Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
I’m glad I grew up with English. Frankly, I think it must be difficult for someone whose primary language is not English to handle idioms and the wide variety of expressions we use. A Japanese businessman was talking with an American about marketing his product. He asked how he went about it. The American paused and replied, “Well, speaking off the top of my head, I’d say we just shoot from the hip!” The Japanese business man said, “I know the definition of the words you used, but I don’t know what you mean.” Right.
Take for example the word mad. It may mean you are angry. It can also mean you like something. “I’m just mad about him!” a teenage girl may say of a handsome hunk. Or, the word may mean “crazy, insane, bereft of one’s senses.”
I’ve been chatting with you about keeping your sanity in a mad, mad world. I’ve suggested the first step is to keep your perspective. The next, have a purpose in life. And here’s the next guideline.
Guideline #3: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Again, if English is a second language, you may need an explanation. “Sweat the small stuff” means “worry about what isn’t important.” And what is important enough to worry about it? A sign I once saw in a cobbler’s shop read, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” and underneath, the words: “It’s all small stuff!”
Most of what drives you mad won’t count worth the snap of your fingers five minutes after you die. That means you live with the realization that you have a fixed number of days to live on planet earth and you do your best every day and leave tomorrow in God’s hands. Failing to understand that means we take on more and more responsibilities, which produce more and more stress in our lives.
Lest I be misunderstood, I want to say clearly that all stress is not bad. Stress causes the tension that holds the suspension bridge over the raging waters. Stress on the strings of the violin allows the beautiful melody to come from the fingers of the artist as the bow glides across the string. Stress causes the drumhead to resonate to the beat of the drummer, but too much stress causes the bridge to collapse and the violin string to snap, and the drumhead to burst.
It’s the small stuff that piles up, that stresses you out and drives you mad. Jesus talked so plainly about living for the day. He used the birds of the air and the grass of the field as illustrations of the fact that God takes care of His hearers. He said that not a single bird falls to the ground without God’s knowledge, and then confronted them, “Are you not worth much more than a sparrow?”
Back in the days when I had a DOS computer, the kind that operated on CPM, which required an autoexec.bat, I inserted a line which always came up on the screen when I turned it on. It read, “Remember, this too shall pass.” It’s a good reminder that what I didn’t get done today shouldn’t keep me awake tonight, tossing and turning.
A man who noticed that he spent a lot of time sweating the small stuff, took a notebook and kept track of what was worrying him. Here’s what he discovered. Forty percent of his worries concerned things that never happened. Thirty percent concerned things in the past which couldn’t be altered by worry. Ten percent were petty things—the small stuff that bothered him. Twelve percent of his worries were health-related, and only eight percent were legitimate concerns.
He changed, and you can too. If you survive in a mad, mad world, you’ve got to learn not to sweat the small stuff.
Resource reading: Matthew 6:25-34.