Worry: Invasive Cancer- Matthew 6:25-34
I have never been a fan of cancer. It took our son, Mitchell, nearly 10 years ago. As a pastor, I have watched too many people die from it. I have been on more oncology wards in hospitals than I would ever like to admit or even recall. I have watched people waste away from the unrelenting assault of unwanted cancer cells in the body.
All cancer is damaging, devastating and requires treatment of some kind- surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or some kind of artificial or natural treatment. Some of the most devastating words a patient hears about their cancer include “it has spread” or “it is not contained” or “we could not get it all.” All of those statements infer that the cancer is in some way invasive- meaning it has spread. I have watched people wilt receiving those statements from doctors who cringe while saying these words them.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines ‘invasive cancer’ as “cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue in which it developed and is growing into surrounding, healthy tissues.” That is different from contained tumors that are not invasive but limited in scope. Fortunately for many, the cancer is not terminal, even if invasive. We all celebrate when we see that cancer defeated.
Sin is like a cancer. It impacts the person in ways that require treatment. The most notable treatment is God’s forgiving grace applied to the repentant and confessing heart. But, there are kinds of sin that are more contained than others. Others are certainly more invasive and pervasive in their impact. The Bible even gradates or categorizes sin in certain ways- forgivable and unforgivable; abomination and offense; leading to death and not leading to death, some that reach judgement ahead of us and some that trail behind us (1 Timothy 5:24) etc.
It should be noted that all sin is damaging, resulting in death. But, all sin is not regarded the same with respect to its impact, breadth and cascading influence upon other people and upon other behaviors. That brings me to worry. Worry is something that immobilizes people, hinders progress, keeps people up at night and causes deep stress- all over things that have not happened and perhaps never will. It is invasive, impacting all of life.
Worry is a cancer of the heart that is more invasive than many other sins. Pride is certainly a sin rivaling for dominance. Bitterness and greed are invasive as well. A case can be made for all of the deadly sins and the ones that seem to have the deepest roots and cause the most widespread damage outside of the sinner himself/herself.
But, worry intrigues me and concerns me for several reasons. A recent study has put the adage “99% of what we worry about never comes to pass” to the test. The actual study involved people listing their worries over a long period of time and then measuring the outcome. Of the study group, 85% noted that what they worried about did not come to pass. Of those who actually had their worries realized, 79% said that it was more survivable than they had thought, less problematic than they feared or noted that they actually learned lessons or grew as a result of what came to pass. That means that well over 95% who worried did not need to do so. Worry of non-factors took too much time, energy and attention.
What’s worse, they were harmed by their worry. Suspicions arose, isolation occurred, relationships were strained, joy evaporated, decisions were altered, progress was halted, sleep evaded and peace of mind eliminated. Worry causes physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and relational harm. It is invasive. It causes tangible stress on the whole person. Michel de Montaigne said about five hundred years ago, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
Where does worry come from? It finds its origins in a lack of faith. A person comes to believe that if something bad happens (which it often does) they will not have the resources or ability to get through it. Further, a worrier believes that they are on their own in the management of difficulties. God’s place and power in the worrier’s life is diminished or altogether absent.
Before anyone claims that by writing this I am presumably sitting on a high horse judging others, I am not at all. I have fallen victim to this at times in my life. But, the worry has been resolved when I increase my trust in God. I can testify that Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 are true. Worry hinders. Trusting God resolves worry. Each day carries enough burden. Do not drain todays resource supply fretting over tomorrow. Seek first his Kingdom and righteousness and the necessities of life will be cared for. These concepts are not revolutionary or new. However, they are far under-applied.
Be honest. Is something concerning you that may or may not occur? If so, stop wasting on energy thinking about it. Start seeking God and what God desires. Start trusting him for the good he will work in the midst of the potential bad. Let sleep return, peace be restored and joy overflow.