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For Troubled Hearts / Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 14:1-14

1[Jesus said:] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.

A couple were on their honeymoon. They were staying at the Watergate Hotel, made famous by White House shenanigans during the Nixon Administration.  Remembering what happened in that dark time, the new bride was concerned and asked, what if the place is still bugged? The groom said, Hmm . . .  Good point. I’ll look for a bug. He looked behind the drapes, behind the pictures, under the rug. AHA! Sure enough, under the rug was a small disc shaped plate, with four screws. He got his Swiss army knife, unscrewed the screws, and threw the screws and the plate out the window.

The next morning, the hotel manager asked the newlyweds, how was your room?  How was the service? How was your stay at the Watergate Hotel? Curious, the groom said, sir, why are you asking me all of these questions? The hotel manager said, well, the room under yours complained of the chandelier falling on them!

It’s a dumb story. But it does prove that fear makes us do ridiculous things sometimes. In fact, fear is at the base of most of our problems.

Jesus says in our lesson for today, do not let your hearts be troubled. He could have said, do not let them be afraid. Have you ever known anyone with a troubled heart? Obviously, the young couple staying at the Watergate had troubled hearts. They were afraid that their room was bugged. They went to extraordinary lengths to calm their fears, much to the unhappiness of the people in the room under theirs.

It’s like the man who was holding his ear close to the wall, listening intently. Someone came close and he said, Shh! then called him over. He pressed his ear to the wall for a long time. I can’t hear a thing, he whispered. I know, it’s been like that all day! Sometimes you lie in bed at night, and you don’t have a single thing to worry about. That always worries you!

The United States is among the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet it’s filled with people, rich and poor, who are anxious about their future and feel that they don’t have enough.

Are you among those people who are anxious about your future, fearful that you don’t have enough? Do not let your hearts be troubled. Boy, that would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? To be totally untroubled?

If I asked you to describe a troubled heart, what are the words you would use? Fearful? Angry? Envious? Stressed out? Bitter? The list could go on and on. A heart may be troubled by many things. My guess is that most of them could be boiled down to one word, though: fear. Envy is the fear that we don’t measure up because we do not have what someone else has? Greed is the fear that what we have isn’t enough, that somehow, we’re incomplete? Our basic problem is fear. Think how many times our Lord says to us, don’t be afraid. That’s what He’s saying to us here: Do not let your hearts be afraid. You believe in God; believe also in Me . . .”

I’ve known people like that, my life would be completely better if I could just change jobs, if I move to a better community, if I just had a different spouse. And they find out that nothing really changes. Happiness is an inside job. There’s nothing on the outside that can ease a troubled heart. Only from within can come the help we need whether we’re head of a mighty empire or simply an average person trying to come to grips with an unhappy life.

Of course, some of us have real problems, including real fears about our health, about our family, about our future. But there are some of us who are troubled far beyond what we need to be. We need to open ourselves to the Great Physician and ask Him to change our attitude toward life. Jesus said to His followers, do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.

Let me give you a simple formula for a troubled heart. All of these are contained in the teachings of our Lord. They are simple, but they’re powerful.

Ask God for a new perspective. Many of us are blessed beyond our wildest dreams, and yet we have no peace. If only we could step back and look at our lives through the eyes of faith.

Jesus said don’t be like the heathen. They take pride in “all these things” and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well what you truly need, and He will give them to you. You and I need to step back from time to time, take a deep breath, and ask ourselves if the things we’re concerned about really deserve so much of our time and energy.

That’s a pretty good philosophy. If you have a troubled heart, pray that God will give you a new perspective about your life. Let me suggest something else while we’re at it.

Ask God for patience. Sometimes, if you’ll just be patient, problems often take care of themselves. I think sometimes when it comes to worry, some of us are afraid to relax and stop worrying. We somehow believe that the very act of worrying keeps bad things from happening. When actually, the exact opposite is true. We complicate our lives, and lose our joy, because we’re worried all the time.

Fred once described himself as a professional worrier. He means that an amateur worrier will take his worries and go to bed. He said that if you go to bed with your worries you run the risk of going to sleep. And when you wake up you’ve lost your standing as a genuine worrier. Nobody who sleeps can qualify as a genuine worrier.

No, as a professional worrier, if he got into bed and discovered that he had something to worry about he’d get up and sit in a rocking chair. He’d make himself a cup of coffee and sit there and rock. Eventually he’d go back to bed, but he wouldn’t go there to sleep; he’d go there to spend his hours doing what he would call perking. He’d just lie in bed and think of new worries.

And then one day he figured out what was troubling him, and it was quite a revelation. His problem was that deep down he felt that he had a better job than he really deserved. In his heart he believed he was not qualified for the job he had. And he started worrying about losing it. He called this “the imposter syndrome.” You don’t have it all together as much as other people think. And you’re afraid they’ll find out. And so, you make yourself miserable.

So, one day Fred had a conversation with himself. He said to himself, well, wait a minute. When do you do your best work? When you’re not worried. Well, if you can’t hold your job when you’re not worrying, how in the world can you hold it when you’re worrying?

He said he ended up writing three little words on the inside of his skull. He said that if someone ever performed a crani/otomy on him, they would find those three words written there. The words are WAIT TO WORRY. He found out he was doing his worrying before he had all the facts. So, he decided that he was free to wait to worry. As soon as he had the facts then he would have all the information he needed to work out a plan. And when you have a plan, he decided, you don’t have anything to worry about, so, he’d stop worrying. He learned to wait to worry. That’s good advice. Sometimes, if you’ll just wait, problems take care of themselves.

If you have a troubled heart, ask God to give you a new perspective. Also ask Him to give you patience so that you don’t jump ahead and worry about a problem that may never come. But most important of all, ask God for more faith. Faith in God is the best remedy for all our problems. Jesus put it plainly, do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.

The real reason that many of us have troubled hearts is that we don’t really trust God. We’re not certain that God really cares about us or even accepts us as we are.

Do you have a troubled heart? Ask God to give you a new perspective about your life. Also ask Him to give you patience so that you’re not constantly living in dread of things that may never occur. And finally, ask Him for the greatest gift, the gift of faith. Do not let your hearts be troubled, Jesus said. You believe in God; believe also in Me . . .