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The futility of worry

A recent study by researchers from Penn State exposed the futility of worry in a very “odd” way, that seems to confirm an equally “odd” statement that Jesus made about worry.

Worry is a very destructive force and if we don’t control it, worry can actually cause physical damage to our bodies, in addition to the emotional stress that can lead to such things as depression.

According to an article on WebMD, unchecked worry can cause the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones are released during times of extreme stress.

The release of these hormones fill the body with the extra energy required during times of acute danger. However, if there is no physical release (fight or flight), these hormones sit unused and over time can potentially damage our bodies resulting in heart and digestive problems and even affect our memory and immune system.

So what did those Penn State researchers uncover?

Well they studied 29 people who have a serious anxiety disorder. These were top-level worriers. For one month these people were asked to list all the things that they were concerned about.

With these lists in hands, the researchers then followed up to find out the status of those things that the people were worrying about. They discovered that 91% of the things the people worried about didn’t come to pass. This means that they were worrying about problems that didn’t actually exist. We have all heard of “fake-news” well these were “fake-worries.”

There were some instances where 100% of the things that people worried about didn’t actually take place.

Then they looked at the 9% of the worries that had “some” legitimacy, and notice how I added the word “some,” because the researchers discovered that most of them were overblown. The worry exceeded the reality of their situation.

A study done several years earlier came to a similar conclusion. The researchers discovered that 85% of the concerns that people had did not come to pass and of the 15% that did, 79% of the respondents said they were either overblown or much easier to handle than expected.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus confronted worry. Because in addition to emotional and physical burdens, worry can affect us spiritually as well because it is a form of unbelief.

But notice what Jesus said:

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34 NASV

Now traditionally we have interpreted this to mean that Jesus is telling us not to worry about tomorrow because you can deal with those future problems the next day.

In fact, the Lord didn’t say that at all because what Jesus actually said is that “tomorrow” will take care of tomorrow, not that you will take care of tomorrow.

Was Jesus suggesting that you will find out that the circumstances have changed or there was never really a problem in the first place. Meaning there was absolutely nothing to worry about?

And this is exactly what the writer of Proverbs said when he tells us to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

There is a two-fold process here. First, we need to positively trust in God, and then secondly, we need to purposefully reject our own understanding of a situation.

In other words, we need to control our thought life, because often it’s spouting fake worries.


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