The Good Portion
"You're just a worry wart!" Did anybody ever call you that? Well, I've called myself that a lot of times! Not anymore. Perhaps this may be a simple topic, because I've known for a long time that the Bible said, "Don't be anxious for anything," and "Cast all your care on him," and many other verses. I don't think that I really understood how to do that before. Not only would the worry crop up (which you can't prevent) but it would stick, sometimes for days at a time. How do we learn to be worry-free?
Instead of listing some principles and then expecting that you will get the idea, I will share with you in this article how I learned more about this topic. I believe that will help you to see the process. Getting rid of worry is a process that we each have to go through in our thinking. If anything gets stopped along the way in the process, then worry remains, to whatever degree. The process is taught in the well-known passage of the Sermon on the Mount. I was studying it in Luke, so this is where we will begin.
Luke 12:22-32 (Aramaic):
22 And he said to his disciples, "Because of this, *I say to you, do not be anxious for yourselves, what you will eat or for your body, what you will wear,
23 for the soul is more than food, and the body than clothes.
24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap and they do not have rooms and storehouses, yet God provides for them. Therefore, how much more important are you than birds?
25 And which of you, being anxious, is able to add one cubit to his stature?
26 And if you are not even capable of a small [thing], why are you anxious about the rest?
27 Consider how the lilies grow, for they neither labor nor spin, but *I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory was covered sas one of these.
28 And if God so clothes the grass that today is in the field and tomorrow falls into the oven, how much more you, [oh] little of faith?
29 And you should not seek what you will eat and what you will drink and your mind should not wander in these [things].
30 For all these [things] the Gentiles of the world seek. Now your Father also knows that these [things] are necessary for you.
31 But seek the kingdom of God and all these [things] will be added to you.
32 Do not fear, little flock, because your Father wants to give you the kingdom.
Worry is something that gets all bottled up with the business of daily life. There are things that we need to do and decide and figure out every day. Some days the pressures of these decisions are not very easy to take. The pressure seems to gather momentum. That's when people say things like, "I'm stressed out." Worry comes in when we are stewing about what to do and how to handle things. People react in different ways to this pressure. Some give up and try to avoid it or do anything except deal with it. Others get angry and lash out at people around them. Others get depressed and stop talking to anybody. I was one who just let the questions and difficulties go around and around in my thinking, never coming up with any answers.
The first thing that I saw in the passage above was to "consider the ravens." Really consider them for a moment. When you start worrying, consider the ravens. It has become a starting point for me. Ravens are carrion birds that are not very nice. We have crows that come into our backyard, making a big noise, stealing strawberries, and generally being a nuisance. And most of the time, they steal other birds’ food. They take the leftovers of a kill by another animal. They are not pretty birds. In fact, in the eastern culture, they were considered unclean, so one did not want to have anything to do with them. Yet, Jesus said, consider the ravens. Why? Because even though they are one of the most unloved birds, God provides for them. He does not think that they are unimportant. They don't have storehouses or work hard to figure out how to save their food; they just have what they need today. The first thing that I realized about the process of getting rid of worry was that I genuinely needed to think that God loved and cared for me and that I was "important" to him. This goes along with the passage in I Peter.
1 Peter 5:7:
Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.
The first word for care in this verse is this worry or anxiety. The second kind of care is loving compassion. God truly cares for us. Jesus had also said the same basic thing earlier in the sermon in Luke 12:
6 Are not five birds sold for two coins? And one of them is not forgotten before God.
7 But even the separate hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, therefore, because you are more valuable than a multitude of birds.
8 And I say to you, whoever will confess me before men, the Son of Man also will confess him before the angels of God.
First, we have to genuinely believe that we are valuable. The next step in the process is brought out in this passage. "Whoever will confess me before men" is the key. What does this mean? It means that we have to stop the confession of the worry. If we can take the worry and put it all in a ball and cast it to God, then we don't have it anymore. Therefore, we can't talk about it. We don't have to cast the whole problem or situation to God, just the worry part. For what will he do with the problem? He can't work it out without us. Many people teach, cast everything to God, for he will take care of you. It doesn't work and they end up taking back the worry, too, when the need is there to work out the problem.
A simple illustration of this happened recently. I had realized that it was very possible that I had not filed a very important IRS form for Light of the Word. It would have been 4 months overdue and I could not find any proof anywhere that it had been done. So after the initial flurry of worry, I cast it to God. Then he lovingly told me what to do to find out whether it was indeed an oversight or not. I found the form in good order, so even that initial worry had been unnecessary. Praise God we can continue to grow in this!
The next aspect of this phrase has to do with confession. Remember the Shunamite woman whose son had died? When Gehaza, Elijah's servant, asked how she was, she said, "All is well." Her son had just died! How could she say that all was well? This illustration is not a lesson that we should never confess anything negative that is happening in our lives, for if we do that, the worry just gets more and more buried. It means that we are to confess the problem or need to someone who can help to do something about it. When she came to Elijah, he was able to deal directly with the situation and to restore her son alive and well!
This is a lesson for ministers as well. If people in your charge do confess things that are going on in their lives and problems and needs, it is not for "public consumption." If a person genuinely repents of sins in their lives, these do not need to be broadcast all around the congregation. How will it be possible for the person to overcome their problem if, for example, everyone else knows that they have a severe financial situation or a marital crisis? What good does it do for people to know about it who cannot help? You can say, they could pray. Well, that is true, but even that needs to be done with circumspection, for if the prayers contain more negative worry than positive help, there is not a lot of profit. Or if the prayers contain condemnation of the other person, they are not helpful. And that applies to those intercessors who are truly endeavoring to pray fervently for needs to be met. "A fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" as it says in James. Concentrate on the "righteous" part for a little while, instead of the "fervent."
Once we can cast the "worry" on God, then there is a next step. There is a principle in nature that if you have a void, it must be filled with something. It is not enough to just send the worry away -- it must be replaced with something else. This is what "the good portion" is.
Luke 10:38-42 (Aramaic)
38 And it happened that while they were journeying on the road, he entered a certain village and a woman whose name [was] Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister whose name [was] Mary. And she came [and] seated herself at the feet of our Lord and was listening to his words.
40 But Martha was occupied with much service and came [and] said to him, "My Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me alone to serve? Tell her to help me."
41 But Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many [things].
42 But there is one [thing] that is necessary and Mary has chosen that good part for herself that will not be taken from her."
Jesus was not condemning Martha for serving. He was talking to her about the "anxious and troubled" part. And he said that only "one thing is required" which is "the good portion." Mary chose it in this passage. She was sitting at his feet and LISTENING TO HIS WORDS. What a joy that must have been!
After we cast the worry away, it must be replaced with something. That something is received by coming to sit at Jesus' feet (as it were) and listening to HIS words. It is not coming to ask a lot of questions, it is not coming to complain about why you have this problem. It is coming to LISTEN. We can figuratively do this by going to a quiet place to listen to direct revelation and to replace the thoughts of worry with the written Word as well. The key is in being quiet and listening. That is the good portion. Will you choose it?