How worried should we be?

I was struck by a headline in The Times today- “How worried should we be about the new strain?” and it seems to me we shouldn’t be. Worried, I mean. Being worried doesn’t do anything helpful at all. It simply exhausts us, drives us to bad and hasty decision-making, makes us tired and mean and self-centred. How worried should we be? Not at all. As an ordinary person living an ordinary life, not a scientist or a doctor or politician, my worry will achieve absolutely nothing helpful to anyone. We should be concerned, yes, and responsible, and listen with discernment, accepting the disciplines that will keep us as safe as it’s possible to be, and looking after each other, but….. worried? What’s the point?

Matthew 6:24, in the words of Jesus ‘Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’

When does proper concern and responsibility turn into worry and anxiety? There are signs – continually thinking about the problem, unable to concentrate on anything else, talking about it over and over, guessing and calculating outcomes and strategies, circular thinking, finding sleep difficult, a raised pulse rate, headaches, tiredness, hopelessness. These are the results of worry, and all they do is weaken us – no wonder our Father tells us to STOP IT!

On the one hand we have God, the peace and trust he offers, and on the other….. we have 24hour rolling news, creating a perfect storm of rumour and conjecture, mostly born out of the need to get some new headline into every bulletin. It all conspires to give us the impression that the more we hear, the more we will understand, which is plainly ludicrous when even the expert’s understanding of this pandemic is changing almost hourly, when the restrictions change from day to day, and the confusion is global. There is so much communication now, so many people clamouring for information, so much changing data, that we are drowning in it. Our IT systems are alight with panic, Google went offline everywhere for four hours, the Welsh NHS statistics failed to record 11,000 tests, and conspiracy theories are raging. In Isaiah 8 God says

“Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.”

He wasn’t referring to us in 2020 and the pandemic but the instruction holds true. Conspiracists create fear and suspicion and melodrama. None of those things are Godly.

What would this pandemic look like if we were not so devoted to the media and our screens? The United Kingdom declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland. On that very same day thousands upon thousands of children were evacuated from towns and cities, the areas most likely to be bombed, and sent to safer rural areas. In three days 1.5 million children were safely and efficiently evacuated, their records kept safe and their contact was maintained with their families, through letters and phone calls. Can you imagine that happening now? With all our fantastic instant communications, would we be capable of a consistent orderly and nationwide effort like that? Looking at our Covid response, I really don’t think so. Today’s culture, with its rumour mill, paranoia and fake news, produces only chaos and confusion.

I heard something this morning that resonates with me; God is in control of the people who are in control. Sounds simplistic? A bit Mickey-mouse? Like something out of Little House On The Prairie? Yep, but if we think about it, we discover at a deeper level, recognising the power and sovereignty of God, that he is indeed in control of those who are in control. That’s not to say that our leaders are always in the right, or that their systems are good, indeed some of them (naming no names) may even have evil or selfish intentions, but they are not in control of this world. Only God. Only God.

If we know that, really know it, and believe it, we won’t live in worry.

But we’re human and we slip into that anxious frame of mind sometimes, maybe experiencing a heightened emotional state, so that we’re soon fretting and complaining and dwelling on our own small disappointments. So how do we find peace when the rules change yet again and families are miles apart and their gifts are under the tree and the food we ordered is going to waste… when we’re missing the sight of those we love? How do we stop worrying when we think of our old people, and our sick people? How do we stop worrying once we’re on that horrible treadmill? We look to God. We look at God. We look to him for help, and at him for peace.

Really look at him. Look at his world, the gift of time – because this time will pass – all the gifts we have, the breath in our lungs, the sunshine, the rain, the gift of fire and the gift of water, the gift of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God! Think of the Holy Spirit, here, our Paraclete, with us, enabling us. That’s how we stop worrying, we turn to the Spirit of God and in him we put our trust. In Isaiah 51, the first verse, Israel is told

‘…look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn’

If you’re feeling swamped by worry, look to God. Recognise the difference between God and you. He’s in control. He doesn’t expect you to take over. He’s got your back. Nothing will happen unless he allows it, and he is for you.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1&2

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