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Safe and Sound: The Pill is a Process (The Conclusion)

ONE QUESTION MORE

Alright, we’ve been in this haunted house long enough. It’s time to start looking for the exit. After all, if you’re reading this around the time of its release, then it’s now November. “Spooky season” is officially over.

We’ve identified what worry is (a chronic sense that I am not safe). We’ve acknowledged how worry functions (that it feeds on what “could” happen rather than what does happen), and we discovered that worry has limitations (mainly, that it can only exist in our minds but cannot survive outside of our bodies).

Now, the final question we must ask before we vacate the haunted house is: Where does worry come from? Is worry simply another natural condition we succumb to as humans like hunger or thirst or sexual desire? Or is worry caused by something outside of us and therefore acts as a “foreign invader?”

To answer that question, let me share with you an ancient story.

THE RICH GET RICHER

“A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful crop. He said to himself, ‘What will I do? I have no place to store my harvest!’” Then he thought, ‘Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods.’”




Did you catch something interesting in there? This farmer is already rich BEFORE the harvest comes. He then becomes richer through this bountiful crop, which causes him to worry about how he will store this extra income.

The original audience would have found this ridiculous to the point of hilarity.

What if the story started this way:


Elon Musk, a man with a net worth of around 225 Billion dollars, hit the lottery and won $20 Million. He then said to himself, “Oh no, my bank account has no more room. How will I preserve this $20 Million???”



Can you see how you and I as the hearers would see this as simultaneously comical and despicable?

Now, this isn’t the end of the story, as ultimately this man’s life is demanded of him the very night that he “hits the lottery,” but I want you to simply see how his suffering had already begun even before he was violently whisked away. He began suffering the moment he started to worry about keeping every penny secure.

His worry was connected to his riches, his “stuff.”

So worry, as it turns out, is not a natural part of us as human beings. It doesn’t originate from us. It comes to us from somewhere else and invades our minds. And this simple story about a rich farmer gives us a clue as to where this “somewhere else” is located.

It originates with our “stuff.”

WHAT MY “STUFF” HAS TO DO WITH WORRY

But let’s talk about our “stuff.” What do we mean when we say that? Is it wrong to have “stuff?” Is it wrong to be wealthy? To live in a nice house or drive a nice car? Is it evil to own a Nintendo Switch? To collect expensive pieces of art? To have a kitchen cabinet full of souvenir mugs that you never drink out of? (Ok that one hits a little close to home)

I don’t think so. Simply possessing these things isn’t inherently wrong, but the time and energy spent accumulating them may reveal something about the state of our heart.

The big clue we get about the condition of the rich man’s heart is found in the way he responds to coming into more riches than he already had. If you remember, he wasn’t giddy with excitement. He wasn’t even grateful. He was worried. Worry was his default reaction to getting more of the thing he loved.

And if worry is my default reaction, then something deeper is going on that I need to address…

THE BIG “I” WORD

We clearly see that, for our rich farmer buddy, wealth wasn’t just “a thing,” it was “THE thing.” It was “EVERYthing.” It was what he loved most in the world. And when the thing that we love most in the world is threatened, our only logical response is to worry over losing it.

What we call “loving something more than we should,” the bible calls Idolatry.” When you hear that word, you might think of tribes and nations far away and thousands of years ago. You may think of golden calves or statues of Zeus. This word may mean nothing to you at all.

But imagine if you built your child a bike, gave it to them for Christmas, and they began to love the bike more than they love you. You would think that something went wrong, wouldn’t you? The gift was meant to be an expression of your love for your child, and you would hope that, in return, they would see that, and use the bike and love you, not the other way around.

That’s idolatry.

Idolatry is misplaced love. It is loving the gift more than the Giver.

And when idolatry is committed, worry is sure to follow. This is why, as I mentioned in a recent post, worry and fear are taken so seriously in the Bible. Worry is seen as a sin on par with anger and lust. The writers of Scripture were not idiots. They know the power that worry can have over us, and they know that it stems from something more severe: idolatry.

So not once does God say, “well done, good and faithful worrier.” Jesus emphatically commands us not to worry about our lives. Paul is constantly encouraging his hearers to fear not and be anxious over nothing.

Why?


Because worrying reveals that there’s something more severe going on in our hearts. Worry is a symptom of idolatry. We’re desiring a “created thing” a little too much. We’re loving a gift more than the Giver. And when we do that, we vandalize our own soul.

If I worship my car, I will worry about losing it. If I love my wealth, then I will stress about the market crashing and losing my assets. If I’m obsessed with youth and beauty, then I will worry the moment I find a gray hair. If I fixate on getting praise and attention, then I will worry over whether or not you like this blog post.

Do you see the connection?

So, loving and desiring our “stuff”, ironically, turns us into quite unloving and undesirable people. Idolatry towards the gifts not only destroys our gratitude toward the Giver, but it makes us worthy receptacles for the little “foreign invader” that we call Worry.

And then when worry has hold of us, it will pull us towards protecting the thing we’re worried about. Notice again how worry over losing his wealth affected the farmer’s actions.

“Then he thought, ‘Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods.’”

