“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.” – Montaigne
Have you ever felt like you were in one of those cartoons where the rain cloud follows you around wherever you go? I often find myself sweating the small stuff and focusing on my problems. Worrying about my future, regretting the past and ultimately getting caught up in the inevitable daily stresses. So how do you slay the giant of worry on a daily basis?
One of my favorite resources for battling stress (outside of time spent in God’s word or prayer) is a book by Dale Carnegie aptly titled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I highly recommend that you do. The first chapter encourages readers to grasp the concept of living in a day-tight compartment. So what does that even mean?
Live in a Day-tight Compartment
The idea comes from a commencement speech Sir William Osler gave to Yale students in 1913. The compartments Osler was referring to were water-tight ones on a giant ocean liner he rode across the Atlantic. The Captain of the ship could press a button, machines would kick into motion and one part of the boat could be completely sealed off from another. No water could enter the compartment that had been shut off. He encouraged students to “shut off” the past and the future and instead focus on the present. Focus on the time between right now and when your head hits the pillow tonight.
Osler continued by encouraging students to begin the day with the Lord’s Prayer and focused on the part where we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” Carnegie emphasizes that in this prayer we ask for today’s bread. We don’t complain about yesterday’s stale loaf or worry about the supply in the future.
OK, So How do I Apply This to My Day?
Living in a day-tight compartment is easier said than done. After all we have bills to pay, obligations on the calendar and countless unexpected problems that life throws at us. We get laid off. We get sick. We struggle in our relationships. While we are guaranteed to have troubles tomorrow (and beyond), Jesus instructs us not to worry about them in Matthew 6:34. So what do we do about the troubles that plague us today? 1 Peter 5:7 has that answer: Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (NLT).
We are never instructed to not plan for or be cognizant about tomorrow. Instead, we are to not be anxious about it. Worrying about losing a job, getting sick or not being able to pay a bill is extremely counterproductive but thoughtful planning and prayer is proactive. My former pastor encouraged our congregation to avoid focusing on our problems, but instead focus on His promises.
From Now Until You Fall Asleep
Seal off the failures of yesterday. Block out the worries of tomorrow. Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom said that “worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Living in a day-tight compartment and casting all of your anxieties on God will give you the strength to be content in today. As Carnegie explains, we need to be content in the only time we can actually live: from right now until we fall asleep.