Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What If ...

I just finished reading the devotional What If ... (subtitled How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You) by Caleb Suko. This devotional was written to describe the problem of worry and how it points to a lack of trust in God, to identify its sources and its paths, and then to suggest practical advice on how to overcome its affects on our lives. However, in truth, I am left with mixed opinions on this work and believe that it is deeply flawed in two important areas.

First, Suko plainly states that worry of any sort is categorically a sin. However, as soon as he wrote those words I immediately called to mind a picture of Jesus in the garden at Gethsemane, so worried and riddled with anxiety over his path that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Suko then tried to split hairs and draw distinctions between worry and concern, pushing himself down a very dangerous path that I felt that he was not able to recover from. In my mind, some worry can certainly be unhealthy as I know from my own personal experiences. However, some worry can spur us out of inaction into thinking through our predicaments and devising a path forward. Worries of this latter type are actually quite beneficial and can bring us closer to our God if our approach is based on his truths and a reliance on prayer.

Second, Suko's seriously dances around the Christianese pablum of telling us to just "give all our worries to God". Suko states that if we just believe in Jesus (a little harder) all our worries will be left behind. Really? When I am overcome with worry and it runs away unchecked, this kind of "advice" is the antithesis of helpful. He then suggests that memorizing a few Bible verses will be enough to gain control over our worry. Too often his solution to eliminate worry for our lives is the Christian equivalent of sitting around the campfire singing kumbaya until we are free from worry and anxiety. I have one word for this type of banality, rubbish. Suko would have been much better served by developing an approach to move us away from reliance on ourselves, bringing us up alongside of a pastor or trusted mentor to more effectively bring about lasting changes in our approach. As our way of falling into worry is a response that has been developed over a lifetime, there will be no magic, instantaneous "cure" based on trite Christianese exercises or a reliance on self. Only a path that will need to be developed, honed, and approached over an extended period of time that most certainly will involve pulling alongside others.

Those of us who battle with worry often find progress comes in the form of one step forward, three steps back. To heap more of a burden on folks by falsely labeling worry as a sin does no good for anyone. I personally believe our God is well pleased when we keep at it and continually seek him despite our shortcomings and our tendencies to worry.