Saturday, March 1, 2014

Don't worry - be happy!


Some of you may remember this song from the late 1980s: “Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to
sing it note for note. But don’t worry, be happy. In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy. Don’t worry, be happy now. Don’t worry, be happy.” My apologies in advance – that song is going to be in your head for the rest of the day. But, Bobby McFerrin was onto something in this song. Many of us worry about many things. We worry about a roof over our heads, how to pay the rent, the many troubles of life. And the song’s prescription for these worries is of course to instead be happy.

Although it may sound a bit simplistic, it is not all that far off from what we hear in our readings today. We hear the Word of God calling us into much the same reality today. There are a chorus of voices encouraging us to leave our worries behind. Why shouldn’t we worry? Isaiah told us because the Lord “will never forget you.” The Psalm told us that God is “our rock and our salvation.” And Jesus says it boldly and directly, “Do not worry about your lives.” In fact, He says it not once, but four times in this brief passage today.

Today’s Gospel is part of the Sermon on the Mount and we cannot help but be challenged by Jesus’ words. On one hand we hear Him saying ‘don’t worry’ and we’re tempted to say, “Well, easy for you Jesus. You had no wife and no kids to worry about; no office hours to keep and no mortgage to pay. Just a carefree life wandering through the beautiful Galilean countryside where it was a heck of a lot warmer than it is here right now.”

But what about the other side of this argument. Isn’t there something incredibly attractive here today? Jesus is offering us an invitation into a life that is not filled with unnecessary anxiety and fruitless worry. Anyone interested in that?

We worry about so many things. War and terrorism; money and the state of the economy; health and healthcare; paying our bills; global warming; whether or not our job is safe; getting into or out of debt. And if we’re not worrying about big things, we’re probably worrying about small things: which shirt should I wear today? Am I going to be late for church – again? Should I have that difficult conversation that I have been avoiding? Did I lock the door on the way out? Did I leave the iron plugged in? If we’re not worrying about ourselves we’re worrying about our children; or our parents; or our friends and neighbors.

It seems that it is in our very nature to worry. We even worry about worrying. Jesus says, “Don’t worry” and now that’s got me worrying – does my worry demonstrate a lack of faith? A failure to trust in God? Am I going to be judged for this?

It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that worry is often misdirected and a waste of time. They say that we worry: 40% on things that will never happen; 30% on things in the past that can’t be changed; 12% on criticism by others, mostly untrue; 10% on health; and only 8% on real problems that can be faced.

You have to admit, the invitation is attractive: don’t worry about your life. So, if we’re not worrying, what are we doing? The answer is: we are trusting. We’re called to trust that God has a plan for our lives and that our job is to put Him front and center in our lives so that we can see that plan more clearly. Why worry when you can trust instead?

The answer is that we are doing. We’re called to do in the moment what God would have us do – being kinder to one another; being a presence of love to one another; offering a smile when one is needed; being that God-like presence to all those around us – instead of being tied up in the knots of worry and anxiety. Why worry when you can do something instead?

The answer is that we are hoping. We are called to be a people who are marked by the quality of our hope in God’s goodness; that even when tempted to worry about the challenging moment in our lives – bills, family, struggles, whatever – that we are a people of hope; who live in the firm hope that all things will work for the good; that God will triumph; that we can overcome the challenges we face or at least learn to face them with God and turn them into opportunities for His glory to shine in us and through us. Why worry when you can hope instead?

And how can we be so confident in the midst of our own anxieties to instead act and trust and hope? We heard the answer in our first reading from Isaiah, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Our tender and loving God never – ever – forgets us. He is always right here, by our side, in our hearts, surrounding us with His love, filling each moment – even our difficult moments – with His presence. He will never forget us. That’s His promise to each and every one of us. And it is a promise that we can never lose.

So, my brothers and sisters, accept the liberating invitation that Jesus places before us today, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Let go of the anxiety that can bring us down, tie us up in knots, keep us from being the people God calls us to be. Let it go. Don’t worry. Why worry when you can act; when you can trust; when you can hope?

May the Lord give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Fr. Tom, I thoroughly enjoyed your latest post. It is one that can be posted several times a year and never lose its relevance. A much needed reminder for us as I think we tend to forget the message trusting in God.

    Thank you for the post.