Howard Hughes Jr. was born in Texas on December 24, 1905. His father was a successful investor and businessman from Missouri. Howard grew up under the expectation that great things would happen to him, but he needed to work hard to stay ahead of the game.
He did not disappoint. Howard invested well and he loved science and technology. He became an engineer, record-setting pilot, oil magnate, film director, RKO studio owner, and philanthropist. He is still known as one of the most successful men in history.
Like John D. Rockefeller, who was the richest man in US history, Howard Hughes felt pushed to succeed and he was never satisfied. By 18, he was a millionaire, and by some accounts, by the age of 21 he was a Billionaire. Most of us believe, if we lived a life like that, we would be able to live a life of ease and tranquility.
The truth was, after all the accolades, Howard felt more pressure to succeed. Those around him said he was always anxious and worried about something. In the later years of his life, he was plagued by health issues and a worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder. The walls, literally began to grow closed around him, – because he was worried that people were out to get him.
When Howard Hughes died, he was unrecognizable and living under an alias. He died alone, locked behind doors, living in fear of germs, and terrified of nearly everything. His estate was valued at 1.5 Billion dollars, but he had given much more than that away.
Auto Tycoon Henry Ford once said, “Money will ruin the life of any man who treats it like anything but a tool.” And then he added, “I was happier when I was doing a mechanics job.” And Billionaire Andrew Carnegie once said, “Millionaire’s seldom smile.”
But the lack of money or abundance of it is not the only thing that worries us. In an opinion poll released on October 21, 2020, 62% of Americans said they were more anxious now than in previous years.
When asked what made them extremely or somewhat anxious, Americans said the top issues were: keeping themselves and their family safe (80%), COVID-19 (75%), their health (73%), gun violence (73%) and politics (72%). No surprise there!
Anxiety is a secondary emotion brought on by worry, fear, stress, and general prolonged unease. It can raise your blood pressure, cause sweating, dizziness, trembling, and a racing heartbeat. Played out over a long period of time, it can destroy your physical and mental health.
The national Center for Health under the CDC reported in February of this year that 1 in 4 adults have reported that they deal with increasing levels of unhealthy stress since Covid began.
I think this adds extra emphasis to what Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew Chapter 6, verses 25-34, “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? Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow.
“They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, that not even Solomon in all his splendor, was dressed like one of these. 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? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Now, let me back up a little. Just to be clear, it is normal to feel anxious occasionally. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t get nervous, afraid, scared, or worry from time to time. But prolonged worry and anxiety can lead to depression, hopelessness, and a possible breakdown.
Ongoing anxiety is real and scary and can also lead to panic attacks, paralyzing fear, and/or addiction. But you are not alone in this fight. I have discussed this topic with many Christians. We are not exempt!
The Apostle Paul was an expert on this topic because it plagued him. Imagine, being a persecutor of Christians and to than become one! Not only that, but to also to become a vocal one in public. Paul not only believed others were out to get him, he knew it for a fact.
In 2 Corinthians Chapter 11:23-28, Paul goes on ‘to list all of his challenges’, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, and I have been constantly on the move.
“I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily, the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
I think Paul has ‘a pretty fair understanding of anxiety and worry’, don’t you? Yet, to the church at Philippi, Paul writes,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)
The same paradox Paul and others in history faced, is the same paradox we face. We do not know what things will come our way today or tomorrow, or the weeks or years ahead.
What is it you worry about?
Your job? Your kids? Your finances? Your own health? The health of a loved one or extended family? I hope you don’t worry about where your next meal will come from, but some do. I get it, I’ve been there; I have lived through tough times and walked with others through them too.
Recently I have been listening to a song that came out in 2007, by the Christian hard rock band P.O.D. called, “It Can’t Rain Everyday”. It deals with the real struggles, anxieties and worries people have in life, and the Chorus goes like this,
“Even though you feel alone,
It can’t rain everyday,
It can’t rain forever.
“The sunshine may be gone, but I know,
It can’t rain everyday,
It don’t rain forever.
Here are 3 thoughts I found in Paul’s passage on dealing with anxiety.
First, capture your wandering thoughts. Being in control of your thought life is critical. Don’t wander where you have no control. As Paul says in Philippians 4:8, think about the things that are pleasing to the Lord, and you will be filled with more peace.
Second, see anxiety for what it is, then see God for who He is! Prolonged anxiety keeps us from being productive Children of God. It hinders our witness and takes away our freedom. But God enables us. When we trust him, he gives us the ability to see beyond out troubles, to better days ahead.
And third, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you are struggling and hurting, talk to others. Many of us have already been down this road and we can walk it with you. Don’t suffer alone!
Remember, God will never leave your side. So, pray, breathe, cry out, but know this…nothing can steal God’s glory from you.
When I think of an example of a Christian outside the Bible who lived above the anxiety, stress, and worry, I think of the survivor of the Titanic, ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown’. She was dismissed, ignored, looked down upon, and yet she remained unshaken.
Molly was a devote Catholic who trusted in Jesus more than anything else. Like Paul, she survived a shipwreck and came back stronger. She spoke out against injustice, for equality, and refused to step down if someone needed help.
So, don’t sweat the small things or the big things. God is greater than anything this world can throw your way.
Your assignment is…To join me in repeating the 23rd Psalm. Then, I want you to re-read it several times this week. It will be on the screen or, if you have a hymnal close by, it is, #137.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.
Revisit that this week – and Trust the Good Shepherd.
“And all God’s People said, Amen”