“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27
I love the musical musings of Bobby McFerrin. He has an amazing creativity and an incredible vocal instrument. But I’m no fan of the philosophy behind his old song: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Here’s why:
I am not a worrier…at least I do not think I am. Oh, I do worry. Some. But I don’t think of myself that way. Still, maybe I am a worrier but just not very self-aware. Could that be possible? If so, then maybe I actually worry a great deal more than I think I do. In fact, maybe it is a huge problem for me but I am just not very connected to that reality. And maybe I worry so much (without realizing it) that I could actually have a heart attack or a stroke one day because of it. Maybe I am killing myself slowly every single day and don’t even realize it. It is possible, you know. I could die any day now.
🙂 See how easy it is to worry?
I am not claiming any expertise as a worrier, but I am definitely no stranger to the notion. I have had a few stressful seasons in my life. Three years ago, my ministry’s Board of Directors passed the largest, most challenging budget in our ministry’s history. That action signaled a scary shift for me. Having become a full-time employee of this ministry and no longer financially dependent on my self-employment (as a lawyer), I became dependent upon this ministry to meet my family’s needs. I became less dependent upon God meeting my needs the way He always had, through my law practice, and more dependent upon God meeting those needs in entirely new and different ways. Scared? Worried? You bet!
Now, three years into this grand experiment of faith, as an Executive Director of a “fledgling” non-profit, I still have monthly concerns about ongoing operational expenses and staying just ahead of this rather flat economy. Our ministry opportunities continue to grow and expand, as does the opportunity for God to miraculously provide for those opportunities. Scared? Worried? You bet!
In my experience–and this could just be me–it just does not help me much to know I should not be worrying. You do me no favors with your simple counsel, “Blake, don’t worry” or “Blake, stop worrying”. How, exactly do you do that? How do you just not worry? “Don’t worry, be happy” just does not work for me. No, in my experience, if I want to stop worrying, I have to treat it like a bad addiction and replace that behavior with another, more positive behavior. I suspect that may have been Paul’s experience as well. Look at his counsel to the Philippian church in chapter 4 of that letter: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. See? Paul would say that all the energy we are using to worry is energy we could be using for prayer.
That is the solution to the worry problem, isn’t it? We must replace worrying with praying. That is the productive behavior. That is the behavior which draws us closer to God and which slowly but surely helps us to see our world and our circumstances through His eyes. Come on, you know it’s true…you always wonder where you will find the time to have the kind of prayer life you know you should have. Just take the “worry” time and use it for prayer. Think about all the hours each week that will buy you!
As for me, I have prayed more for this ministry in the past three years than ever before. And through those prayers, God has given me a peace. It is not an unrealistic, naive kind of peace. It is a deep, grounded peace that God is still in control…still on His throne, that He still loves me and that He still has much to do through this ministry. Prayer has been a good thing for me in this! Oh there is much work to be done, and it will continue to be hard in some cases. It will not all be happy times. But there will be joy, and peace, and we will see God do great and mighty things. Not because we worried, but because we prayed.
So I am changing my tune. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? Not so much. “Don’t worry…PRAY!” Now that is worth singing about!