Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 10: When worry can be good for us!

REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.

Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 10: When worry can be good for us!

I came across this poem many years ago; and share it with you. It has helped me on many occasions.
Said the robin to the sparrow,                            Said the sparrow to the robin’
“I should really like to know                               Friend, I think it must be,
Why these anxious human beings                    They have no Heavenly Father
Rush about and worry so.                                   Such as cares for you and me.          E Cheney.

Worry can become a part of our lives without us trying, and even if we are generally pretty good at keeping it at bay, can nevertheless catch us out when we are least expecting it. The pandemic has given us a number of reasons to worry. Although we all know that it is not especially helpful and is forbidden us by our Lord (Matthew 6:34) we can find ourselves caught up into its vortex of pain, self-pity, ungratefulness and the like. But can it ever be good for us? Only if it causes to take stock of our Heavenly Father’s goodness and promises. Here are a few thoughts that have been helpful to me recently:

  1. Our Lord’s realism in Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own, reminds us that today is the time to focus on today’s worrying challenges. We can safely leave tomorrows to Him so that, with His help we can handle todays problems. The therefore reminds us that this is possible precisely because of our Lord’s extended reminder in 6:19-33 that being believers, not pagans, we are not strangers to our Heavenly Father’s faithfulness. Defeating worry is not a matter of self-will or even worse, denying that there are challenges to be faced, but of trusting our Father’s goodness to us. Hence the appeal in 6:26 to the birds that are fed by our Father. But as some-one has noted God gives every bird its food, but He doesn’t throw it into its nest! One gain of not worrying is that our energies can then be applied to doing all we can do and to trusting our Lord (John 16:33).
  2. The promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. While this maybe Paul’s reflection on John 16:33 it certainly mirrors his growing experience of God’s persevering grace. The he will not let you provides a re-assuring basis to start each day (and to help us sleep well at night).
  3. The consistent testimony of four NT writers reminds us of God’s purpose in allowing troubles to mature His children (Rom 5:1-5, Hebrews 12:4-13, James 1:2-11, 1 Peter 1:3-11). They each remind us that circumstances which cause us worry can become gracious invitations to recall God’s promises and goodness. There is a choice before us, as someone has said: tomorrow has two handles: the handle of fear and the handle of faith. You can hold it by either handle! The wisdom of the old hymn encourages with the opportunity that each victory will help you some other to win. Practise makes permanent.
  4. The invitation of 1 Peter 5:7: cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you along with its source in Psalm 55:22 are genuine, not idle ‘take it or leave it options’. Here is the antidote to worry that cripples us by diminishing the warmth of our relationship with our loving Father. Fulton Sheen rather bluntly said that all worry is atheism, because it is want of trust in God. I need this combination of gracious invitation and blunt reality to keep me on track, especially if I am tempted to allow worry to overwhelm me.

The quip: “worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere” is true but wonderfully it is our Heavenly Father’s purpose to turn this natural tendency into something that can bring us closer to Him. This will happen as we recall His promises and draw closer to Him through our gracious sympathetic and understanding High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), thereby opening ourselves to the drawing alongside ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-27).

A prayer for peace. Eternal God from whom all holy desires, all good purposes, and all just works proceed: give to your servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and that free from the fear of our enemies we may pass our time in trust and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.           (Evening Prayer AAPB page 33)

Peter Brain 4th May, 2020

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