When I was in high school, a youth leader of mine taught me a lifelong lesson. I was constantly worrying about one thing or another. He listened carefully to my concerns and stressed emotions over something that seemed like a crisis to me and remarked, “Yeah, but what will it matter in 100 years?”
“What? What do you mean?” I responded.
He continued: “These things you worry about today, what will they matter in 100 years? Or even 10 years. Most of the things you worry about today, won’t even matter in a few months.”
“Okay…” I thought that was a little weird. As a high schooler, as I could only envision about the next ten minutes.
“Worry about those things that really WILL matter in 100 years. The other things will probably take care of themselves.”
That is really good advice… at any age.
As an adult, I find myself obsessing on paying bills, driving kids, running errands, dealing with homework, worrying about issues in the community or church, and being deeply concerned about national and international issues. How many of these things will matter in 100 years? Be concerned only about those that will matter in 100 years.
Some people who make entertainment out of obsessive worrying. This might be part of the attraction of reality television. We don’t have enough to worry about in our daily lives so we want to watch real people under stress. I would sometimes tease my mother about worrying about things twice; once when it might happen and when it does. Once is enough. Wait and see if something goes wrong and then worry. Most of the time, what we worry about never occurs. Don’t borrow trouble from the future.
Jesus tells us to: “not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” but to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-27, 31-34)
How many things that concern us have life-long or even eternal consequences? In your heart, you already know the answers. These are the things that are really important today. Character matters. Sin is never a victimless crime. There are decisions that we might make now that will affect generations to come.
Our families will matter. Most of the people I wanted to impress in my life have evaporated from my memory; I cannot even remember their names. I am confident most have no memory of me, either. But my children will remember me. My wife will remember me. My siblings, parents, relatives will all know I have been a part of their worlds. For better or worse (depending on the choices I make), they will remember my influence in their lives.
Focus on what is truly important. Next time you are obsessing on some crisis that seems so large, so important, impossible to stop dwelling on, ask yourself…
“Will it matter in 100 years?”
If so, then maybe worrying about it is a good idea.
If not, then just do your best and wait to see what happens.
Who knows? It may just all work out.
Excerpt from my book: Real-Life Wisdom: Stories from the Road (iUniverse, 2004).