Do Not Worry

We had an interesting discussion at our Bible Study last week. Going through the book of Genesis, we considered chapter 32 in which Jacob, freshly returned from Laban’s mean employment, finds himself much affrighted:

v7: In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well.

Why the deep anxiety? Verse 8 states that he feared his brother Esau would attack him and his family, for it was reported that:

‘“he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”’ (v6)

Esau, for having been tricked out of his blessing, was planning to kill Jacob several decades back. Why would he arrive with 400 men if his intentions were peaceable? Little wonder Jacob is fearful and distressed. Most in the room had sympathy for him: who would not feel afraid in his shoes?

Almost alone, I declared his fear to be sinful. Now I am not immune to bouts of worry; restless, sleepless nights have I endured, fretting about the future. However, my being as great a worrier as Jacob makes not the action any less sinful. In short, worrying is failing to trust God, thinking He is unable to help or unwilling to assist. Furthermore, chapter 32 began with Jacob’s vision of a camp (or host, or an army) of angels. They appeared to him after his had departed from Laban. This show of heaven’s favour and strength was not therefore to fortify him from a past enemy who had slunk back to his own lands, but the potential enemy to come- Esau. Furthermore, had God not promised to be with him when he first fled from his family? Jacob reminds God of His promise in verse 13

“I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.”’

To worry and fret is to therefore call God’s honesty and integrity into question. It was to suggest the angelic host he had seen were inferior in power to Esau’s 400. It was to reduce the God of Abraham and Isaac to just another capricious and fickle pagan deity, the kind that could be stored in a camel’s saddle. Dividing his little tribe up into two groups may also be symptomatic of his lack of trust, or it might have been a sensible precaution, much as our wearing seatbelts or provisioning fire extinguishers in the chapel are today. So we can understand Jacob’s fear, even sympathise, but we must deny him our approval, much as we should also deny it to ourselves. The Lord Jesus commands we worry about nothing (Matthew 6:25-34), which is echoed by the apostle Paul when he admonishes the Philippians not to be anxious about anything (4:6-7). Unfortunately, we are more inclined to disobey God in this respect. Worrying is a respectable sin, one that assures us we are in control, that deep down, we truly care. By torturing ourselves about what the future may hold, we feel that we are somehow able to affect its outcome. But as the Lord asked:

Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

None of us, is the answer to the rhetorical question. Yet because of pride or lack of trust, we pray about our troubles and then snatch them back from the Father’s hands, thinking ourselves better able to manage them. And if God does not deliver, will He not receive us into paradise to be with Him forever? To live is Christ and to die is gain, therefore do not worry!

At our meeting, someone shared a quote from John Wesley, which I have been unable to find since but have heard it quoted before. My paraphrase runs thus:

‘I would no more worry than I would murder or steal, as all are forbidden in Scripture’.  In other words, the godly woman or man avoids disobeying God in the discreet, ‘respectable’ sins as well as the obvious, outward ones. Here are two more Wesley specials, free of charge:

“I have never known more than fifteen minutes of anxiety or fear. Whenever I feel fearful emotions overtaking me, I just close my eyes and thank God that He is still on the throne reigning over everything and I take comfort in His control over the affairs of my life.”

Walter B. Knight in his Master Book of New Illustrations, shares:

One day John Wesley was walking with a troubled man who expressed his doubt as to the goodness of God. He said, “I do not know what I shall do with all this worry and trouble.”

At the same moment Wesley saw a cow looking over a stone wall. “Do you know,” asked Wesley, “why that cow is looking over the wall?

“No,” said the man who was worried.

Wesley said, “The cow is looking over the wall because she cannot see through it. That is what you must do with your wall of trouble—look over it and avoid it.”

Look beyond your fears, your troubles and your opponents. Look unto Jesus, upon whom all your infirmities may be cast. Jacob wasted his time worrying- what he feared never happened. What a depletion of energy and time, a needless sapping of his spirit.

Image by Alex Peroff from Pixabay