“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
One of my favorite Tom Hank’s movies portrays the true story of an attorney charged with brokering deals for hostages with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “Bridge of Spies” followed Hank’s lead character James Donovan who defended Russian spy Rudolf Abel. Threats against Abel were significant as he was hated by the U.S. for being a spy and by the Russians for being caught.
Throughout the lengthy hostage negotiations and scenes from prison, Abel vexed his lawyer Donovan by remaining calm even when, as was frequently the case, it seemed as if he were out of options. Either he would spend life in prison or face certain death, and each time, Tom Hank’s character asked the prisoner if he was worried, his answer was serenely the same. “Would it help?”
I come from a long line of worriers. One of my aunts, to the chagrin of my grandmother, catastrophized everything. She could froth up a worry like nobody’s business over nothing of consequence. No matter how many times my grandmother would advise her: “Don’t fret your pesters”, she couldn’t seem to help herself.
Maybe that’s why one of my favorite Bible verses from Philippians includes the reassuring words, “Do not be anxious about anything….” Our faith doesn’t promise that nothing difficult will befall us. Our prayers don’t magically result in peace on earth and recovery of our youth. Nevertheless, no good thing comes from worry.
The voice in our head whispers loudly, “Aren’t you worried?”
“Aren’t you worried about inflation and the rising costs of insurance and health care?”
“Would it help?”
“Aren’t you worried about divisions in our nation, and the future of civic discourse?”
“Would it help?”
“Aren’t you worried about suffering in Gaza and a peaceful resolution for Israel and the middle east?”
“Would it help?”
“Ukraine, the environment, immigration, worry, worry, worry…”
Recently on a slow news day, the press catastrophized our doom over something that may one day happen, yet without any particular urgency that if it happens at all, it would happen today.
I’m pretty sure that worrying about it will only keep me awake at night and raise my blood pressure. And I’m equally sure that there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it any case. Therefore, worrying about it will not help, will not change the outcome, will not bring about anything good at all for anybody.
The most pressing issues of our time concern us to be sure. The threats to our economy, our unity, our security, our health may be real. Yet the solutions to the world’s greatest problems begin now as they have always, with our insistence that God’s peace beyond human understanding prevails.
We may not be able to control the outcome of our challenges, but we can choose how to show up for the people in front of us. Our serenity well may calm troubled waters for another, even as God reassures and calms our own. Peace, be still.
God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, The Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida
United Church of Christ