We may love the monkeys at the circus, but the dancing bear is what everyone wants to see. Admit it, a beast doing things it should not be capable of is enthralling. When I let worry run the show, everything else becomes a side act. Worry becomes the dancing bear.
Worry controls us, confines us, and consumes us. It can stop us in our tracks. Worry is not a friend. It is an enemy of free thinkers and entrepreneurs. It can even take down those gifted by God. It can destroy anyone who wishes to live freely. From the very beginning of the church we see worry putting a stop to God’s work.
Why does Peter deny Jesus? Worry and (no doubt) fear. Like the trainer—who is likely scared out of his mind when trying to keep the dancing bear at bay—fear is a bi-product.
We would like to get rid of fear, but as long as worry is around, fear will be there too.
This is why Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke12:22 ESV). What if Jesus had said, do not worry about money? Your occupation? Your house? Your friends? Your family? Your church? Your very life? In not so many words, that is exactly what he is saying.
But how many of us live without worry? I know I don’t. I battle it everyday. And some days—many days—it wins.
Worry (or anxiety) can cause us to care about stuff that is none of our business. It can make us meddle, fiddle and shmiddle (my made up word; admit it, you were going to look it up). It can drive us to get involved when we should step back. So lest we think worry is only about what we “don’t do”; let’s remember that it is about what we “do, do.” (Intentional use of a pun. Do-do-results are a natural bi-product of worry. I know, I am childish.)
The author of Ecclesiastes understood worry. He says, “Cast your bread upon the waters [the stuff you want to hold back from God, like food, clothing and money] for you will find it after many days” (Eccl 11:1). God will give back to you what you give (in a spiritual sense), so give up trying to control everything (Eccl 11:2). Give up trying to confine situations.
Disaster could strike at any moment: “for you know now what disaster may happen on earth” (Eccl 11:2 ESV). We are not distant from this anymore (e.g., Haiti, Chile, New Orleans—the list goes on and on). We know that at any moment, everything we are worrying about won’t matter anymore.
I am reminded of the tattoo of a guy I met recently. He had the initials “I.W.I.I.” on his knuckles. It stands for “It is what it is.” That’s what the author of Ecclesiastes picks up on in the next line: “If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap" (Eccl 11:3–4 ESV).
A well-known Latin phrase (thanks to Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society; shout out to my favorite movie) captures the same idea: “Carpe Diem,” which means “Seize the Day.” You can’t change it; so seize it—undaunted. You can’t alter it. So don’t worry about it. It is what it is. Live your life to the fullest—that is all you can do. If you don’t, you won’t reap; it won’t rain.
Why should we do this? We don’t know how things work, so we need to stop playing God. “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Eccl 11:5–6 ESV).
The author of Ecclesiastes puts the dancing bear in his place by making the monkeys a little more popular again:
“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity” (Eccl 11:7–10 ESV).
If only we lived by this principle. Many of the things we strive to control and confine end up consuming us. And for what purpose? None. Worrying accomplishes nothing. Actions mean everything. If you can’t do anything about it, let it be what it is. Otherwise, we may just miss out on seeing the infinite God in everything. Otherwise, we may miss life. Otherwise, we may fail everyone around us, and we may fail God.
What do you think? Has worry been a controlling factor in your life? What’s your dancing bear?