The Truth About Worry, Part 1

“Do Not Worry”
Probably no wise, scientific, and spiritual injunction has suffered a worse fate of wordy praise and actual neglect than Jesus’ frequently repeated one with regard to worry. In fact, Jesus went further than merely cautioning us against this destructive mental habit. His words, “do not worry,” (Mt. 6:34) are a command.

Jesus said that we should not worry about food, clothing, shelter, or by implication, any of the necessities of life. It may seem difficult to fully accept this teaching that we do not need to worry or be afraid or anxious. However, Jesus provided the technique for making it simple and easy for us.

Undoubtedly, launching out merely on the faith that God cares for us and sailing along without alarm or concern may prove difficult at first. However, there can be no uncertainty or lack of confidence on the part of the person who knows that he or she is constantly being watched over and cared for by God, whose love is forever unfailing.

The technique that Jesus provided is easier than this because it may be difficult at first for us to trust in God's care so completely. There must be some action that precedes the full development of our faith. It seems that we must do something before arriving at the point where we can live free from fear and worry. Complete trust in God is as much a step forward as is the loss of fear and worry. If we can develop the former, we can accomplish the latter.

A person who trusts God works with God's harmonious plan. But a person who uses his or her thought power to worry works with the world's confusion.

When we maintain an attitude of trust in God, our minds are poised and we think more clearly. But when we worry, we cloud our ability to think with mists of doubt and fear. We let personal feelings obscure the safe and joyous path that lies ahead of us.

Worrying only makes our approach to the future more difficult, and it never solves our problems. We need to think clearly when we face difficulties, and if we use our thinking process to worry, we cannot think clearly.

We can avoid worry by turning our thoughts into trust and constructive planning. If we think about the future in order to plan for it, we can let our thoughts be courageous and fearless as we explore the wonderful possibilities that God has for us. When we worry about the future, we are looking for the imaginary difficulties that it may hold. When we look toward difficulties, we go toward them, for we usually go where we are looking.

Thinking about God today helps us find God in the future. Worrying about the future can take away from our future happiness. But the worst thing about worrying is that it spoils our present happiness.

When the future arrives, we shall call it the present. Because the present is always with us, let us make the most of it by being happy and trustful today. Thinking positive and constructive thoughts today prepares us for the future by strengthening our faith in our ability to accomplish our goals.

Take the High Ground
The first thing many of us do each morning is to load up with anxieties. Perhaps we are apprehensive about our health or getting along with others or some unforeseen difficulty.

You may believe that such fears are not common among your associates or friends. And if you were right, half the beds in our hospitals would be empty, half the failures in human experience would become successes, and half our dreams would come true.

Does this seem questionable to you? Perhaps you ask: “Do you mean to say that sickness would vanish with fear or that hopes would be realized if we simply put away fear?”

There is only one way to deal with a fundamental issue—to take the high ground. God is omnipotent, and nothing is impossible for God. Jesus told us that according to our faith it would be done for us. He demonstrated this truth convincingly in His life, and we can and do demonstrate it in ours in exact proportion to the strength of our faith. When our faith is in God, we have no fear. When we put our faith in God's perfect love, love casts out fear and appearances of evil vanish. Disaster and death lose all terror for us.

We are all human, subject to the same kinds of circumstances and the same fears.

Jesus was subject to the same things. His faith in and love of God were so complete that His love is one with God's love, and He is one with God. Jesus invited us to enter into the same oneness. He invited us to take the high ground in our faith and promised us high reward. Faith comes to those who develop it, like muscle, like skill, like capacity. Use what you have, and you will get more. Faith enough to move mountains comes from using enough faith to move grains of sand.

Develop Your Faith
People may worry about developing faith when they pray; yet it is not difficult for them to develop fear when they worry. Both fear and faith are emotions. Both automatically follow appropriate mental pictures. A person can learn to develop the emotion of faith in the same way that the worrier develops the emotion of fear.

Worriers picture some undesirable situation. They do not think about it vaguely, but picture it vividly to themselves. After this visualization, they find themselves feeling uncomfortable, fearful, and anxious. These negative images and feelings engender and strengthen the conviction that “the worst will happen.”

Now let these same people picture a desirable end result. Let them “see” it in detail. Let them imagine just what they would do in such a situation. If their mental pictures are vivid and strong, they will soon begin to feel excited, joyous, and happy.

With these positive images and feelings comes the conviction that the desirable result is going to be accomplished—that “it can be done.” This we call faith.

Become Still
When an emergency arises in our lives or when the routine to which we are accustomed is suddenly interrupted by difficulty or distress, our first thought is likely to be one of action, for our common impulse is to act before we think. A sudden prompting to escape from a threatening situation is so strong that our response seems automatic: we start, we shrink back, then we “leap before we look.” Sometimes this impulsive action brings about the very disaster we want so desperately to avoid.

In times when fear swells to the proportions of terror, there is no help like simply becoming still. When repeated effort and resulting failure seem to overwhelm our courage, there is no means of release to compare with becoming still. When pain suddenly attacks or accident menaces or injustice or hostility surprises and confuses us, there is no means of defense to ease the pressure and steady the spirit like just becoming still.

You may ask: “How can you offer such a remedy as mere quiet, simple nonactivity as a means of help at a time when happiness, security, peace, or life itself may be in jeopardy? How can you claim that it is possible to ‘become still,’ when danger is like a hurricane around us? When we are actually exposed to harm, are we to use no other means of self-defense?”

In any time of stress, becoming still first is the only means of self-defense that proves dependable. Jesus said in effect, “Build your house on the rock of faith, and when the floods come, it will stand.” We can think of becoming still as stepping out of the storm onto the rock where our house has been built—the first moment of peace that comes from escape into security by turning to God. Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mk. II:22); He did not say, “when you are afraid.” He told His followers to not be afraid at all.

Becoming still simply means not allowing fear to control us. When we are unafraid, we can see, hear, feel, and think clearly. When our minds and our hearts are at peace, all our creative and inventive powers are at their best and we are most receptive to divine ideas.

There is nothing miraculous about the results of becoming still; that is, nothing any more miraculous than the perfect operation of God's law when we depend upon it. It is simply the way things are—the way God made them to act, as they always do when we “let God.” If, instead of telling ourselves to become still when under stress, we remind ourselves to “let God” at all times, we shall learn a new definition of emergency—opportunity.

Read Part 2