May 25, 2008

Overtaken

Filed under: Faith Matters — Pastor Tim @ 8:56 am

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.  Matthew 6:34

Once when I was a volunteer chaplain in Quincy, Illinois, two different patients arrived in the ICU, having recently suffered heart attacks.

As I met with the woman, she told me straight out that she was worried.  She asked me to tell her a story about heaven.  So I told her the story of the people who didn’t have elbows, but who lived on a lush island filled with the most delicious foods.  It was hell for them if they tried only to feed themselves, but it became heaven for them when they learned to feed one another.  After I told the story, she immediately called for the nurse and asked if she could have ice cream.

As I met with the man in the ICU, he refused to look me in the eye.  I suggested that having a heart attack must have been a pretty frightening experience.  All he would say was, “I’m not scared.”  I wondered if he was a bit uptight being attached to so much medical equipment in a dark, dreary intensive care unit.  He forced himself to say, ”If I die, I’m going to heaven, so I shouldn’t be worried.”  And with that he used every bit of will power he had to keep from showing any signs of emotion.

A couple of days later, I saw both of their pictures and both of their names on the obituary page.  I remembered my last vision of each of them: him, holding his mouth and eyes closed, working hard to appear calm; her, eagerly slurping a chocolate milk shake.

I don’t want to suggest that either of them had a better death than the other.  But I don’t think Jesus means it is a sin to worry.  Worry is a sign of caring, and we need more caring people in our world.  Lack of worry can be a sign of apathy.

Perhaps Jesus means that it is a sin to let worry rule your life.  When we let our lives get overtaken by worry, we lose our lives trying to save them.  But when we live, in spite of our worries, we experience that gracious Presence that’s been sustaining us all along.

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