“You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:9-11 NIV
A few years ago, a good friend told me a story about his grandfather. The aging Southern gentleman had been a Gospel preacher his whole life and had faced and overcome many challenges in the early days of his ministry. Throughout the years, he had developed a unique approach to measure and deal with the trials that confronted him. My friend chuckled as he recalled the many occasions when the old saint would pause, become very still and close his eyes as though he were listening. Then, all of a sudden, the upper part of his body shook as he drew in a deep breath, opened his eyes and declared to everyone standing around (or in some cases just to himself), “Everthang gonna be all right!“
It is a fact that worry is an ineffective spirituality. Once it takes root and becomes habit, it seems to dominate the spiritual landscape of our thinking and behavior.
Then what can we do when all the evidence appeals to our worry gene? Actually, that is the question I asked my friend as our conversation moved in the direction of facing our own hard times. While this elder saint’s approach seemed primitive and humorous to me, I wanted to know what his grandfather was actually doing in those few minutes with his eyes closed and his shoulders shaking. In fact, I wished that he were right there with us so I could ask him personally.
The answer was simple and predictable: he just worshiped and listened - which, to be truthful, sort of irritated me. I am not given to simple answers. I think that we get in trouble when we offer simple answers to complex problems, so I usually over think things and…well… obsess and worry.
A short time later I had the privilege of visiting my great uncle, who at the time was 101 years old. He had retired twice, outlived two wives and still drove himself to church. He answered my knock at the door and invited me in so we could talk a while. Eventually, I got around to my questions. ”Uncle Marsh“, I asked, “what’s your secret to this long and happy life you’ve lived?” You should know that in addition to living in the South during the Great Depression, he endured the daily news of WW1, WW2, the Korean War where his son was held as a prisoner of war, Vietnam, gas and food rationing, the death of two wives and some of his children…you get the picture. As I looked at him, waiting for his answer, he said, “Kenneth, I decided many years ago, that if God doesn’t have it under control, there isn’t much I can do. I simply don’t let myself worry about anything.” Tears pooled in the corners of his eyes as he closed them and became quiet for a few seconds. Then all of a sudden, his shoulders and head shook and his jaw seemed to come slightly unhinged. He slapped his hands together in front of him as if he were swatting bees, and then he exclaimed, “Son, everthang gonna be all right!”
We stayed on his front porch for the next few minutes holding hands and worshiping and I was more convinced than ever that he was telling me the Gospel Truth!