Our civilization is called a Christian civilization. We are the Christian nations.
Yet, as I have shown in Chapters I and II, ours is the worrying civilization. That worry is dishonoring to our civilization, and especially to our professions as Christians is self-evident. Let us then look briefly in the book we call our Holy Bible, our Guide of Life, our Director to Salvation, and see what the sacred writers have to say upon this subject. If they commend it, we may assume that it will be safe to worry. If they rebuke or reprobate it we may be equally assured that we have no right to indulge in it.
St. Paul seemed to have a very clear idea of worry when he said: Be careful—[full of care]—for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known unto God. Philippians 4:6.
How inclusive this is—full of care, anxiety, fretfulness, worry about nothing, but in everything presenting your case to God. And then comes the promise: And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. IV. 7.
How clear, definite, full and satisfactory. What room for worry is there in a heart full of the peace of God, which passeth all understanding? And oh, how much to be desired is such an experience.
Browning, in his Abt Vogler, sings practically the same sweet song where he says: Sorrow is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear, Each sufferer says his says, his scheme of the weal and woe: But God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear; The rest may reason and welcome; 'tis we musicians know.
If God whispers in the ear of the sufferer, the doubter, the distressed, the worried, the peace must come; and if peace come, it matters not what others' reasoning may bring to them, the knowledge that God has whispered is enough; it brings satisfaction, content, serenity, peace. The opposite of worry is rest, faith, trust, peace. How full the Bible is of promises of rest to those who know and love God and his ways of right-doing. Mendlessohn took the incitement of the psalmist (Psalm 37:7), "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him," and made of it one of the tenderest, sweetest songs of all time. Full of yearning over the worried, the distressed, the music itself seems to brood in sympathetic and soothing power, as a mother croons to her fretful child: "Why fret, why worry,—No, no! rest, rest my little one, in the love of the all-Father," and many a weary, fretful, worried heart has found rest and peace while listening to this sweet and beautiful song.
There is still another passage in holy writ that the perpetual worrier should read and ponder. It is the prophet Isaiah's assurance that God says to His children: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." Who has not seen a fretful, sick child taken up by a loving mother, yield to her soothing influence in a few minutes and drop off into restful, healthful, restoring sleep. What a wonderful and forceful figure of speech, illustrative of a neverceasing fact that the Spirit of all good, the supreme Force of Love and Power in the universe is looking, watching, without slumber or sleep, untiring, unfailing, ever ready to give soothing comfort as does the mother, to those who fret and worry.
Then, when cause for worry seems to be ever present, why not call upon this Loving Maternal Soothing Power? Why not rest in His arms, and thus find peace, poise and serenity? How much worry comes from fear as to the future. Men become hoarders, savers, misers, or work themselves beyond healthful endurance, or shut out the daily joys of existence in their business absorption, because they dread poverty in their old age. "Wise provision" becomes a driving monster, worrying them into a restless, fretful energy that must be accumulating all the time.
Two thousand years ago this trait of human nature was so strongly manifested that Christ felt called upon to restrain and rebuke it. What a wonderful sermon He preached. It is worth while repeating it here, and wise would that man, that woman be, who is worried about to-morrow, were he, she, to read it daily. I give it in the revised version: I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his stature? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew, 6:25-34.
Here is the wisest philosophy. Anxiety is suicide, peace is life; worry destroys, serenity upbuilds. As you want to live, to grow, possess your souls in peace and serenity. Work, aye, work mightily, powerfully, daily, but work for the joy of it, not because worry drives you to it. Work persistently, consistently and worthily, because no man can live—or ought to live—without it, but do not let work be your slave driver, your relentless master, urging you on to drudgery, bondage to your counter, ledger or factory, until you drop exhausted and lifeless. Work for the real joy of it, and then, filled with the blessed trust in God the all-Father expressed as above by Christ, throw your cares to the winds, bid your worries depart, and accept what comes with serenity, peace and thankfulness.
Many proverbs have been written about worry, which it may be well to recall.
Certainly it can do no harm to those who worry to see how their mental habit has been regarded, and is still regarded, by the concentrated wisdom of the ages.
An old proverb says: "It is not work, but worry, that kills." How true this is.
Congenial work is a health-bringer, a necessity for a normal life, a joy; it keeps the body in order, promotes digestion, induces the sleep of perfect restoration and is one of man's greatest blessings. But worry brings dis-ease (want of ease), discomfort, wretchedness, promotes evil secretions which upset the normal workings of the body, and is a constant banisher and disturber of sleep.
Still another proverb says: "Worry killed the cat." Many people read this and fail to see its profound significance. It must be remembered that in "the good old days," when this proverb was most rife, the superstitious held that a cat had nine lives. Now, surely, the deep meaning of the proverb is made apparent. Though the cat were possessed of nine lives, worry would surely kill them all—either one by one, by its horrid and determined persistence; or all at once, by the concentrated virulence of its power.
There are many proverbs to the effect that "When worry comes in, wit flies out," and these are all true. Worry unsettles the mind, unbalances the judgment, induces fever of the intellect, which renders calm, cool weighing of matters impossible. No man of great achievements ever worried during his period of greatness. Had he done so his greatness could never have been achieved.
Imagine a general trying to solve the vexing problems of a great combat which is going against him, with his mind beset by numberless worries. He must concentrate all his energies upon the one thing. If worry occupies his attention, wit, sense, judgment, discretion, wisdom are crowded out, have no place.
