Sometimes we focus on something good so much that the worries of life overtake our enjoyment of life.
Have you ever known someone who cares about their physical health so much they forget to enjoy life?
Everything they eat, everything they put on their bodies (soap, toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen) have to be approved by the right magazines and “authoritative” organic websites. More than they fear sin, they fear parabens and sodium laurel sulfate in their cosmetics, and trans fats and high fructose corn syrup in their foods.
But you wonder, does their soul suffer from all the stress and worry over their physical health? I heard a guy determined to push back from the weekly advice about what new food was taking years off our lives tell me, “If eating tortilla chips takes a year off my life, I’m good with that. I’d rather live 80 years with tortilla chips than 81 years without them.”
Admittedly, most of us fall way too far in the other camp—not giving enough thought about what we eat or put on our bodies. Physical health is of some value, which is why I am grateful for a wife who challenges me in this area—but godliness has value for all things (c.f. 1 Timothy 4:8).
In the same way that some people obsess over physical health almost to the detriment of their enjoyment of life, it’s possible to care about our marriages too much to the detriment of our spiritual enjoyment. It may seem bizarre that someone like me would write that last sentence, but it’s true. The healthiest marriages aren’t lived by those who obsess over their marriages. Marriages need space to breathe, and even more importantly, spiritual light to flourish.
The Worries of Life
Jesus says in Luke 21:34: ““Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life.” The first key word here is “dulled.” Other translations use “weighted down.” What Jesus is saying here is that a certain mindset, an over concern or participation in the wrong things, leads us to a drugged state, spiritual speaking.
These wrong things are the “worries of life” which Jesus elsewhere (explicitly and implicitly) describes as what we’ll eat, wear, the size and condition of our house, how others view us, our financial status, an insatiable search for the next pleasure or power elevation, and the state of human relationships. When the “worries of life” become our focus, we become spiritually inebriated.
“Carousing” is used in other Greek literature as a hangover headache or drunken nausea. It’s probably a metaphor for living in a spiritual fog. You know what “drunkenness” is. The startling part of this passage for most Christians may be that Jesus compares being too concerned with the things of this world to being drunk. The spiritual damage they do is equal because both dull us to the spiritual realities of life in Christ and his certain return.
To understand what Jesus is saying, think of the condition more than the cause: when “worries of life take over,” you can’t think clearly, you can’t act decisively, and you can’t focus on what you want to focus on because you’re like someone who is intoxicated or who is suffering from a huge hangover headache. Your next drink, your next sexual fix, or the current status of a human relationship so consume you that you can’t think about the things of God.
Luke’s warnings about the “worries of life” is a favored passage in the Christian classics which they usually apply to human affection more than substance abuse. The classical writers warn that too much earthly affection (even for family) undercuts divine affection. It’s possible to focus so much on our earthly relationships that we lose sight of the life-giving, soul-clarifying, love affirming relationship with God.
William Gurnall, author of the Puritan classic The Christian in Complete Armor, writes, “The heart of man hath not room enough for God and the world too. Worldly affections do not befriend spiritual. The heart which spends itself in mourning for worldly crosses, will find the stream runs low when he should weep for his sins.”
I can’t think about my sins before God when I’m consumed with my spouse’s sins against me. I can’t delight in all that God makes available to me when I’m obsessed with all that my spouse isn’t providing. Another way to put this is, do I focus more on what my spouse isn’t and doesn’t do than on who God is and the many kindnesses He dispenses? Far from excusing a spouse, this spiritual exercise helps you to tolerate a spouse! When you know you are supremely and divinely loved, it’s easier to face earthly turmoil, neglect and disappointment in any other human relationship (friends, parents, children, spouses).
I have said and earnestly believe that every married couple should read at least one marriage book a year and go to a marriage conference of some sort every year because marriage is such a foundational relationship that we need regular tune-ups. Because of my work, I read about five to ten marriage books a year (which is too many), but I read even more spiritual growth books. I don’t want to focus on marriage too much because the worries of life—even marital worries—can turn me into a spiritual drunk.