Worries!

IMG_0580IMG_0570Minds at work (meaning your mind, or mine) could be busy processing 10,000 thoughts per day, so says the book titled Mind, Body Medicine: How to Use Your Mind for Better Health (by Daniel Goleman and Joel Gurin). 10,000 thought data per day means 70,000 thought data per week, or 3.65 million thought data per year. If these thoughts were printed on paper, you could be crushed by its sheer weight alone. If they are bad data and they remain as electronic data in your brain, they could either make you a lunatic or a killer.

Can harmful thoughts harm other people? University of California-Berkeley professor Herbert Morris posits the premise “that unless acted upon, thoughts by themselves can have no extra-personal effects, so that if thoughts are of public, specifically legal concern, it is only because of their link to harmful action.”

That premise has been challenged by a fellow professor Meir Dan-Cohen in a paper, who says “Can one person’s mental states, such as intentions or emotions, affect others even in the absence of any action or expression on that person’s part? Contrary to a widely shared assumption, I argue for a positive answer.” Professor Morris says they cannot; Professor Meir Dan-Cohen says they can.

I argue that firstly harmful thoughts can harm the person who harbors those thoughts. Medical doctors such as Keith Schenert have made studies that reveal that “for many Americans, our thoughts do more harm than good” to us. This is contained in his 1980 publication titled Stressed/Unstress. His report says that as a result of their harmful thoughts, “25 million Americans have high blood pressure,” “1 million have heart attacks,” “8 million have stomach ulcers,” and another “230 million filled prescriptions for tranquilizers.” These are figures over twenty-eight years old; don’t think that they have decreased.

Worries are troubling thoughts. Do you worry about worries? Some may accept worry as a sign of the times. But like the dark clouds over the horizon, they too will pass. Some take worry as a necessary evil. In this century when the world’s information doubles every six months, when mails are e-mailed and arrive to their destination in a second, and meals are microwaved and get done in a fraction of a moment, we also accept worry as a byproduct of our day.

The Lord sees worry as a constant of human nature. Worry is not in any human genes, but with the entrance of a human soul into the world, and as his placenta (his constant companion in the womb for nine long months) gets swallowed in the incinerator, worry take its place beside him, around him, over and above him, never able to depart.

We worry about relationships. One of Paul’s worries had something to do with the relationship between Euodia and Syntyche, two of his women friends who were now at odds with each other (Philippians 4:2-3).

Relationship worries are matters we have to deal with, take them by horn, in a manner of speaking. It matters not whether it’s within your family, immediate or extended, or in your work place, in the school, or in the community. Neither does it matter whether the relationship is yours or involves someone close to you. It affects you, it affects them, it affects the environment around you. Strained relationships, wherever they are, add stress to life.

Relationships between nations are a worrisome lot. It matters not too whether it is far or near. Troubles in Iraq or in Afghanistan, in Israel or in Gaza Strip, in Iran or in Lebanon, take their toll on countless victims, human and otherwise, creating crises which all affect us in many ways. The humble petroleum underneath the ground has also become a victim; conflicts between nations send its prices sky-high, making those gasoline sheiks happy. These sheiks always have us twiddling on their thumbs, but we cannot do anything.

And with the rise of the price of gasoline and of LPG, also goes the rise of food prices. You hear of protests here and protests there. A pastor of a Seventh Day Adventist splinter, who could no longer endure being preyed on the nose, brought his group and prayed by the hose of a gas pump. A 64-year old lady from Danville, Ca. thought of bringing her protest message home: She torched two gasoline stations and a Starbucks branch. In this last case, worries became harmful thoughts that prodded her to act in an anti-social way. If you cannot control your worries, your worries will control you!

Are responsibilities your worries? Paul worried about the church in Philippi which he had started 11 years earlier— they were being persecuted and were having problems. He was not with them, he was in another part of Europe, but he felt responsible for them.

The same feeling, the same sense of responsibility also gets into our mind and our soul when our children and grandchildren grow and leave home. I am not next door, but their needs are next to my heart. I worry too about the mountain church’s future. My supporter keeps telling me: Be careful how you drive, because nobody can take your place in the mountain work.

Ah, yes, resources. Paul too was worried about financial resources. Philippi, like the other churches he started, was having financial problems. They were not like the financial problems in churches today. They were not pleading for money to fund their ministries. They needed money to keep their members alive. They needed food.

Admittedly one of the causes of friction in marriages today is money. Couples starting out worry about the expenses of starting a family. Parents with adolescent children are worried about the money needed to feed and clothe the young. With the rising costs of college, parents worry too how to help these kids with their education. When comes retirement, we worry about the figures (You think you can survive on a fixed income like this for the rest of your lives?). Yes, no matter what your age may be, worry about financial resources is a troubling thing.

And the future. Paul had been worried about his future. He wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was under house arrest waiting for his case to be heard by the Roman emperor. In one moment, his case could be heard and, if he lost, he could be dead.

In different ways, we too could feel a similar pressure; not a house arrest, but a hospital prognosis about our health; not an order from the emperor but a notice from the court telling you to appear and contest the divorce case filed by your spouse of 25 years. It could not be a life-threatening issue but one notice that could end your job could also affect your future.

As we look at the worries of the men of the Bible we find that they are basically the very same things that worry us today. The only difference is that God taught them how to avoid worrying over those. We just need to learn what they learned.

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