First off, let’s start with the word “worry”, it actually doesn’t appear anywhere in the King James Bible. In Matthew 6, however we see the phrase “take no thought” which is often translated as “don’t worry” or something along those lines. The Greek word used as the source of these translations is “merimnao” which means “to be anxious about”.
If we take the word “anxious” and look it up in the good ‘ol 1828 Dictionary it can mean that one is “Greatly concerned or solicitous, respecting something future or unknown; being in painful suspense;” What purpose does worry serve? I can understand worry because I often find myself plagued with it from time to time! I’m growing a little weary of it though and realize that it ultimately serves absolutely no purpose in my life.
When one understands and fully trusts God, worry becomes extinct.
Remember the worried Amulek who was horrified at the innocent people being cast into a literal “lake of fire” prepared by their persecutors and cried “How can we witness this awful scene?” Alma declared with iron-clad conviction free of worry: “The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory;”. When Amulek’s worries turned toward he and his companion and suggested “Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.” to which Alma replied “Be it according to the will of the Lord.” (Alma 14:10-13)
There was no worry in the heart of Alma because he knew God and knew what he could do. We fear temporal separation or suffering but all that can be swallowed up in understanding given through the revelations of God and through knowing first-hand his integrity.
A brief interjection
In my scripture study, I enjoy referencing many different translations of the Bible. Joseph’s Smith once wrote that as Latter-day Saints “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (source).
Sometimes I’ll get funny looks from other Latter-day Saints when I mention versions of the Bible other than the King James. If you think alternate translations are somehow ‘completely wrong’ or ‘off limits’ remember that Joseph Smith said that Martin Luther’s German translation was “the most correct that I have found” (source).
I can’t read German so Luther’s Bible isn’t much help to me now. I love the beauty and poetic nature of the King James Bible, I also love the clarity and simplicity of many modern translations which I find very useful in helping my children gain a rudimentary understanding of the Bible without having to first learn ‘King James English’. To those that might scoff at giving a modern translation of the Bible to a child instead of the King James Version, I would suggest that they consider all the simplified Book of Mormon and Bible stories that have been produced over the years. These are prime examples of very helpful tools for understanding scriptures even though they are nowhere even close to being a full or complete or perhaps even accurate translations of scriptural passages.
We don’t give kids trigonometry when they enter first grade, we start with the basics and then we build upon them.
Looking through various translations of the Bible to me is like gazing into the center of a jewel through different facets as I turn it over in my hand. Some facets are dull or scratched, others are clear and stunning while yet others refract the light in marvelous and unique ways. All this from the same jewel.
Anyway, back to the good stuff.
Below is an excerpt from the Contemporary English Version or CEV translation of the Bible. Setting aside for a moment all the intricacies and nuances of translation accuracy and what not, ponder the beautiful teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 through this particular ‘facet’. With the spirit as your guide, you’ll find that truth can be extracted from any source.
(Note that often I will pull verses from scripture references. Since the scriptures did not originally have verses, I like to remove them when seeking to just focus on the beauty of the teachings.)
I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds?
Can worry make you live longer? Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith?
Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.
Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.
We’ve had some similar thoughts lately! I have also found worry useless and understood the scripture as counsel against anxiety, but when life throws many major issues at us at once, it is quite hard to avoid it – a test of our faith of a furnace kind. The answers to many recent prayers over major issues for me have been “don’t pray for long-term solutions that remove the problem; pray for what you need tomorrow. I’ve been calling it “manna mode” and I’ve learned a great deal about operating by the spirit and accepting less-than-optional circumstances. I’ve also learned a great centered peace when we truly do place the Lord’s will and the kingdom first in even trying moments. It’s a difficult thing to tell someone else that peace and confidence within is more important than peace and confidence from our circumstances. But it’s real and it’s powerful.
Good stuff! I like “manna mode” as well as “peace and confidence within is more important than peace and confidence from our circumstances”. Without knowing God this is a very hard thing to do. Even if you do know God, I don’t know if you can be immune from sorrow when it comes to certain things in life.
I also like Bonnie’s “manna” analogy. Good stuff. I also agree with you that there is nothing wrong with different translations of the Bible. The NIV is one I have and use often. It also has a lot of commentary and information of history, customs, etc. that it is a valuable resource.
It’s kind of a paradox. On one hand Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, and on the other to watch the signs of the times and to be ready for tomorrow and lay in store. I don’t think you would prepare much for tomorrow if there wasn’t an element of worry involved. Maybe “concern” would be a better word for this king of “worry.” Or prudence, which is when one foresees the future and prepares what one can in the way of spiritual and temporal things.
Those who eat, drink and be merry–and have the don’t worry, be happy attitude–think things will not only be good tomorrow but even better than today, so why worry. They are oblivious to the obvious need to be concerned about what one should be concerned about. These types of people are either out of touch with reality or they deny it. Sometimes I think it would be wonderful to be like them, to always be oblivious so one could dwell more in the moment instead of having the shadow of tomorrow disturbing the peace.
Concern is like seeing something worrisome and then doing what one can and then turning what one cannot do, over to God.
There has to be a balance and a healthy dose of concern for tomorrow, while working today.
Worry is kind of like spinning one’s wheels in one place. Worry is trying to fix everything ourselves, find solutions to problems when none seem apparent. Worry eats at your heart and guts, disturbs your peace, gives a sense of hopelessness. It’s trying to take everything into one’s own hands, forgetting that God is there and oversees all things “what we should do.” Faith is the opposite of worry. Faith allows us to let go of what we cannot do or change.
Faith trusts that we are not all-knowing and all-powerful and are dependent upon God. Faith is trusting beyond our own arm of flesh.
Worrying and fretting over problems seems like a natural response to future challenges and what we see as problems looming. Maybe it’s simply because we are mortal and see through a glass darkly and our minds tend to recycle what seem to be unsolvable problems.
It looks like you’ve solved the apparent paradox. Worry is a very distinct thing but preparedness and concern are different aren’t they? You mentioned worry as a “natural” response. These natural responses are not “evil” per se, but need to be bridled.
I like your thoughts about being “oblivious” as well. I don’t know that being “oblivious” is necessarily desirable, it seems kind of like the lazy man’s peace. I think it would be more desirable to have awareness combined with perspective don’t you think?