Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Sick with worry


February 2022

Dear Friends

While the world has been fretting about you-know-what, another disease  has been sweeping our nation, an even more damaging epidemic of depression, loneliness and worry.

One type of therapy used to help those with mental health struggles focuses on identifying and changing unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour that are out of step with reality.  It involves learning to speak truth to yourself, reminding yourself what is really real.

If I were to develop, for example, a fear of going out then a therapist might explore what lies behind this.  My fears would need to be questioned.  What am I afraid of?  How likely is this to happen and how serious would it be?  How do I know?  What are the thoughts or actions that trigger my fear?  How can I avoid them?  Can I begin by going somewhere local and non-threatening and move slowly towards the full city-centre experience?

This seems to me a sensible approach – we all have irrational thoughts and beliefs and sometimes they need challenging.

Is this what Jesus was doing when he told the crowd not to worry (recorded in Matthew 6)?  Jesus challenges them, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  I don’t suppose any hands went up.  Jesus reminds them that their worry does them no good, as, deep down, they already know. 

“Do not worry about tomorrow,” says Jesus, “for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Again, he is reminding them of reality.  Thinking too far ahead just piles up all the problems onto today.

But Jesus’ central message is that they shouldn’t worry because they have a heavenly father who provides for his children, just as he faithfully feeds the birds and beautifully clothes the flowers.

If that is not true then Jesus is asking them to focus on myths which will only lead to disillusionment and deeper worry.  But if there is a powerful and wise God who is a father to those who put all their trust in his Son then this is the ultimate therapy.  Such a truth would be the deepest of all truths, the really real thing in our universe.  Learning to speak this truth to ourselves each day would not only challenge our everyday worries but would show us the answer to our deepest fears.


Graham Burrows