Growing up, I often felt the need to take care of myself. I had an amazing Mom, but she was also single and amazingly busy finishing college, running a farm and working to put food on the table. A memory I cannot shake is of finding her bent over her desk, head in her hands, weeping over a stack of bills.
It is no wonder that I am paranoid of debt, afraid that I too will find myself and our family in a situation where we are unable to pay. Because I often felt unprotected as a child, I am also extra vigilant about protecting my own family, hyper aware of their safety, as if it all depends on me, which is absurd, considering how little control I have. As if by worry I can stop a pandemic. Or reverse global warming. Or secure bright and happy futures for us all.
Considering my faith in a loving God, my tendency to worry is also ironic. “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Jesus asked in Matthew 6:27. No, Jesus. No, I can’t. But still…
“Worried about what to wear?” He went on, pointing to a kaleidoscope of wildflowers on a Judean hillside. “Look at these flowers. If God provides so beautifully for them, won’t he also provide for you? So stop freaking out about what you will eat or drink or wear. Get to know God. Follow his directions. And he’ll provide for your needs.”
In theory, I believe this – that as I trust in and follow God, he will take care of me, just as he promises to do for all who put their trust in him. But in month when 30% of our family’s income goes to paying medical bills? Or when I read of Syrian refugee children freezing to death in the bitter cold alongside one million others who are trapped without adequate food or blankets? Or when jihadists gun down 24 worshipers in a church in Burkina Faso, after a year in which the United Nations says more than 4,000 others in the region were murdered by the same group? It’s hard to trust.
The guarantee I find in scripture isn’t that bad things won’t happen (much as I wish they didn’t). The guarantee is that in spite of the bad things – the poverty, the hatred, the bloodshed – God promises to ultimately bring about justice and peace. Rather than worrying about things I can’t control – pretty much everything – my energy is better spent discovering ways in which I too can be a peacemaker, a justice bringer.
So, in the words of Jesus, don’t worry about tomorrow. Trust God, and look for ways to help others.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture book series. All personal proceeds from the sales of these books benefit children in the developing world through Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, and Compassion International.