Those who’ve walked behind mowers cutting acres of lawn understand the word choked. The word aptly describes the mower’s response to overgrown or wet grass. The motor struggles, overheats, and stalls while the underside of the mower and discharge chute demand regular scraping and clearing (with the engine stopped, of course!).
Our mental facilities, like the mower, are easily choked when we dwell on the wrong concerns. Scripture defines that practice as worrying. In the Parable of the Soils Jesus compared soil type and the resulting harvest with varied responses to God’s Word. Matthew, Mark, and Luke used the word choke to describe the outcome of sowing seed in thorny soil.
The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
Luke 8:14 NASB
The meaning of the word choke is to strangle completely. Something competed with the newly-germinated plant and destroyed any chance of a harvest. Did you catch the problem? This hearer’s mind, divided among many pursuits, became consumed with worry.
Experts suggest long term worry affects the human body in the same manner as unrelenting stress. The Mayo Clinic offers a summary of the common effect of stress on three key areas—body, mood, and behavior.
Common effects of stress on your body…
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
Common effects of stress on your mood …
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
Common effects of stress on your behavior…
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
After explaining the significance of the soil type to the harvest, Jesus moved on to minister in other towns. The group got into a boat to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (8 miles at the widest point).
A fierce wind whipped the water into violent waves intent on swallowing the tiny craft. Hope drained from the disciples as they worked to keep the boat afloat. Recall some of them were lifelong fishermen, and this was not their first storm. Overtaken by panic they shook Jesus awake.
They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”…
Luke 8:24 NASB Selected
How could Jesus sleep at a time where experienced mariners were certain of disaster? Jesus was confident in His direction and His Father’s care. He was certain He would reach the destination and continue His ministry. Much of our worry arises when we fear we’ve lost our way in the middle of contrary circumstances, and we begin second guessing our choices.
Jesus did not waste the teachable moment. He rebuked the wind and waves then asked the men, “Where is your faith?”
Wherever you and I may be on this day worry can be conquered by faith. Is God big enough? Does He have power? Are His resources unlimited? Has He always proved Himself faithful? We can slap a spiritual-sounding “yes” after each questions, but the crucial query is, “Do I believe?”
Paul summarized the teaching on conquering worry with this open invitation.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6 NASB
Are you choked with worry? There is One who cares.
Do you have faith to believe in Him?