All the pictures given to us of Grant show him the most imperturbable at the most trying times. When the fortunes of war seemed most against him he was the most cheerful, the least disturbed. He had learned the danger of worry, and compelled it to flee from him, that calm judgment and clear-headed decisions might be his.
If, therefore, these great ones of earth found it essential to their well-being to banish worry, how much more is it necessary that we of the ordinary mass of mankind, of the commoner herd, apply ourselves to the gaining of the same kind of wisdom.
An old countrywoman once said in my hearing: "Worry, and you hug a hornet's nest." How suggestive both of the stinging that was sure to come and the folly, the absurdity, the cruelty to oneself of the act.
The great Scotch philosopher, Blair, said: "Worry (or anxiety) is the poison of human life," and how true it is. How biting, how corroding, how destructive to life some poisons are, working speedily, suddenly, awfully. Others there are that have a cumulative effect, until life itself cannot bear the strain, and it goes out.
Recently I was at a home where a son was so worried over conditions that he felt ought not to exist between his parents, that he totally collapsed, mentally, and for a time was in danger of losing his reason. The folly of his attitude is apparent to everyone but himself, though he now seeks in the absorbing occupation of teaching, to free himself from the poison of worry that was speedily destroying his reason.
Henry Labouchere, the sage who for so many years has edited the London Truth, once wrote a couplet, that is as true as anything he ever wrote: They who live in a worry, Invite death in a hurry.
I want to be ready for death when it comes, but as yet I am not extending an invitation to the gentleman with the scythe. Are you, my worrying reader, anxious to be mowed down before your time? Quit your worrying, and don't urge the Master Reaper to harvest you in until He is sure you are ready.
Another sage once said: "To worry about to-morrow is to be unhappy to-day," and the same thought is put into: "Never howl till you are hit," and the popular proverb attributed erroneously to Lincoln for it was long in use before Lincoln's time: "Do not cross the stream until you get to it." Christ put the same thought into his Sermon on the Mount, when He said: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." How utterly foolish and wrong it is to spoil to-day by fretting and worrying over the possible evils of to-morrow. Many a man in business has ruined himself by allowing worries about to-morrow to prevent him from doing the needful work of to-day. The rancher who sits down and worries because he fears it will not rain to-morrow, or it will rain, fails to do the work of to-day ready for whatever the morrow may bring forth. The wise Roman, Seneca, expressed the same thing in other words when he wrote: "He grieves more than is necessary who grieves before it is necessary," and our own Lowell had a similar thought in mind which he expressed as follows: "The misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never come." Even the Chinese saw the folly of worrying over events that have not yet transpired, for they have a saying: "To what purpose should a person throw himself into the water before the boat is cast away (wrecked)." All these proverbs, therefore, show that the wisdom of the ages is against worrying over things that have not yet transpired. Let to-morrow take care of itself. Live to-day. As Cardinal Newman's wonderful hymn expresses it: I do not ask to see the distant scene, One step enough for me.
Furthermore, the evil we dread for to-morrow may never come. Every man's experience demonstrates this. The bill for which he has not money in the bank is met by the unexpected payment of an account overdue, or not yet due. Hence if fears come of the morrow, if we are tempted to worry about a grief that seems to be approaching, let us resolutely cast the temptation aside, and by a full occupation of mind and body in the work of the "now," engage ourselves beyond the possibility of hearing the voice of the tempter.
When one considers the words that are regarded as synonymous with "worry," or that are related to it, he sees what cruelties lurk in the facts behind the words. To grieve, fret, pine, mourn, bleed, chafe, yearn, droop, sink, give way to despair, all belong to the category of worry.
Phrases like "to sit on thorns," "to be on pins and needles," "to drain the cup of misery to the dregs," show with graphic power the folly and curse of worry. Why should one sit on thorns, or on pins and needles? If one does so accidentally he arises in a hurry, yet in worrying, one seems deliberately, with intent, to sit down upon prickles in order to compel himself to discomfort, distress, and pain. Is there any wisdom, when one has the cup of misery at his lips, in deliberately keeping it there, and persistently drinking it to the "very dregs"? One unconsciously feels like shouting to the drinker: "Put it down, you fool!" and if the harsh command be not instantly obeyed, rushing up and dashing it out of the drinker's hand.
Take a few more words and look at them, and see how closely they are related to worry,—to be displeased, fretted, annoyed, incommoded, discomposed, troubled, disquieted, crossed, teased, fretted, irked, vexed, grieved, afflicted, distressed, plagued, bothered, pestered, bored, harassed, perplexed, haunted. These things worry does to those who yield themselves to its noxious power.
Worry deliberately pains, wounds, hurts, pinches, tweaks, grates upon, galls, chafes, gnaws, pricks, lancinates, lacerates, pierces, cuts, gravels, corrodes, mortifies, shocks, horrifies, twinges and gripes its victims.
It smites, beats, punishes, wrings, harrows, torments, tortures, racks, scarifies, crucifies, convulses, agonizes, irritates, provokes, stings, nettles, maltreats, bites, snaps at, assails, badgers, harries, persecutes, those who give it shelter.
Is it not apparent, then, that the only course open for a sensible man or woman is to QUIT WORRYING.
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