- a lesson from Alfred E. Newman
Some of you may not recognize the name, Alfred E. Newman. He is not as popular as he once was. No, Alfred is not a great philosopher, teacher or orator. He is the “mascot” of Mad magazine. But we can take a lesson from him.
Worry is one of the most pervasive things we face in life. It consumes some of us and effects nearly all of us in some way. We worry about all sorts of things, small and large in our lives. We worry about the world; wars, immorality, famine and hunger, disease, oil prices and the world-wide financial crisis. We worry about things in our individual lives; our finances, our children, our spouses, our health. And we worry about very mundane things like the expiration dates on the milk and eggs in our refrigerators.
Women tend to worry more than men. It’s in our genetic make-up perhaps, or social conditioning. But worry drives men to more drastic actions more often, up to and including suicide. When worry comes to consume us it can be a very debilitating thing.
My wife and I had a long discussion about worry not long ago. During the prior week, we’d had reason to worry. Out of the blue we’d received a very large bill, payable immediately. Simply put, we didn’t have the ready resources to take care of it just then, or at least we didn’t think so. My wife was consumed with worry and she was quite upset with me because I wasn’t displaying the same level of worry. We didn’t discuss our different (worry) responses to this situation just then. Instead we discussed how we were going to resolve the situation. And we prayed together.
The very next day we received in the mail information on a resource that we didn’t even know about. It was within dollars of the amount we owed and it was highly liquid. In three days, the crisis was resolved. Now, this was certainly not without cost. This resource would have been extremely beneficial as we look forward to retirement. And the crisis itself has been caused by my own procrastination. The long-term cost was very high, but the immediate crisis was resolved.
Could there be any question about Who’s work this was?
This weekend, when we had time to reflect on this, my wife and I had opportunity to discuss our differing approaches to “worry” in this situation. We reflected on the sequence of events. Breaking things down, I was confident that, as has happened numerous times during this year, that God would show us the way. He did. But there was a penalty involved, and a rather large one. We both knew that God was at work here, both providing and guiding us with what we needed in this situation.
Let me make one things very clear. I am NOT claiming here that I have more faith than my wife. I simply respond to such situations differently.
Perhaps the most important thing we got from all of this is how our lives have changed after renewing our commitment to God and Jesus after years of apostasy. We simply can’t count the number of times during this period that God has provided, just in the nick of time.
For me, the most challenging thing was turning things like this over to God. Not easy for an arrogant control freak as I had been. But simple as it sounds, it works! It doesn’t make all things pleasant in our lives, but God does provide.
Does this mean we should not worry? As humans, I don’t think we have the capacity to not worry. It is how we respond to the situations that cause our worries that makes all the difference.
When we allow our worries to consume us, to overshadow all else, we are taken off the narrow path. Satan takes such worries to do his work. This can lead to anxiety and depression. It can cause us to make foolish decisions. It can drive a wedge between spouses and between us and God.
Or we can take those things that cause our worries to God in prayer. We can turn things in our lives over to Him.
This does not give us free license to do whatever we want. Turning over control means following our Master, doing His will. And we have to do our part by preparation to head off such situations. God does help those who help themselves. Where we run into problems here is when we think we are helping God instead of the other way around, God guiding us to do the right things.
So, perhaps Alfred E. Newman only got it part right with his “What, me worry?” It’s how we handle worries when they occur that matters. along with leading lives that prevent those situations that cause worry like the one my wife and I encountered from even happening.
So, if you’re worried about the expiration dates on the milk and eggs… make an omelet! For the significant worries in our lives, pray. Turn your life over and follow the Spirit’s guidance.
A hundred or a thousand years from now, which path will matter more?
Alive in The Word