“There were many terrible things in my life… and most of them never happened.” ~Michel De Montaigne
The title of this blog is also the title of a very famous book by Dale Carnegie, the author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” an incredible book that has empowered millions since it’s publishing in the early 1900′s (including me!). Now, for those of you who also go to New Life Church, I promise I was going to write about worry two weeks before Brady gave a sermon on it yesterday. But his sermon gave some great extra insight to augment what I gleaned from Dale Carnegie’s book, “The Leader in You,” that I’ve been listening to in my car. I want to talk about this because I really don’t feel like we hear enough about worry on a regular basis compared to how big of a problem it really is. According to recent statistics, almost 80% of Americans experience physical symptoms caused by stress on a daily basis. Almost 50 million prescriptions were written in America last year for anti-depressants. Those are huge numbers! This is clearly a problem, and we all could use a good solution.
“If you were to read everything that has ever been written about worry by the great philosophers of the universe, you would never read anything more profound than ‘Don’t cross your bridges until you come to them’ and ‘Don’t cry over spilt milk.”
Dale Carnegie spent 7 years researching worry, so for him to say this is quite profound. In the book I read, he gave this perspective: the past and the present don’t exist. On a practical level, they really don’t. The past is gone, and the future will never come–that’s why it’s in the future! The only time we have the power to change is the present.
Corrie Ten Boom, author of “The Hiding Place,” told a story about one of her childhood memories. She said that she and her father used to travel on trains, and her father used to carry her train ticket for her. Why? Because she didn’t need the train ticket until she was standing on the platform ready to board the train. If her father gave it to her earlier, she might lose it. He kept it safe until the very last moment, never failing to give it to her when she needed it.
In the Bible study “Experiencing God” by the Blackaby brothers, they liken God’s leading to driving to someone’s house while he sits in your front seat giving you directions. How often do friends say, “First turn left here, then right five miles down on main street, then left on I-25, then right on 2nd street, then…” all the way through the directions? Never! We’d forget! My friends always give me play-by-play directions right when I need them. “Turn right here.” “You’ll need to be in the left lane soon.” And what happens if you keep asking, “Here? … is it this one? … How about this one? … Are you SURE it wasn’t that one?? … I think it was that one.” They get frustrated! They say “Shhh! Trust me. It’s my house. I’ll tell you when we need to turn.”
Just like all three of these examples–crossing the bridge when you get there, the train ticket, and the driving directions–God’s grace is day by day. God doesn’t give us grace for tomorrow until tomorrow comes. But he DOES promise our grace today. He will never abandon us on the platform without our ticket or forget to tell us when to turn.
Pastor Brady gave an illustration on Sunday. He said that worry leads to anxiety, which leads to fear, which leads to a conception that we are on our own:
Worry > Anxiety > Fear > We are on our own
When we believe we are on our own–that God doesn’t have our train ticket or won’t give us directions–we take our lives into our own hands. Our worry consumes us–and we really would have a lot to worry about if we were on our own!
But Brady said it this way: we should be concerned about appropriate matters, not worried. Concern leads us to prayer, which brings us peace, and this peace comes from knowledge that Jesus is in charge:
Concern > Prayer > Peace > Jesus is Lord
Now for the practical: How do we stop worrying and start living? Dale Carnegie gives these three tips:
1. Ask yourself: “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”
2. Prepare to accept it if you have to.
3. Do all you can to make the worst possibility better.
Most of the time, the worst isn’t all that bad. We can find another job, we can get a cheaper car, etc.. And most of the time, the worst doesn’t happen. Carnegie says to “Put a ‘stop-loss’ order on your worries. Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it any more.” Brady said this: “If you worry about something before it happens and it doesn’t happen, you’ve wasted your energy. And if what you worried about actually DOES happen, you effectively worried twice. Either way, it’s just a waste.” And if all else fails:
“About ninety percent of the things in our lives are right and about ten percent are wrong. If we want to be happy, all we have to do is to concentrate on the ninety percent that are right and ignore the ten percent that are wrong. If we want to be worried and bitter and have stomach ulcers, all we have to do is to concentrate on the ten percent that are wrong and ignore the ninety percent that are glorious.”
And then the words of Jesus: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask.”
Being a college student, there are a lot of unknowns in my life. People pop in and out, plans form and dissipate, and I’m left with a nagging instability if I think about it too hard. But lately, I’ve realized that I believe a lot of things:
God is good.
God loves me.
God knows everything.
He is all-powerful.
He leads me in a personal way.
He has faithfully led me in the past.
He has a plan for my life.
He knows what I need before I ask.
Thus, I can be confident that he will lead me through the ups and downs, even if my future seems uncertain. My fears are stilled in the profound peace that comes from laying it all down and refusing to pick it back up again, no matter how tempting. Whatever you’re worrying about–money, a job, fears, loneliness, uncertainty–don’t allow it to steal your joy in the present. There’s a reason God only promises daily bread, and he is faithful. But you have to make a decision–you have to REFUSE to worry. Take those thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. Worry is not from God, it is from Satan, and it will destroy you emotionally and physically if you let it. Rest in God’s faithfulness and presence, and cast your cares on him, for he cares for you. Have a blessed week!