Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Worry and stress are like bread and butter

Do you ever feel like your life is spinning out of control? Like there’s so much happening around you and to you (good and bad) that there’s no way you can keep track of it all? It feels like rush hour in the tube in London. You’re there with a purpose, but you can’t make any headway because there are too many people in the way, not enough room, and too much noise–so much noise. And you can’t control any of it. You can control yourself. You can control your reactions. But you can’t control other people, and you can’t control when the train gets there, and you can’t control how much space is left on the cars.

It’s so easy to worry about the stuff we can’t control. It’s so easy for me to sit here and let my mind wander about everything that could go wrong, and even though I may have the best of intentions, even though I may just be wanting to plan for those eventualities, it’s just one step further to let myself start worrying.

Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:31-33.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

This is from one of Jesus’ more famous messages, usually called The Sermon on the Mount. If you’ve ever heard of the Beatitudes, this is the same message that includes them.

It’s not a new message. Jesus talked a lot about not worrying, about trusting God, about moving forward with confidence and hope. The rest of the Bible is full of examples and stories about how worrying isn’t useful.

Worry is a waste of time. Going back to the tube illustration, you can stand in the station and worry about whether or not you’ll be able to get a spot on the train, but you only have two options–either there’s a space for you or there isn’t. If there’s a space, you’ll get on. If there’s not, you just have to wait till the next train. Maybe you won’t get to your destination when you thought you would. But worrying about it won’t accomplish anything–other than to wear you out.

Haven’t you noticed? Worry is exhausting. It’s an emotional roller coaster. We wear ourselves out worrying about things we can’t control anyway and by the time we reach our destination, we’re too tired to accomplish anything meaningful. What good does that do? What is the point? We have a culture that thrives on anxiety. Worry and stress are two of the mainstays of the American emotional diet, and there’s a concept out there (especially in the corporate world) that if you aren’t worried or stressed out about something, you’re not doing something right.

And that’s ridiculous.

I don’t want to worry anymore. I don’t want to be worn out and stressed out and anxious about things I can’t control anyway. I don’t want to waste my precious, limited time worrying about whether people like me or like what I have to say, although as a performance-driven people pleaser those two things are the bread and butter of my emotional diet.

I work and worry and stress myself out to accomplish the things I think I need to accomplish, and most of my stress and anxiety comes from those self-inflicted deadlines. But are those the things I need? I think I need them. But God is the one who knows for sure.

In the verses previous to this passage, Jesus is talking about the birds and about how they don’t worry about what they wear or what they eat and God provides for them. And if God cares for the birds, doesn’t He care for us more? God will take care of us. And the thing is I know that. I’ve seen it. He’s provided for me in so many ways that I can’t keep track, and it’s complete and utter foolishness to forget it or to doubt Him simply because I don’t know what’s around the corner.

All I need to do is seek Him. I need to live my life the way the Bible says. And He will take care of the rest. I need to trust my dreams and wants and goals to Him. I mean, He gave those things to me anyway, and they’re better off in His hands because He can truly make them happen, whereas I will just flail around like a turtle stuck on its back and wear myself out getting nowhere.

God knows what I need, and He’s a good God. He won’t withhold something out of spite. He won’t refuse me just because He can. He doesn’t abuse power like that. If I think I need something and He hasn’t given it to me, maybe I don’t need it at all. Or maybe I need something else first. That’s between me and Him–and Him and you. But either way, worrying gets you nowhere. And it accomplishes nothing.

So don’t waste time with it. It’s hard. Trust me, I know how hard it is to choose not to worry when it’s so much easier to hold on. But once you learn how to let go, it’s addicting. And it’s such a relief.

Do what God wants. Live for Him. Let the rest go. You’ll enjoy life more, and by the grace of God, you’ll accomplish great things because God will intervene and do more through you than you ever could have on your own, even if you prepared for it.

A wardrobe that never goes out of style

As much as we like to deny it, our clothing identifies us. People like to think that it doesn’t matter what you wear and that everyone remembers that everyone is equal no matter how much their outfit cost, but I just don’t think that’s the case. I wish it were.

I’ve never been into fashion. Actually, I have always run away from it screaming. Anything related to fashion, I usually pretend that it doesn’t exist, mainly because I see it as a waste of time. But that’s my philosophy, and a lot of other people don’t feel that way about it. And that’s perfectly fine. That’s just my choice. I have a style that’s my own, I suppose; I don’t know if it’s a good style or a fashionable style, but it’s mine. And I’m perfectly pleased with it. But it’s interesting how the clothes I wear identify me to other people.

The best example I can give is my latest work trip to Florida. I came home to Wichita, and it was freezing. I had expected to get to go directly home from the airport, but it was late and I had to be in early the next day. So I spent the night in town and went to work from my parents’ house. However, I didn’t have my coat. It was still at my house. So I went to work wearing my mom’s coat — which is quite a bit different in style than my own. It’s not ugly by any means. It’s actually very cute — and it’s very cute on her — but on me it just looked odd. I didn’t really think about it, though. It was warm, and I was off to work, accompanied also by a giant blue scarf and a pair of pink gloves. And it confused everyone at work, and they wondered what was going on because I never wear colors like that.

Once I explained that I had left my coat at home and was borrowing my mom’s, they all laughed. Actually, we all laughed. It was really funny. One person I worked with told me, “I thought you were looking a lot more colorful than usual.”

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were really right. I don’t wear overstated colors and I don’t wear flashy things. That’s just my style. Understated. I prefer it that way. I don’t like people looking at me. And I’m perfectly all right with that. It was just fascinating to me.

So it’s doubly fascinating to read Colossians 3:12 when it talks about putting on clothes of a different kind:

 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

It’s interesting, I think, that God chooses to use the word clothe in this context, referring to these character qualities like they’re something to wear.

When you wake up in the morning, do you think about what you put on? I do. I mean, I don’t plan out my wardrobe the day before or anything, but I don’t just pick the first thing I come to and put it on. It wouldn’t match and it wouldn’t look right. I have no fashion sense, but I know that much. And, working a corporate job, I have to keep up a certain level of professionalism, especially in my appearance. So I have to think about what I’m going to wear and make a conscious decision to choose things that match.

It’s the same thing with these character qualities. These things aren’t just going to appear in our lives automatically. You have to choose to put them in effect in your life. Mercy is the least automatic virtue in the world. Kindness and gentleness may be a little easier for some people who are just kind-hearted, but I guarantee no one immediately volunteers to be humble. And patience is one of those things that requires a lifetime to build. We have to choose to use each of these things in our lives just as carefully as we select our clothing that we’re going to wear for the day. Why?

People identify you by the clothing you’re wearing. So if you wear these virtues like clothing, people will know you belong to God. And, what’s really nice, is that these traits never go out of style.