The first & last portrait photos of Lincoln as President: May 1860 & Feb 1865. pic.twitter.com/BmTmanTNPLThe toll of his worry and care can clearly be observed by comparing these two pictures, one taken at the beginning of Abraham Lincoln's presidency, the other taken just two months before his assassination.
— ClassicPics (@History_Pics) November 20, 2014
Worry and care do the same thing to all of us, which is why Jesus told us not to worry.
He undoubtedly told us this because to not worry is so foreign to human nature. We needed to be warned against it.
Worry is uniquely human. Creatures capable of anticipating the future, we use that capability in a way that expresses the fundamental sinful impulse of wanting to "be like God," to call the shots and control the future.
How many of the things that we want to control, are we able to control?
And more importantly, how many of those things should we control?
In the book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has his fictional senior tempter talk about different kinds of "time": the past, the present, the future, and eternity. (And how hell tries to leverage our confusion about these modes of "time" to destroy our having relationships with God.)
For we human beings, the past is done, something over which we have no control. We can repent for the sins of our past. But to spend time ruing that past, is a waste of energy for something that cannot be changed. If the devil cannot tempt us to new sin or away from repentance and God's forgiveness for past sins, he loves to weigh us down with shame or regret, not just for sins, but innocent actions of our past.
The future is as insusceptible to our control to the past. We can make plans. Some may even succeed. But we have no guarantees that they will be fulfilled or be fulfilled as we want. This world is imperfect. We are imperfect. Our plans are imperfect. And the follower of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is called to believe that God is in the final control of everything, despite our plans.
Both past and future are unreal. The past no longer exists. The future has yet to exist.
Yet, people often spend more time in these two unreal places, ruing and worrying, than they do in the two places that are real, where things can be changed.
Those two places are, first of all, the present, when we can decide what actions we will undertake, what thoughts we will think, what words we will say.
And the second is eternity, the place where God always dwells in what Lewis in another of his books, Mere Christianity, describes as "the eternal now." By His resurrection, Christ has secured a place for all who turn from sin and believe in Him, in that certain eternity.
Focusing on those two real places--the present and eternity--will mitigate our worry.
Focusing on what we can and should do in the present empowers us for living fully in the unfolding moments of our earthly lives.
Focusing on eternity assures us that even if we mess up, as we inevitably to, even when this world does its worst to us, those who trust in Christ, have a connection to a loving, sustaining God and to a perfect kingdom in which our tears will be dried and we will live in eternal certainty.