When Worry Is Winning—2 Corinthians 4:16-17
For the past several days I’ve been anxious and scared. The reason for my worry is that in about a week I have to undergo surgery.
Now, I have some health issues that make this surgery riskier than it might normally be, but overall it’s not a particularly dangerous procedure. I’m well aware that many people, including some of my own friends and family members, have gone through far more harrowing health ordeals. But this is the first time for me, and—more to the point—it’s me this time. So I’m still anxious about all that might happen.
To deal with my anxiety, I tried finding a Bible verse to cling to. There was one about God’s good care, but I know his care often includes letting hardships happen, so that verse wasn’t comforting. There was also a verse where Jesus says not to be anxious, but that made me feel scolded. I even looked at passages about obeying God, as if buckling down and being extra good in the week before my surgery might manipulate God into giving me a happy outcome.
Yuck! I know better.
So worry was winning last night as I talked and prayed about this with my wife. I mentioned how the coming surgery is only part of my fear. The rest is that I’m getting older. I know health issues like this are liable to pop up more and more often until one of them kills me.
Without a blink she quoted 2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”
I grumbled back something about not being sure that having surgery was doing anything to renew me spiritually or produce any glory. “Well then,” she said, “that’s something to pray for.”
The life that increases
My wife’s comment was a good one, and here’s why. If my great hope for this life is that I might avoid pain, suffering, and death, I can expect to be disappointed. Barring Christ’s return, God’s plan for me is that I will die. But if my great hope for this life is that amid my suffering God will mold me into a Christian worthy of that name, I have much to look forward to: Life is growth, not decay.
I already see signs that God is using my upcoming surgery to make me more holy. The crisis has helped me see how selfish I’ve been, how uncaring when others face troubles. Now I want to change that. I’m paying better attention to people. I’m also spending more time with God in Scripture reading and prayer.
Hard times often help this way, whether they’re medical predicaments, financial crises, family sorrows, or whatever other big worries we might face. This time, I’ve found my theme verse and with it a new prayer. I still will pray for my surgery to go well. But I’ll also be praying that good will come of it—that God will use it to renew me spiritually even more than he already has.
The man who renews
In about a week I plan to gather myself and voluntarily walk into the hospital to let the surgeon cut into me. I’m sure I’ll be scared. It makes me think of the anxiety Jesus surely felt as he spent the last several weeks of his life walking to Jerusalem, knowing that his arrival there would mean arrest and certain death. His suffering and mine hardly compare, but I must not forget that they are connected. Jesus, by dying and taking the penalty I deserve for my selfishness and all my other sin, has made my great hope a reality. He has rescued me from death. I don’t just mean that one day my body will rise again to eternal life. My new life is also right here, right now. I get a spiritual life that isn’t subject to wasting away like my body is. First Peter 2:24 says, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.”
As my life goes on I can indeed expect to see my body grow weaker and weaker. No doubt I will be sad about that and sometimes anxious. But at the same time I can expect to see my spirit grow stronger and stronger. I can anticipate getting closer to God and loving others more fully. With God’s Spirit, I can work for victory over my pet sins. I can be excited as I grow older. I’m getting better, not worse—healthier, not sicker. I’m growing in godliness.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.