09 Jun Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
This past Sunday I preached on one of the most familiar parts of the Sermon on the Mount. The Gospel of Matthew records it at the end of Chapter Six where Jesus asks a profound question: “Can any of you add a single hour to your lifespan by worrying?” Uh, that would be a “no.”
I started my sermon by asking the congregation if they had first-hand experience with worry. Almost every hand went up. Did their worry ever cause them to lose sleep, I asked next? Again, the vast majority of hands went up. (It’s great pastoring among such an honest group of folks!) Then I asked what they worried about. People started throwing out answers—health, bills, retirement, finding a job, relationships, decisions, one’s reputation, the Washington Nationals. (What can I say? The team was on a losing streak at the time!)
Intellectually, most of us know that worry seldom produces anything in our lives that is positive. Our worry does not change the situation over which we are brooding. It doesn’t miraculously improve the chronic health issue we’re dealing with. It doesn’t magically impress our teenager to make better choices. It doesn’t make the “powers that be” choose us for a job over the other applicants. (There are some instances when worry can be positive, say, if it causes you to wear a seat belt in the car or to exercise.)
More often than not what worry does is increase anxiety, fear and fatigue. It leads us to sleep too much or too little, to eat and drink too much or too little. It robs us of contentment, joy and peace. It seeps into our relationships, infecting those around us.
Since so much of what worry produces is negative, why do we still do it? What is it about worry that seems to give it such a chokehold on us? There are times I catch myself worrying over something even when I didn’t consciously want to worry. Subconsciously, though, my mind was hard at work trying to “solve” that which is beyond my ability to solve or control. I think part of the problem is that worry is often an emotional response. I know in my head that worrying is pointless, but my heart and gut haven’t quite gotten the message.
If there is some good news about worry, perhaps it is that I am worrying less as I get older. For one thing, I am better than I was ten or twenty years ago at recognizing the limits of my responsibility and influence in someone else’s life. More importantly, I am a little better at trusting God. Worry has become a signal that I need to “spin” less and pray more. The invitation that I have each and every day is to live in God’s presence, to trust in God’s love and constant companionship, and to rely on God’s all-sufficient grace to see me through every situation no matter how challenging or difficult. No, I’m still not as good at it as I’d like to be. But, I am grateful for God’s patience as I slowly and gradually practice trusting and praying rather than worrying. How about you?
Yours for the Kingdom,