The last time I saw my dad alive, we were talking in his hospital room. He had been fighting cancer for many months and was nearing the end of the battle. Having led many Bible studies and given many talks in his life, he told me, “If God gives me one more opportunity to teach about His Word, I’m going to talk about the 11th Commandment – ‘Thou Shalt not Worry.’” This was a favorite theme of my dad’s, who was a man of great faith and trust in the Lord. He loved to teach people about how to gain victory over worrying by trusting in God’s providence.
Well the Lord called my dad home six weeks later, so he never gave that final talk. But I’d like to share the gist of it here.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…
In the short passage from Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us three times, “Do not worry.” He tells us not to worry about our life, what we will eat or drink, or about our body, what we will wear. “Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things,” Jesus assures us.
When we worry, it shows a lack of trust in God. However, worry is so much a part of our culture and society that we look on it as normal. We think a woman is just being a good mother when she worries about her children. Or a person is a good business owner when he or she worries about their company or work. We don’t see worry as disobedience. But it is.
The word “worry” comes from an old English term “wyrgan” which means to “choke” or “strangle.”
That’s what worry does to our faith. It chokes or strangles it. We begin by praying for someone – a child, a sick relative, a troubled marriage – and before we know it we are distracted with worries, and then fear grips us and our faith gets choked out.
It’s hard to pray or even think clearly when we are worried. If you’ve ever seen a garden overgrown with weeds, you see how those weeds choke out and strangle any flowers or vegetables trying to grow.
How do we stop our tendency to worry?
There are two good places to start to attack the bad habit of worrying.
- We have to plant the Word of God in our hearts.
- Learn God’s promises.
- Write them down.
- Read them again and again until the Word of God takes deep root in our hearts.
- Philippians 4:6 is a good one to start with.
- Go before the Blessed Sacrament.
- Bring your troubles before the Lord and lay them at His feet.
- Admit your inability to fix things and ask Jesus to take over.
- A holy man once told me, “People’s troubles melt away when they are in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. They don’t know how or why often, but their troubles are taken care of.”
My dad and the Boston Red Sox
Something occurred a few months after my dad’s death that made a deep impression on me.
My dad was a loyal Boston Red Sox fan for many years. During the 2003 play-offs, the last ones he watched, the Red Sox lost to their arch-rivals the New York Yankees, when it seemed they had a good chance of making it to the World Series that year. It was a bitter defeat for all Red Sox fans, including my dad.
Right before my dad died a few months later, my younger sister, also a huge Red Sox fan, told him, “Dad, when you get to heaven, make sure the Red Sox beat the Yankees this year!” My dad smiled.
My dad died in April 2004, and in October of that year the Yankees and the Red Sox faced each other in the play-offs again. Now I’m not a sports fan at all, but I was following baseball that year in memory of my dad. With great confidence, I told my friends who were loyal Red Sox fans that the Red Sox were going to win that year.
And then they proceeded to lose the first 3 games in a row. Things didn’t look good.
After that third loss, I was walking on the Ranch, feeling sad, missing my dad and disappointed that his team was losing. Very clearly I had a mental picture of my dad smiling and saying, “Ell, why are you worried? It’s all going to be fine.” I’d heard my dad say that to my mom hundreds, if not thousands of times, growing up. She was the worrier, but no matter how bleak things looked, he would counsel her not to worry, that God was going to work everything out.
Amazingly, the Red Sox won the next four playoff games in a row – something that had never happened before in baseball history. Not only did they beat the Yankees, but they went on to win the World Series in a four game sweep, ending the 86-year-drought since their last World Series win in 1918.
Bigger than just the baseball victory though, I knew my dad was reminding me of his favorite teaching — Do not worry! Trust in God. All will be well.