by KEN GONYER
I called my father on his birthday this year, as I always do. Sometimes I feel like a bad son since that call is often the only one he’ll get from me in a year. Phone conversations aren’t always easy for Dad; he suffers from hearing loss as a result of a bout of scarlet fever in young adulthood. It’s hard for me, too, not being sure he’s hearing what I’m saying
Even so, I know how much he enjoys being remembered on his birthday. The call this year was especially meaningful to me because of something he said when I asked him how he’d been feeling. This birthday was number 79, and he’d had some health issues over the last 10 years or so. Surprisingly, instead of sharing a list of physical aches and pains, he mused about the mental impact of being stuck inside during the long, cold winter. What he said was simple, but so profound that I recall it word for word.
“You could almost call it depression,” he said, “but I know it’s not that – what have I got to be depressed about?” Before I could ask him to say more, he answered his own question: “I’m in good health, sitting in a warm house, with oil for the furnace and plenty to eat. I have my family, my friends and things to keep me busy. I have all I need and I know God will take care of us. I don’t have anything to worry about.”
As his child, I was of course happy to hear this declaration, but it wasn’t what I expected. My parents have struggled with numerous health issues and financial challenges, problems we’ve spent a lot of time discussing over the years. For him to sum things up so simply, with such a confident contentment, was a bit shocking. It was also inspiring and encouraging to me. Although I had not shared with him all of the various worries and anxieties that I carried around with me every day, his words made me look at them differently.
Although I had not shared with him all of the various worries and anxieties that I carried around with me every day, his words made me look at my worries differently.
I’m like a lot of Americans who tend to worry a lot about money. Gallup’s 2017 Financial Worry metric, which tracks the percentage of Americans worried about multiple common financial challenges, indicates that the top worries are not being able to pay medical costs of a serious illness or accident (61 percent), not having enough money for retirement (58 percent), and not being able to maintain the standard of living we enjoy (48 percent). Other major worries revolve around not being able to pay rent, mortgage, credit cards and monthly bills. Although we’ve worked hard to get control of our finances over the years, I’ve worried at some point about each of these. The weight of those anxieties lifted as I heard a man of 79 declare “I know God will take care of us. I don’t have anything to worry about.”
The conversation with my father reminded me of a speaker at a Christian marriage conference we attended. He spoke of the many ways that difficulties and problems had worked themselves out when he and his wife prayed. The quotable quote that stuck with me was delivered with tongue-in-cheek wonder: “You know, it’s almost like you can trust God!” For my father, whose faith came late in life, the trust is real. He’s an example of someone who applies scriptural advice that says “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.” (from Philippians 4:6-7 MSG). That’s great advice and a wonderful promise. I believe it, but I admit it’s hard to live out this wisdom from the Bible. Here at age 50, I hope I can keep it in mind until I’m 79 and beyond. For now I think I’ll just be sure to call Dad more often.
Ken and Karen Gonyer live in Broadway, VA. Email your response or questions about life and money to firstname.lastname@example.org.