"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 35: Don't Worry About Tomorrow

"Do not worry about tomorrow." Matthew 6:34

Back in Week Five, I wrote about my first trip down Sniper Alley in Sarajevo.

I was twenty-one years old and scared out of my wits. It was the end of 1995, a few days after Christmas. I had been deployed to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina as an Army Reservist to take part in NATO's implementation of the recently signed Dayton Peace Agreement. Sarajevo had been under siege for the last three years---the longest siege of any city in the history of modern warfare. The main boulevard through the city had been nicknamed Sniper Alley. Snipers had infamously dug in all along both sides of the road, wounding over one-thousand people and killing over two-hundred men, women and children.

Buildings all over the city were in ruins. Sarajevo had once been a developed, modern city---the home of the 1984 Winter Olympics. When I saw it for the first time, it looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie.

My first stop in Sarajevo was Zetra Stadium. In 1984, it had been the home of Olympic figure skating, speed skating and hockey. Only eight years later, the roof was blown off by artillery fire. The basement was converted to a morgue. Whatever wood that could be salvaged from the building was used to build improvised coffins. When NATO arrived, the stadium was converted into a temporary barracks and headquarters. It was my home address for my first few months in Bosnia. We slept right on the spot where the bodies had been piled.

That first night in Sarajevo, there in the basement of Zetra stadium, I opened my Bible to Matthew 6, and Jesus's words came alive for me.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Matthew 6:25-26. What a difference it made to believe that I was valuable to my heavenly Father---that His love for me was real and present and that I could trust His protection and provision. Faith rose up in me and peace came over my heart and mind.

These days, I'm not living in a combat zone. I'm a trial lawyer. For lawyers, worry is an occupational hazard. A 1990 John Hopkins study found that out of all professions studied lawyers are most likely to suffer from depression. Alcoholism and suicide are much more prevalent among lawyers than among the general population. Lawyers are also at a much higher risk of stress related illness than the general population. It's a business where you're judged on results. And, very often, the results you obtain depend on factors beyond your own control. So, how do we, as a profession, respond? We worry. We stress.

I'm no exception. I constantly struggle with worry and anxiety about my work. I've been preparing for a trial the last month and have been stressed about it. So, very appropriately, the assignment for last week was to "not worry about tomorrow."

Over the years of practicing law, I've often gone back to that lesson I learned in Sarajevo. The antidote for worry, fear and anxiety, is to turn my attention from tomorrow's problems and towards God's promises. A few nights ago, God drew me back to Matthew 6, reminded me of that night in the basement of Zetra fifteen years ago, and reminded me that His love is still very real and present for today and tomorrow. Here are some other promises that God has highlighted for me in times of stress and fear.
  • "Fear not for I am with you, be not discouraged for I am your God; I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10.
  • "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31
  • "And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; he will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8
  • "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord." Proverbs 21:31
  • "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning." Lamentations 3:22-23