Beware the assault of worry
Imagine something disturbing: Imagine a wolf attacking an animal.
According to Conservation Officer Al Lay, “Wolves will attack a single or a small number of animals at one time. The attacks are normally to the rear of the animal, where the wolf or wolves will tear at the upper hindquarter, rectum, or vulva. This will cause the prey animal to go into shock from blood loss; it may travel a distance, lie down, stiffen, and eventually succumb to the injuries. The wolves will follow the heavy scent trail and begin to consume…. Another method of attack is disemboweling, whereas the wolf will run beside the prey animal, bite into the flank area and pull the hide away from the stomach section, allowing the stomach, intestines to fall away.”
A Rancher’s Guide to Wolf Depredation adds, “The prey is often left to become weak and stiff. Wolves begin to feed when the prey is knocked over or falls from weakness. The bite usually causes damage deep in the underlying tissues. Cattle severely injured by wolves appear dazed and exhibit a characteristic spread-eagle stance. They are reluctant to move because of the deep pain.”
I asked you to imagine this because our English word “worry” has its origin here. Our English word “worry” comes from the old German word wurgen then wyrgan in old English. Originally, the word meant “to strangle,” or “to choke,” or “to harass by tearing or biting—especially tearing or biting at the throat.” Initially “worry” was used to describe the kind of thing a wolf would do to a deer or a lamb.”
Anxiety tends to do to us what a wolf does to its prey. Emily Holland points out that excess worry can cause disrupted sleep, headaches, difficulty concentrating, nausea, muscle tension, exhaustion, irritability, elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and difficulty making decisions. Worry can leave us feeling as weak and debilitated and dazed and wounded as an animal that has been attacked by a wolf.
What intensifies worry is the fear that we are facing our struggles alone, that we have been abandoned in our troubles. What reduces worry is the conviction that we are loved and that we are accompanied even in the midst of our hard times.
Paul Stanley shares an experience he had in Vietnam in 1967: “On one occasion after the enemy had withdrawn, I came upon several soldiers surrounding a wounded Viet Cong. Shot through the lower leg, he was hostile and frightened, yet helpless. He threw mud and kicked with his one good leg when anyone came near him. When I joined the circle around the wounded enemy, one soldier asked me, ‘Sir, what do we do? He’s losing blood fast and needs medical attention.’ I looked down at the struggling Viet Cong and saw the face of a 16- or 17-year-old boy.
“I unbuckled my pistol belt and hand grenades so he could not grab them. Then, speaking gently, I moved toward him. He stared fearfully at me as I knelt down, but he allowed me to slide my arms under him and pick him up. As I walked with him toward a waiting helicopter, he began to cry and hold me tight. He kept looking at me and squeezing me tighter. We climbed into the helicopter and took off.
“During the ride, our young captive sat on the floor, clinging to my leg. Never having ridden in a helicopter, he looked out with panic as we gained altitude and flew over the trees. He fixed his eyes back on me, and I smiled reassuringly and put my hand on his shoulder.
“After landing, I picked him up and walked toward the medical tent. As we crossed the field, I felt the tenseness leave his body and his tight grasp loosen. His eyes softened, and his head leaned against my chest. The fear and resistance were gone.”
When we think that we are alone in our struggles, our worry intensifies. When we discover that we are loved and accompanied—even in our darkest hour—our worry diminishes.
Because Jesus cares about our worry-ravaged souls, Jesus assures us, in Matthew 6:26, how deeply we matter to Him. He says, “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?”
Max Lucado sums it up well, “There is no moment when the Father’s eye is off me, or His attention is distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters. I never go unnoticed.”
Worries will assault us, but we do not have to make our home in them. We can set up our home instead in the conviction that we are loved by God and that we are accompanied by God—even through the darkest hours of our lives.