While traveling through the Appalachian Mountains, a couple stopped at a rustic country store. While the man sampled the hoop cheese and dill pickles, his wife talked with an elderly woman in a faded sunbonnet. In a few minutes the wife came over to her husband and whispered, “Do you know that they don’t get newspapers up here? And that little woman doesn’t even own a TV or radio. She doesn’t know anything that is going on in the world.” To which he replied, “Well, for heaven’s sake, don’t tell her. Let the poor thing die in peace.”
No doubt you have heard or used the expression “worried sick.” Unfortunately there is a lot of truth in that statement. Research has proven that anxiety is very detrimental to health. A British clinic tested 500 patients and found that even minor worry can affect eyesight. In one-third of the cases, eye problems were directly related to anxiety. Worry can also cause cavities because it restricts the flow of saliva in the mouth. Natural mouth acids are not neutralized and tooth decay results. And chronic worry has been linked with one type of baldness.
Brain power is diminished by worry. The powers of memory, concentration, and the ability to learn are inhibited. A study of 5000 students in 12 colleges showed clearly that worriers made the lowest grades. Add to this the undeniable link between worry and stress-related diseases such as colitis, diabetes, asthma, and heart trouble. Worry can be a killer!
If you have eye problems and cavities, if your hair is falling out by the handful and your mind seems muddled, it may not be just encroaching old age. (Old age has been described as the time when everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.) Maybe you are worried sick. And now you may get worried about being so worried.
If “worry is today’s mouse nibbling on tomorrow’s cheese,” then we need to set a mousetrap. Merely telling ourselves not to worry does very little good. However, God has repeatedly told us not to worry. Not because we don’t have problems but because we have a God who has never encountered a “big problem.”
Jesus’ disciples were often fearful and worried. They didn’t seem disturbed by everyday problems such as having enough to eat. They had seen Jesus feed thousands of people miraculously from a handful of food. But they could quickly forget His power when their lives were in danger. On one occasion He told them to get in a boat and cross the Sea of Galilee while He went into the mountains to pray alone. While they were in the middle of the sea, a fierce storm blew up and they were extremely frightened by what they thought they saw—a “ghost” walking on top of the water. But the “ghost” calmed them by identifying Himself:
Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I, do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14.27-31).
When God sends us on a journey, He promises a safe landing but not necessarily a calm passage. Peter’s problems began when he concentrated his attention on the storm instead of the Lord of the storm. His worry sank him just as surely as the waves. Jesus did not say, “There is no storm—it’s all in your imagination.” He said, “It is I, do not be afraid.” The reason for peace of mind was not the absence of the storm but the presence of the Savior. It still is.
I heard about an elderly grandmother who was worried sick. She had many ailments—some real and some imagined. Her children had listened to her complaints until they were exasperated. Finally one said to her, “Mother, the doctors have done all they can for you. Now you will just have to trust the Lord.” With a sigh she replied, “Oh dear, has it come to that?”
In the end it always comes to that, so we might as well begin with that.
Vicki Huffman is the author of three Christian books (one novel, two non-fiction) available in print and e-book on amazon.com. A Secret Hope, Plus Living: Looking for Joy in All the Right Places, and The Best of Times from which this post is excerpted.
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