I am, by nature, a worrier. I come by this attribute honestly, having hailed from a long line of men who insisted on being grumpy and stressed-out long before Grumpy Cat made it cool. Anxiety-induced insomnia and depression have been my longstanding companions.
Overcoming the insatiable desire to worry about tomorrow and all its possibilities has been a major focus for me over the last year. After four years of running a small business in a down economy, then losing a job, starting another small business, and staring at the ceiling long into the morning hours hundreds of times, learning to overcome anxiety became an absolute necessity — a survival skill.
That journey out of the grips of anxiety and depression — set against the backdrop of owning a small business started just before an economic bust — is a work in progress, and a story that my wife Tammy and I are detailing in our forthcoming book Faith and French Toast: A story of faith, love and business. For now, suffice to say it’s been a process of going deeper into faith, embracing God as the source of all meaning, and letting go of ego. It’s an imperfect work in progress.
There have been a lot of great resources Tammy and I have read together in this journey, and a long “to be read list” ahead. But I wanted to share a snippet I picked up last night in The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis:
“A certain man being in anxiety of mind, continually tossed about between hope and fear, and being on a certain day overwhelmed with grief, cast himself down in prayer before the altar in a church, and meditated within himself, saying, ‘Oh! if I but knew that I should still persevere,’ and presently heard within him a voice from God, ‘And if thou didst know it, what wouldst thou do? Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be very secure.'” The Imitation of Christ, Chapter XXV
If we act as if our present and future are secure, they will be — because they are, if we’ll only get out of our own way and let God work for and through us. The Imitation of Christ is densely packed with such wisdom, perhaps why it’s the second best-selling book of all time, behind only the Bible (sorry, Harry Potter).
I immediately identified with this passage: the despair of the man, the downtrodden posture and smothering anxiety over what will or will not transpire in the future. And, I recognized an answer patiently reiterated to me time and again, after each time I’ve slipped back into baseless worrying: Have faith, know that it will work out the way it should, and then get to work on the tasks to which you’ve been called.
Jesus gave us this very message in Matthew:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” Matthew 6:25-30
And, just in case the symbolism of the lilies and birds was too deep, Jesus boiled it down further a few verses later in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. The point of all this is, it doesn’t matter. Now matters. Now is all that is. And in the now, if we live in the secure knowledge of God’s love and provision for our needs, tomorrow will work itself out the way it’s meant to be. At least, that’s the lesson I continue to learn.