A kid my age wasn’t supposed to like that sort of thing. I was captivated. I couldn’t help it.
My grandfather was a storyteller. He could tell a story better than anyone I’ve ever heard. On Sunday afternoons, after eating the massive lunch that my grandmother had prepared, we would all find a chair and listen to the master do his work.
He told stories about haints. A haint, in case you’re not from the south, is a ghost. I used to think that there was no such thing as haints but I’ve visited a few churches that cause me to have my doubts. His haint stories were the perfect balance of scary and funny.
He told stories about his time fighting in the South Pacific during the second World War. There were friends who died just after finding out that they’d be going home soon. There were crazy soldiers walking around with the ears of the men they had killed. There were enemy soldiers who came way too close to putting an end to my grandfather and his stories. Again, there was balance. These stories were part patriotic masterpieces and part horror. There was no humor.
And he told stories about quitting school as a kid to take care of his family after his father died. In spite of the hardships, these stories made us laugh. No matter how often we heard them.
The stories all had one thing in common. Each one highlighted the faithfulness of God. My grandfather was no theologian but, in his own way, he was doing more than just telling stories. He was preaching sermons. His sermons told of a God who is trustworthy. Even while bullets are flying in the South Pacific. Even when fathers die. And even when something called a haint appears to be walking in the middle of the road.
When the stories ended, my mom, my sister and I climbed back into our wood paneled station wagon for the hour long trip up Interstate 75 back to our south Atlanta home. Mom drove, my sister sat up front and I was always in the very back, where the party is.
My grandparents hated that. They would always remind us of some kid they saw on the news who had to have his spleen removed because he was riding in the back of a station wagon when it wrecked. As we drove off, the look of worry on their faces made it seem like they were shipping us off to the South Pacific to fight another war.
After being taken care of in a war, provided for through childhood and comforted from supposed southern ghosts, my grandparents were still consumed with worry.
This is exactly how worry works for all of us.
Time tells a story. The past, if we take the time to notice, always tells the truth. It tells of a faithful God who rules over all things for the ultimate good of his people. But the present can be a liar. Much like the diet that always begins tomorrow, the present sometimes tells us that the unraveling will begin tomorrow. Sure, maybe God was in control yesterday but tomorrow will be a different story. You will be on your own. You are in trouble.
Jesus speaks a word of truth to counteract the lies the present likes to tell us about the future.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34 (ESV)
For a minute, that doesn’t look too comforting. It sort of reads like Jesus is saying, “Why are you worried about tomorrow? Worry about today. That’s where the real trouble is.”
Thankfully, he’s not saying that.
Each day has sufficient trouble. But that’s not all that it has. Read what Jesus told a suffering Paul about sufficiency.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
The present likes to tell you a story about troubles coming in the future. That part isn’t a lie. You will have troubles in the future. But it’s only a half truth. Along with those troubles, God will give you grace. His grace. Sufficient grace. And it will be enough.
The Christian’s source of hope is never the absence of trouble. Rather, it is the presence of Jesus in the trouble.
If you listen carefully to the stories of your past, no matter how tragic they may be, you will be reminded of Jesus’ presence and the sufficient grace that comes along with it.
There is plenty to worry about. But Christian, there is no need to worry. That’s because the Author of your story is in complete control.
And he loves you.