Wednesday, May 09, 2018

“Whack-a-Mole” Syndrome

Remember the old arcade game “Whack-a-Mole”? If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a brief description.  It’s a table about waist high with five holes where toy moles would randomly pop up and almost immediately pop back down.  The object of the game was to use a padded mallet to whack the mole before he disappeared back into his hole.  It was two minutes of frenzied fun!

The game took on a broader social meaning representing any futile and repetitious action. It became a symbol for the frenzied pace of our lives where one problem pops up, we try to whack it, and, as soon as that one is taken care of, another problem surfaces. Whack-a-Mole became emblematic of our lives - problem after problem consuming our time and energy leaving us exhausted and stressed.

Have you ever found yourself playing a non-stop game of Whack-a-Mole? I have. The pesky mole of family issues pops up, and then the worrisome mole of financial woes appears, and before you know it, the bothersome mole of sickness taunts you, and then the irritating mole of work-place worry surfaces.  Mole after mole after mole.  At the end of the day you stand there exhausted. When you finally get to lay your head on your pillow, the moles of the day continue to pop up in your mind robbing you of the rest you need to play another round the next day.

Whatever the source of our moles, God knows there are so many things that can obsess our minds and deprive us of the rest and joy he wants us to have.  Jesus gives considerable time to this in Matthew 6:25-33 as part of his longest recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. I recommend you read the text itself but allow me to try to summarize a few words of advice from Jesus.
(1) Don’t exaggerate your problems.  Some of the things we worry about may not be as significant as we make them.   Are we able to distinguish between wants and needs? Do we trust that God knows our needs?  An obsession with getting everything you want will never end.  Be satisfied with and thankful for the daily provisions from God.  Develop the discipline of contentment in your life and many of those moles will disappear.
(2) See the futility of worry.  Jesus says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) Of course we need to do what we can do to address problems and circumstances in our lives, but incessant worry accomplishes nothing. The English clergyman William Ralph Inge said, “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” Many of the things we worry about never come to pass.  Take care of what you can today and face the next day when it comes.
(3) Keep spiritual matters at the top of the list.  Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Ask yourself, “Will the mole that is bothering me so much today have any meaning or significance in my life in 10, 20, or 30 years?” Most importantly, does what's bothering you have any eternal significance? Living from a spiritual/eternal point of view brings today’s problems into perspective and often helps alleviate the grip that passing afflictions have over us.
God doesn’t want us to live in a frenzied state of worry and panic, and he assures us that he will share those burdens with us.  He promises to somehow see us through if we’ll only lean on him and find peace in his presence and his promises. So, put down the mallet and remember the words of Peter, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

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