We should remember to use the experience of worry to trigger a prayer in our hearts. That will turn a negative into a positive.
This is a question that comes up frequently, especially since COVID-19 turned our entire world upside down. So let me answer the question right up front: No, it is not a sin to worry. Why? Because worry is part and parcel of every human experience. The question arises because people often say to themselves, “If I only had more faith, I wouldn’t worry.”
Worry comes from the fact that all of us live in circumstances that can be fearful and threatening. For example, you wake in the middle of the night with a throbbing toothache. You start to worry about getting a dental appointment. You worry about losing a tooth. Then you worry about missing an important meeting because of that dental appointment. But more often than not, we worry about others who are near and dear to us. Your daughter said she would be home from work no later than 11 p.m. But it is now past midnight, and you wonder if you should be worried. Of course you should!
We worry about others for their safety. We worry because we care for them. The word concern comes from two Latin words that mean “to be mixed with.” Our lives are mixed with the lives of those important to us. If something hurts them, it hurts us.
Worries of the Holy Family
Think of the emotions of Mary and Joseph as they rushed to Jerusalem to find a 12-year-old Jesus who had, unbeknownst to them, stayed in the Temple. Even though Mary was full of grace, we can imagine her as a mother experiencing the fear of losing her child. Think of Joseph berating himself for not making sure Jesus was with the traveling group that was returning to Nazareth.
When Jesus began his public life in Capernaum and Mary heard rumors that the chief priests were angry with him—our Lord had been threatened by enemies on occasion—did Mary just float through life with no worries or concern for her son? And what about Jesus’ own concern for his mother when he left her? If Jesus, Mary, and Joseph experienced worry, we can be sure that worry, in itself, is not an indication of something wrong. It’s proof of our humanity.
Worry results from a judgment of some threat or fear coming to us or a loved one. But faith is a matter of decision, and it resides in the heart. We do the martyrs a disservice if we doubt that they ever experienced worry or fear at their impending suffering. It was their trust in God’s grace that made the difference.
We should remember to use the experience of worry to trigger a prayer in our hearts. That will turn a negative into a positive. Faith, as Jesus said, may be as small as a mustard seed facing what appears to be a mountain of threat and danger. But it can get us through those moments of worry and fear that we are bound to experience in our human condition.