His idolatry has caused him to worry, and his worry has now propelled him into frantically doing whatever he can to preserve the thing he’s worried over.

Here’s a helpful guide to show the process of how worry generally forms in us:

  • Step 1: GOD GIVES

God gives me something of value to enjoy and care for. Ultimately, the gift is intended to point back to God and His goodness.


  • Step 2: THE GIFT BECOMES A GOD

At some point, I begin to love and desire God’s gift more than God himself.


  • Step 3: WORSHIPPING THE GIFT BRINGS WORRY

Because I have now loved a “finite” thing more than I should, I naturally will become anxious the moment its well-being is in jeopardy.


  • Step 4: WORRY CAUSES SCURRY

My worry has now propelled me into devoting a major chunk of my time, resources, and mental energy towards the conservation and protection of the thing I love most.

In other words:

Step 1: Farmer is blessed by God with riches to steward

Step 2: Farmer begins to love riches more than God

Step 3: Farmer worries about losing riches

Step 4: Farmer scurries to find bigger barns to store riches

This has really aided me in clarifying the root of the problem, where my “worrying and scurrying” comes from. And without fail, it came from some form of worshiping the gift rather than the Giver.

(It’s here that I want you pause and think about how you might fill in each step. It might even be helpful to work backwards. Start with what you’re working so hard to protect, and maybe it will lead you to what you’re worried about, which will lead to the thing you’ve been obsessing over a little too much, etc.)

SOMEONE ELSE ENTERS THE HAUNTED HOUSE

It is here where Jesus meets us.

He comes into our haunted house, our ghostly den of idolatry, worrying and scurrying, and offers us a different way of maneuvering through life.

Jesus makes a pretty bold statement to a woman named Martha immediately following the death of Lazarus, her brother and Jesus’s friend. With the odor of death still inching out of Lazarus’s nearby tomb, Jesus assures Martha:

 “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Well, do you?

If Jesus is flat-out wrong in his statement, then we have everything to worry about. If death has the final word, and “when you’re done, you’re really done,” then we should make every effort to prolong our lives at all costs. We should worry and scurry our tails off to protect and preserve all our little idols (because, what does it matter anyway?)

But if Jesus is right, well then that changes everything, doesn’t it?

If Jesus is right, then the thing you are worried about, even if it comes to pass, will not have the last word. For you, the worst comprehensible outcome would be your body shutting down. And that threat used to hold quite a bit of weight. But now, if Jesus is right, the person that you have become will continue living even after your physical body stops working. Your life will remain intact because God has the resources to sustain you. It stands to reason, then, that, “…if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11)

If Jesus is right, then you, as it turns out, are safe in God’s world.

And if we, then, define worry as a chronic sense that I am not safe, then JOY, by contrast, is the constant sense that I AM safe and will be forever. It is the condition of my mind and body that all is well and nothing can harm me.

You are safe not because nothing bad will ever happen to you, but because, as you begin to trust Jesus with your life, it becomes clear that no tragedy can befall you that God cannot redeem. And even the idea of dying, which Worry once held over your head like a scary monster, has been completely and utterly disarmed. It has lost its “sting.” Jesus comes into our haunted house, turns on the lights, and exposes Worry for the lie that it truly is.


    “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overpower it.” -(John 1:5)



Scientifically, we know that darkness isn’t a “thing,” but an “absence of a thing.” It only thrives in the absence of light. When the lights turn on, the darkness has nowhere to hide.

The jig is up.

And a haunted house with the lights on turns out to be not so “haunted” after all.

A PERFECTLY SAFE PLACE TO BE

So now, as author Dallas Willard would say, “The world is a perfectly safe place to be.”

Based on everything you see happening in the world and (maybe) in your neighborhood, it may be hard for you to find confidence in that.

But again, the question that Jesus asks is, “Do you believe me?”

Do you believe that surrendering your life over to Him means that He will keep you safe and sound for all eternity?

Now, if you’ve read my past posts, particularly my series on the idea of “belief,” then you know that I would not expect you to answer that question on the spot.

The sad truth is that, for many of us (even professing Christians), this joy of a new reality still hasn’t made it deep into our minds or bodies. We profess belief in never-ending life and unspeakable joy, but we still live lives gripped by worry and fear. There is still idolatry dwelling deep within us, our loves are still disordered, which means the portal for worry to enter in is still open.

So, our task now is not to simply answer Jesus’s great question with a quick “yes” in order to sound “religious.” Our task is, rather, to enter a time of practicing Jesus’s way to joy, with Him as our trainer, until we begin to become the kinds of people who live like they have truly bought into what he’s saying, or “believe him,” hook-line-and-sinker. Because, after all, how can we know whether Jesus is right or wrong about anything until we’ve “tried him out?”

But at the very least, my hope is that, by now, you have been compelled by the vision of a life free from worry as actually possible. And now Jesus invites you to “taste and see” for yourself. He beckons you to hand over your agenda to Him, to allow Him to lead you out of your own little haunted house, and enter a process that will leave you saying in any and every circumstance,

“Come what may, I am safe in God’s world.”

If you’re open to the process, then be ready. Next week, we train!

Until then, my friends.

May it go well with you.

-Andrew

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