A large percentage of the things which we dread never happen. Probably, if a man could keep a register of his fears through twenty-five or fifty years of life, it would show that a very small percentage of the things which he dreaded came to pass.
In his house in Chelsea in London they show you the sound-proof chamber, a sort of vaulted apartment, which Carlyle had built in his house so that all the noise of the street would be shut out and he could do his work in unbroken silence.
One of his neighbors, however, kept a cock that several times in the night and in the early morning gave way to vigorous self-expression. When Carlyle protested to the owner of the cock, the man pointed out to him that the cock crowed only three times in the night, and that after all that could not be such a terrible annoyance. "But," Carlyle said to him, "if you only knew what I suffer waiting for that cock to crow!" There are a lot of people like that in life—harassed and suffering because they are waiting for something disastrous and unpleasant to happen.
Some time ago the United States public health service issued a statement in connection with the prevalence of nervous diseases and the tendency of worry to weaken and shorten life. In this statement was the following observation, no doubt suggested by the words of Jesus: "So far as is known, no bird ever tried to build more nests than its neighbor. No fox ever fretted because he had only one hole in which to hide. No squirrel ever died of anxiety lest he should not lay by enough for two winters instead of one, and no dog ever lost any sleep over the fact that he had not enough bones laid aside for his declining years."
There is a world of sense in that observation. Even in the hardest times it is a remote, a very remote, chance that anyone in the population will starve to death or freeze to death, and in the case of those who fear God it becomes so remote as to be practically an impossibility. A long time ago the psalmist said, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Ps. 37:25).
There is no doubt about the fact of worry in life, and no doubt either about the effect of worry. There is a great passage in Faust on this subject. In one of the last scenes in Act V, four gray sisters appear at midnight at the palace door. These are Want, Guilt, Necessity, and Care. The first three are unable to enter the palace, but the keyhole is free to the entrance of Care. When Faust addressed Care after she had entered the palace, Care answered:
Though no ear should choose to hear me,
Yet the shrinking heart must fear me;
Though transformed to mortal eyes,
Grimmest power I exercise.
On the land or ocean, yonder,
I, a dread companion, wander,
Always found, yet never sought.
Whom I once possess shall never
Find the world worth his endeavour
Endless gloom around him folding,
Rise nor set of sun beholding,
And he knows not how to measure
True possession of his treasure.
Be it happiness or sorrow,
He postpones it till the morrow:
To the future only cleaveth.
Nothing, therefore, he achieveth.
This Care breathed in the face of Faust and blinded him. This is a true description of the effects of care. It weakens men and saddens them, frightens them and blinds them to the satisfactions of life. Too often, no matter what men profess as to their faith, worry and anxiety make them practical atheists, for worry fears the future more than it fears God.
When Lincoln was on his way to Washington to be inaugurated, he spent some time in New York with Horace Greeley and told him an anecdote which was meant to be an answer to the question which everybody was asking him: Are we really to have Civil War? In his circuit-riding days Lincoln and his companions, riding to the next session of court, had crossed many swollen rivers. But the Fox River was still ahead of them; and they said one to another, "If these streams give us so much trouble, how shall we get over Fox River?"
When darkness fell, they stopped for the night at a log tavern, where they fell in with the Methodist presiding elder of the district who rode through the country in all kinds of weather and knew all about the Fox River. They gathered about him and asked him about the present state of the river. "Oh, yes," replied the circuit rider, "I know all about the Fox River. I have crossed it often and understand it well. But I have one fixed rule with regard to Fox River—I never cross it till I reach it."
"His commandments are not grievous," and they were given "for our good always (I John 5:3; Deut. 6:24). The blessings of obedience are very far reaching. In a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Dr. James W. Barton writes that men returning from the war area are suffering from various ailments not caused by wounds, but by "the constant worry about the war itself." He says that civilians are even more easily upset by emotional disturbances than soldiers, "because soldiers, generally speaking, have more calmness of spirit and control of the emotions. ... It is known that about one-half of patients consulting a physician have no organic disease and in about one-fourth of the cases seen by a consultant the cause of the symptoms is this tenseness or awareness, together with worry, strain, and fatigue. . . . Prolonged shock or fear (which is really worry) can affect the workings of all the organs of the body." Now it is perfectly natural for both soldiers and civilians to worry in these days of global warfare. But the Christian has within him a supernatural life. He is exhorted to "be careful for nothing," and at the same time he is told how to be rid of his care: "By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6, 7). And when this command is obeyed, through the strength that God gives, it brings with it physical as well as spiritual blessings.—Sunday School Times.
An old lady in England had stood the bombings with amazing grit. When asked the secret of her fortitude amidst such frightful danger, she replied "Well, every night I say my prayers and then I remember 'ow the parson told us God is always watching, so I go to sleep. After all, there's no need for two of us to lie awake."—The Christian Century.