The Faithfulness of God and the Problem of Worry

It is popular in Christian circles to tell people not to worry about anything for “it is in God’s hands.”  Oftentimes, that comes from people who are chilling and not going through any major trial in their lives.  It’s one thing to say; it’s another to find yourself in a mess and try not to worry about what the future holds.

Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 6:25-34:

25 “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? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I believe that all Scripture is God-breathed, true, and profitable for teaching.  I’ve also always had a problem with this passage.  Aren’t there Christians around the world who are starving and have no idea where that next meal is coming from?  Aren’t there Christians who are terminally ill and have no idea when their last day is?  Doesn’t this sound a bit like prosperity crap, that God is going to dress us up like Solomon?  It just seems like a passage that is either insensitive to the real needs of struggling believers or that is detached from reality.

However, as I’ve read this passage over the years, I’ve come to conclude that Jesus isn’t promising comfort all the time, nor is he condemning a natural concern and planning for the future.  In a previous passage, he talks about storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, where moth and rust can destroy.  Therefore, what Christ is concerned about is an obsessive, debilitating type of worry that is concerned more about filling one’s own desires or needs than seeking after God.  Believers should seek first his kingdom and righteousness; the rest they should entrust to God, whether they always get fed or clothed or not.  God is faithful and ultimately knows what we need to do his work.

Makes sense.  It’s still not easy, as I’ve come to learn recently.

It has been a trying time these past few days at the hospital.  I resolved to have a good attitude, to trust God, to pray and read Scripture, and to have peace in him.  That is a lot harder than it sounds when you’re sitting in a hospital bed with no idea of what is coming up.  This condition I have is very unpredictable; air leaks like the one I had may heal on their own in a few short days, go on for several weeks, or never heal on their own at all.  There is just no way of knowing.  I was hoping I’d be out by this past Tuesday, but everyday the leak wouldn’t stop.  I would pray every night that God will heal my lung, get up in the morning, and hear the bubbles that signify that the air leak was still there.  Everyday was a disappointment when I woke up in the morning and saw no change.  Everyday I woke up with an air leak meant several thousand dollars more of costs.  As the days went by, surgery became more and more the logical option; either I could sit here and wait for the leak to close on its own, which could be weeks, or I could have surgery to try to fix the problem now as well as prevent it in the future.  Since I’ve already had surgery before on the lung, I would have to have a more invasive type of surgery that would be more painful and require more recovery time than the last.  As an act of defiance (hope?), I completed my application to be a counselor for the upcoming Chinese Youth Camp, knowing that with each passing day it became less and less likely that I’d be able to go.  I missed seeing people and had a feeling that the world, as it must, was passing me by as everyone went on with their lives.  I just wanted to get out of here (it’s really not that cool to be served by nurses like this if you’re forced to stay in one place).

I wasn’t getting any good news.  The pulmonary doctor told me that I have an unusually large bleb/bullae on the top of my lung that is more fitting for a middle aged smoker than a healthy young guy; he’s never seen it in a guy my age before.  That’s probably where the leak was, and it wouldn’t stop leaking.  Also, the previous surgery was supposed to not only excise the blebs on my lung but to make the lung adhere to the chest wall so that it would not completely collapse again.  For whatever reason, the adhesion eventually failed, which probably explains my spike of pain last Friday night.  I was back to square one.

I discussed my options with my family last night, and it seemed unavoidable that I would need surgery.  To make matters worse, I had significant pain for the first time since I’ve been here.  For the most part, I’ve been fine, but I think I was a little overzealous with my activities in trying to get up and do things, so the muscles in the left side of my chest–the ones that have been cut through so that a tube could go through–screamed in pain for most of the night.  I tried to avoid taking painkillers, but I had no choice; I wasn’t going to be able to sleep with that sort of pain.  I was able to finally sleep after I took some drugs, but after my morning X-ray the pain returned and I had to take more painkillers.  It was brutal being unable to even lay down comfortably, and the thought of undergoing surgery while feeling like that was not exactly uplifting.  I prayed one more time for God to take the pain away and to close that persistent leak in my lung.

This morning, after I woke up from a painkiller induced sleep, the leak was finally gone.  Several doctors have looked at it, and I am now off of suction.  If my lung holds up, I can have the chest tube out tomorrow and be discharged by Saturday.  The pain is controlled and I’m feeling a bit more positive.  God had mercy on me and pulled me through, but as happy as I was to get this good news, the worry has not gone away.  I will soon receive an avalanche of bills that I can’t pay.  People with my condition have a very, very high chance of recurrence; for someone like me, it’s almost guaranteed.  Do I still look for surgical options to remove that bleb?  Do I just take a chance and live my life, hoping it never happens again?  I read a forum of people like me who have had spontaneous pneumothorax, and some of them have had multiple collapses even after surgery.  There is no known cause, so it can happen at any time.  It could happen next week, in six months, in three years… there is no way of knowing.  I feel a bit like a ticking time bomb except that I have no idea how much time is left on the clock.   It can happen when I’m playing basketball, when I’m watching a movie, when I’m grocery shopping.  Even surgery would be no guarantee that it will never happen again.

It’s immensely frustrating not knowing.  I wish it was even my fault that this happened because then I’d feel a sense of control in preventing it.  But everything I’ve read on the condition over the years and every doctor I’ve talked to has said that I did nothing, and so I can do nothing.  I just have to… wait and see.

Yet God has always proven faithful.  I’m alive, I’m relatively healthy (certainly compared to most people here), and I know that he is here.  It will be hard not to worry, not to obsess over the possibility that I could land right back in here at a moment’s notice.  But God is bigger than my worries, bigger than my sin, and bigger than my logic.  It will be an exercise of sanctification to entrust him with my future and all of its uncertainties, with my health and my finances, and with my education and my work.  I don’t pretend to have it all learned or figured out.  It will be a process, but at least I know that God will walk with me in that process.

Also, at least my worry will be nothing compared to Miami’s if they lose tonight :).


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