In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to worry so much because doing so won’t add any time to our lives. He also tells us not to worry about what we will eat and how we’ll clothe ourselves. We should not even worry a great deal about the future. But he adds that today’s worries are enough. The key is to let God work in our lives so that these concerns are manageable.
A good distinction here is between worry and fear. Worry is something that in a limited way is good. It keeps us from acting dangerously or haphazardly. If I had no capacity to worry at all, then I might start coming to work whenever I wanted to, unafraid of losing my job. I might even stop worrying about turning off the burner on the stove, no longer afraid that the house could burn down.
Problems start when such “helpful” worries become fears. If I worry so much about keeping my job that I become absorbed by it, then I am acting out of fear. If I am so worried about my house burning down that I can’t leave it without checking the burner a hundred times, then I’m acting out of fear there as well.
A good antidote to all-consuming fear is to focus on the love of God. No matter what happens to us, we have the assurance of victory in the end. Given the normal stresses of life, however, it isn’t easy to get to the point where we are no longer afraid, and our worries are limited along the lines of Jesus’ advice in the Sermon on the Mount. People today worry about such things as losing their jobs due to economic downturns, the breakup of their families due to divorce, terrorism, and identity theft.
There’s a lot to worry about and a lot to be fearful of. Although worry is impossible to get rid of completely, there are ways to reduce it to manageable levels. One of the best ways is to practice silence. This means focusing upon the constant chatter in your head and decreasing the chatter that creates stress and anxiety.
It is through silence that we often find God. Our words simply cannot grasp that which is in many respects beyond comprehension. We can carry over this experience and this silence to our daily life by learning to include silence in our prayer life and in our interactions with others. We can learn to silence ourselves when we start to say an unkind word or when we know we’re about to engage in a conversation that creates ill will. And we can learn to be silent within ourselves, practicing a deep reverence in our internal dialogue. Ρ
Excerpted from Making More of Life with Less: Seeking Humility, Simplicity, and Silence © 2004 by Rick Mathis, PhD (Liguori Publications, 811555). To order, visit Liguori.org or call 800-325-9521