Worry Is Like a Rocking Chair

by Morris Chalfant

Periodically the accumulation of trash and half-used items in the garage must be cleared away. Old magazines and newspapers saved for a paper drive that didn't materialize, boxes that might be used, scraps of lumber from handyman projects, and bags of outgrown clothing get piled up in the corners. Finally, the day comes when everything has to be sorted and discarded and cleaned.

Our lives get filled with an accumulation, too, and the biggest time-wasting, strength-sapping item is worry. There are worries about health, worries about money, worries about finishing the many tasks we have. And over in a dark corner is the worry of what people think of us or any number of other private worries. On top of the whole pile is the worry about what will happen next.

Wise Plato wrote centuries ago, "Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety." Another has said that worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but doesn't get you anywhere. Thomas Carlyle once built a soundproof room in his home in London, so he could do his work without interference from outside noises. His neighbor had a rooster that crowed several times every day and night. Carlyle protested to the neighbor, and the man said that his rooster crowed only three times, and surely that was not a great annoyance. "But," Carlyle said to him, "if you only knew what I suffer waiting for that rooster to crow!" So with us. We wait anxiously for something to happen, sure that it will any minute, and so deplete our energies and dissipate our strength.

Sam Jones was staying all night with one of his parishioners and in the night he heard his host walking the floor. He called to him and said, "What is the matter, brother?" He replied that he had a note falling due the next day and he did not have the money to pay it off. Mr. Jones asked him what time it was, and he replied, "Twelve o'clock." Mr. Jones said, "Brother, go to bed and let the other fellow walk the rest of the night."

Isn't it true that most of our worries are borrowed from some other day? We worry about mountains we will never have to climb, about streams we will never have to cross, about situations we will never have to meet.

I refer often to the women going to the tomb of Jesus that first Resurrection morning. It must have been a glorious time, with the sun just rising in majestic splendor, the crisp, cool early spring air, and the lovely wild flowers growing along the way. But they missed all that. Instead, they were worrying about who would roll the stone away. Yet, when they got there, they found the stone had already been rolled away. All their worry was about a situation which had been taken care of before they reached it.

We must remember also that living a day at a time refers just as much to yesterday as it does to tomorrow. God is far more ready to forgive us than we are to forgive ourselves. Suppose you did make a mistake yesterday-do you expect to keep the shadow hanging over you for the rest of your life? If you can correct the wrong, then do so and go ahead about the business of living today.

Do you remember the story of Willis H. Carrier, a leader of the air-conditioning industry? Years ago, as a young man, he worked for the Buffalo Forge Company, in Buffalo, New York. They sent him to install a gas-cleaning device in a plate-glass factory in Missouri. The device, which cost $20,000, was still in the experimental stage and young Carrier met with many unexpected difficulties. If he had succeeded, he would have been set for life. But instead he faced utter and dreadful failure. The machine worked after a fashion, but not well enough to meet the guarantee. He wrote; "I was stunned by my failure. My stomach, my insides began to twist and turn. For awhile I was so worried I couldn't sleep."

In time, his common sense told him worry wasn't getting him anywhere. He took three steps which saved the day. First he analyzed the situation fearlessly and honestly, figuring what was the worst that possibly could happen because of this failure. He realized that he would not be jailed or shot. He could have been dismissed, but there were other jobs. Having faced the worst that could happen, he reconciled himself to accept it if it came. His employers might lose $20,000, but the machine was experimental anyway, and they could afford to charge it to research. Then he found that his mind was no longer clouded with worry. No longer was it paralyzed with fear. He could think. As he thought, he saw that by spending another $5,000 he might make the machine work properly. He did so, saved his reputation and enabled his firm to make a very handsome profit when they might have lost $20,000.

Analyze your worry calmly. You will find so much of it is refusal to accept something that cannot be altered from the past, something unpleasant in the present, or possibly contemplated in the future. Accept facts. Accept the forgiveness of God. This way you can break free from the burden of the past and the burden of the future.

Morris Chalfant, of Kankakee, Illinois, continues a 60-year pulpit ministry and is currently serving as chaplain in a nursing home. He is also active as an evangelist in revival meetings. He has authored 15 books and numerous articles-several of which have appeared in Pulpit Helps.