HomeOpinionDooley Noted: Sleepless in Jackson

Dooley Noted: Sleepless in Jackson

It was 30 years ago this summer that the movie Sleepless in Seattle captured the imagination of movie-goers with touching story of Sam Baldwin, a recent widower, and his 8-year-old son, Jonah. Numerous sleepless nights in Seattle were Sam’s new reality after losing his wife to cancer. In order to help his dad get his life back, Jonah called a nationwide talk-radio show and shared his father’s sad story, resulting in hundreds of single women from all over the country reaching out.

A woman named Annie took a less aggressive approach by writing a letter, leaving Jonah convinced that she was the perfect match for his dad. To move things along, the boy pretended to be Sam and wrote back, arranging a meeting with Annie on the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. Through numerous twists and turns, Jonah’s lost backpack brings Sam and Annie together after many sleepless nights.

I wonder if you’ve had any sleepless nights lately? The list of problems that can keep us up at night are endless, but the root issue behind every burden is WORRY.

  • The uneducated worry because they don’t know enough.
  • The educated worry because they know too much.
  • The poor worry because of what they do not have.
  • The wealthy worry because they fear losing what they have.
  • The young worry because they don’t want to get older.
  • The elderly worry because they are afraid they won’t get older.

All of us, at some point or another, will have to face the enemy of worry. Believe it or not, Jesus had a great deal to say about this subject. His Sermon on the Mount offers practical guidelines for overcoming our common nemesis. What are they?

Realize worry is a sinful addiction. Three times prohibitions against worry underscore its offense to God. Do not worry about your life (Matt. 6:25); do not worry about what you will eat or wear (Matt. 6:31); and do not worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). For Jesus, worry is more than a bad habit, it is practical atheism. Doing so communicates that we do not trust God to handle our problems. Faith and worry are always in dichotomy. Jesus goes so far as to say that when we worry our behavior is more like unbelievers than a child of God (Matt. 6:32).

Resist worry with a scriptural antidote. To illustrate the futility of worry Jesus points to nature by referencing the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matt. 6:26-30). Have you ever heard of a bird being treated for high blood pressure? Or stress? Though they do not know where their next meal will come from, God feeds them. Think about the beauty of wildflowers growing in a field. They do nothing to grow and yet they clothe the countryside with their beauty. These natural wonders are here today and gone tomorrow, yet God still covers his creation with them. If the Lord will feed the animals and dress nature with such elegance, how much more will He take care of human beings who bear his image (Gen. 1:26-28). Furthermore, if the Lord is faithful to meet our daily needs, we can certainly trust Him with our tomorrows. Worry is not only unbiblical, but also illogical!

Replace worry with a spiritual ambition. In order to prevent worry before it starts, we must learn to reorder our priorities. Much of what causes us anxiety is our tied to our desire for things that are unholy or selfish. Thus, Jesus instructs us to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, believing that He will supply all our needs (Matt. 6:33). Stated differently, our greatest passion in life ought to be the pursuit of God’s will. Jesus does not want a place in your life. He does not want prominence in your life. He wants preeminence in your life and nothing else.

The pursuit of personal happiness will ultimately lead to our demise. When seek God’s perfect reality for our lives, though, there is peace and joy that are free from anxiety. Our thought lives, spending habits, recreational hobbies, personal goals, relationships, and work ethic must come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ if we want to enjoy the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). At the risk of oversimplifying, much of what we worry about is the result of ambitions that contradict the kingdom of God rather than building it. Thus, absolute surrender to the will of God is the first step toward tranquility. 

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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