Saddled with Worry
Baxter Black, in mocking the stereotypical cowboy mentality, pokes fun in saying: “The cowboy side of his brain keeps sayin’,’I’ve got all my money in long-term CD’s but I’d like something a little less risky…I think I’ll buy a racehorse.’” Traditionally, Dave Ramsey hasn’t had a lot of jurisdiction within the cowboy world. I envy the guys who need nothing more than 3 cans of chew and entry fees for the weekend. When injured, its always minor, and fear never enters their mind. They have never heard of insurance, rodeo on their savings accounts, and will survive on hotdogs for three weeks straight in order to stretch out a paycheck over a few more rodeos. I am jealous because they are content and care free.
I was never meant to be a cowboy. I worry too much. What’s this horse gonna do under me? If I get hurt who’s gonna drive my truck home? If someone drives my truck home and wrecks it, am I covered? What if Penny-dog is hurt in the accident? How much will a doggie wheel chair cost? It isn’t easy living inside my brain! Over the last few days, I put a tiny mark on my hand every time I worried about something. I thought my pen would run out and now my left hand is a faded blue color! Worry is a serious part of my life and it keeps me from contentment. I started studying contentment a few days ago with the intent of writing about it, but I realized that it would be easier to start with what it isn’t. Contentment and worry are not pasture mates.
In the Old Testament world, the Hebrew writers of Scripture didn’t have a good word to denote worry. They struggled to communicate the idea of a person dwelling on something that was problematic. The dwelt on Scripture, promise, prayer. The word da’ag, used 5 times in the OT, conveys the idea of being anxious, and can be translated as worry. The root word [d-‘-g] shows the restlessness of the heart when confronting a situation [Jeremiah 49.23] which speaks to the nature of worry, but doesn’t communicate the true nature of it. The most literal attempt at conveying the idea of worry in Hebrew is actually a combination of words.
It makes sense when you think about it really. If you had to define worry, what words would you use? You have to mention the negativity of it. Worry always sees the negative side. You would have to speak to the future of it. No one worries about something that has already happened. They may worry about the future response to it, but never about the past event. Finally, you would have to mention the repetition of it. Thinking about something becomes worry when it plays over and over and over. Negative thoughts about the future on repeat could very well be the definition of worry. The Hebrew definition comes in at this point.
The Hebrews would use a combination of words to describe the action of worry. The combination of sim + leb is translated “place upon the heart”. Worry in the Hebrew scriptures begins with an idea “placed upon the heart”. Have you ever laid in bed at night and felt like an elephant was standing on your chest? Civilizations in the Ancient Near East viewed the heart as the center of being, where the mind, will, thoughts, understanding, and emotions were. So whatever was placed upon the heart, was to encompassed who you were. The final part of worry in Hebrew, was “the idea” that was put on the heart. If something positive was placed on the heart then you were dwelling, or meditating on good things. But if it was negative, then it was worry. If you “placed your enemies upon your heart” then you are consumed with them, obsessed with them.
Satan placed Job on his heart and God called him on it (Job 1.8; 2.3). Satan was worried. David placed the report of the death of his sons on his heart (2 Sam 13.33) but Jonadab set him straight. David was worried. Saul lost his fathers donkeys (1 Samuel 9.3, 20) and he placed them upon his heart. He worried about them.
I don’t know about you, but the things that find their way to my heart are not upright. They are not the things of God. Finances, not faith, is placed upon my heart. My reputation, not my relationship with God, is usually set upon my heart. My standing in this world, who reports to me, who thinks I’m great? How I’m viewed, not scripture, is put on my heart. I worry about these things. I don’t really know why, but I know the more I worry, the easier it is. But Daniel gives us hope. Daniel placed it on his heart to not defile himself with the food of Babylon (Dan 1.8). He was concentrating, meditating, and placing good things on his heart. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 meditates on God’s precepts (119.15); His decrees (119.23); His wonders (119.27); and His promises (119.148). The author of Psalm 119 might be on to something, and like the Cowboy, they refuse to let worry dominate his life. Cowboys look on the upside, see the positive, and “they ride never worried bout the fall…”