         Headaches
·         Inability to concentrate
·         Irritability
·         Muscle aches
·         Muscle tension
·         Nausea
·         Nervous energy
·         Rapid breathing
·         Shortness of breath
·         Sweating
·         Trembling and twitching

And of course all those can lead to very serious medical conditions such as:

·         Suppression of the immune system
·         Digestive disorders
·         Muscle tension
·         Short-term memory loss
·         Premature coronary artery disease
·         Heart attack

If excessive worrying and high anxiety go untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

In the December 2006 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings medical journal they shared the results of a study looking to see if worrying can add (or take away) years from a person's life.

I don't think that the researchers were thinking of our passage from Scripture --- but the conclusion suggests that Jesus was right.

But it also revealed a surprising secondary conclusion --- suggesting that NOT being a chronic worrier can add not only an hour, but perhaps even years to your life.

The study began back in the mid-60s when some 7,000 students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a test that, among other things, measured the participants’ tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic.

Of that group, 1,630 were found by the test to be clearly pessimists and 923 to be clearly optimists.
The rest fell somewhere in the middle of a continuum between the clear extremes.

Over the next four decades, 476 of those who had taken the test died, from causes ranging from accident -- to illness -- to suicide -- to homicide.

By tracking and collating all this information, researchers determined that --- the pessimists had a significantly greater likelihood of dying sooner from any cause than did the optimists.

As the dry language of the findings report puts it,
“... those who scored as pessimistic had decreased rates of longevity compared with optimistic individuals.”

It also said,
“The current results replicate, in a non-medical sample, those of [earlier studies] that suggest that optimism is associated with increased survival.”

                             NOT WORRYING CAN HELP YOU TO LIVE LONGER!

WOW!  Jesus was right!

But the other thing that Jesus tells us is we need to replace our worry with TRUST in God.

Trusting God is hard

I think it is hard because we are not really sure what it means to TRUST God.

And I will be honest, I don't think "the Church" has done a very good job on explaining just what it means to TRUST GOD.

We are all over the board in our advice.

Let me try to explain

For some people, trusting God means turning EVERYTHING over to God.

And that can get played out in a hard version and in a soft version.

In the hard version it can take the shape of:
IF it is God's will --- THEN God will make it happen.

In this extreme version:
I don't need to do anything but wait for God's will to take place

We have seen this played out in the news when a family refuses to let a hospital or doctor treat their sick child.

For them, to allow a doctor to treat the illness is not trusting God.

Now for most of us, that makes no sense.  We have come to the position that God uses medicine to heal us.

However, and this is the softer version --- we still believe that God has given us --- or sent us to --- a special doctor ---
Thus a doctor who is a believer is for some a plus and for others a necessity.

For most of us --- who call Ridge Church home --- and have grown up in main-line protestant churches ----- we believe in a concept called FREE WILL

That concept too has a soft and a harder version --- and this affects how we understand trust.

The soft version believes that while we have a free while --- God still interacts and intercedes on behalf of people.

God sometimes breaks the laws of nature and performs what we commonly call MIRACLES.
And those miracles happen --- we often believe --- to those people who have a large amount trust or what we would call a strong faith.

The harder version believes that God gives us choices and that our choices and actions determine the outcome ---- and not divine intervention.

God and the Bible are there as guides to help us in our choices.

In this understanding ---- God is not seen as an arbitrary interventionist in human lives.

This goes without saying ---- but I want to affirm ---- we, of course, are all over the spectrum on these concepts --- and one of the things I have observed is that we often are not consistent (or even rational) in our beliefs ---- understandings --- about them.

But regardless of where we stand --- Jesus is calling us to recognize that by putting our trust in the way of God as demonstrated in the life of Jesus ---- our lives will be better.

So, what does all that worrying do?

Instead of worrying --- get busy making a kingdom difference for Jesus.

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