This morning I invite you to consider what worry can do to us. It's normal to worry, but as a culture we have developed an epidemic of chronic worriers that goes far beyond daily concerns. Worry becomes a problem when it immobilizes or chokes us to the point we cannot allow us to enjoy the life God created us experience.
I'm dating myself by quoting the lyrics of a song written years ago by Bob Marley. How many of you remember this song, "Here's a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don't worry, be happy. In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don't worry, be happy." "DON'T WORRY! BE HAPPY!"
Thomas Jefferson during the foundation of this nation wrote our basic human right was, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Psychologists and doctors tell us worry often leads millions of people to have health concerns both physically and mentally. I believe, however, chronic worry is really a spiritual problem.
Chronic worry not only leads to a variety of health issues. Worry and its twin anxiety causes high blood pressure, ulcers, heart disease, depression, and yes, even cancer. Worry literally can wear out the mind and the soul.
Chronic worry often leads to suicide as well as drug and alcohol addiction. It creates an emptiness that is difficult to overcome. Few live past ninety who cannot laugh and enjoy life.
Chronic worry is far too common. The naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, more than a century and a half ago wrote, "Most men [and women] lead lives of quiet desperation." Sad to say the epidemic of worry sees to be getting worse.
Do you ever wonder why so may people have to spend their lives getting high, or drunk or go out in a blaze of bullets? Why do so many people live lives of deep desperation? I believe this is true. We can worry ourselves to death. But even if you are not a chronic worrier do you not know someone you care about who worries too much?
Jesus wanted his followers to know something important about worry. He wrote, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body that you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than closing." - Mark 12:22-23 He went on to point out, "Look at the birds of the air they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" - Mark 12:24-25
It's all in the perspective, the attitude we take into daily life. You can be immobilized by worry, or you do what I suggested last month. It's a matter of looking upon life as a process of solving one puzzle after another, instead of looking upon life as a series of problems that can stop us.
In the midst of the darkness and gloom our culture throws at us can be members of the Kingdom of God knowing God has a plan for our lives. In the midst of what comes at us we know the Spirit of Christ is with us.
I love the joy and happiness of those who see their lives as filled with joy and happiness. One says, "I am a magician because as a writer I create new images and thought in the spirit that God had when God created the cosmos. In the midst of boredom there are those with word, action, or music say I create excitement and happiness."
The good teacher says, "I help the child create in their minds a sense of knowledge, wisdom, and purpose." The good preacher says, "I create hope with the help of Christ Jesus for the hopeless."
Take a look at the stock market. Over that past few years there have been days of despair and days of unrealistic excitement. Tell me does worry about what happens on the stock market do any good? I don't have a great deal invested, but both mine and Sharon's pension is dependent on the stock market. I waste the day if I spend undo worry about the future of my pension, although a total loss of the market would drastically change my life radically.
Some years ago I went to a meeting sponsored by FEMA. They wanted to talk about plans they had made if the dam upstream failed. They wanted to know if Thermopolis had a plan to move people out of the flood zone. Yes, it could happen, but as for me, I will not spend time worrying about it. Toward the end of the meeting someone asked, "What is the plan if Yellowstone exploded?" The man from FEMA smiled, "We have no plan, because everyone in Wyoming would be dead." We don't need to worry about the volcano that rests west of here. Much of what we worry about never materializes. Worry and anxiety does not change those concerns that do materialize.
There is wisdom in the Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr, which is used by AA, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
Not often quoted but the second part of the prayer is just as powerful, "Living one day at time; enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right."
Don't worry. Be happy! Our faith in God should help us aim at being happy. St. Paul wrote, "Whatever you do, work at it will all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for others. True happiness comes from serving God not from anything else." - Colossians 3:17 Following the path God has designed for our lives means we do not have to worry about what comes next. It is the only way we can be happy.
This past week we had mass murders on the move. Gun violence seems rampant everywhere. The media rightly notices when a shooter invades our peace, but they often do not pay attention to the fact hatred and death are even more invasive. Last weekend two mass murders happened in Texas, and Ohio, but did you know more people were shot that weekend in Baltimore; more people were shot in Chicago?
When asked Oprah Winfrey saw the problem this way, "We have lost our moral base. We need to get back to church. We need to find our moral compass." Church attendance in itself will not make you happy, but a faith that trust in God will. Come together to support each other as we search for the happiness God wants for us.
Once there was a ma who had scrimped and saved in order to go on a cruise. At long last, he save enough money to buy is ticket. The difficult part was he didn't have much left over. since he had never gone on a cruise he thought the food must be very expensive, so he bought some crackers and peanut butter he would eat in his cabin.
At mealtime, when the other passengers went to the dining room he would go to his cabin to eat what he had brought with him. On the last day he brought enough money he could have a good meal. When the last day arrived he dressed up and went to the dining room and ordered a fine meal. At the end of the meal, he called the waiter and asked for his bill. The waiter looked with great surprise, "Sir, the meals are included in your ticket."
Just think of what that man had missed out on. Spending all your time focusing on your worries and missing out on the many opportunities for happiness is like that in each one of our lives.
I am reminded how the prayer of St. Francis might help us understand where we can find the bread of life for which Jesus offers. It is what will give us happiness. He wrote:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where ther is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master; grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It's in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Remember; don't worry, be happy. God wants you to be happy!
Pastor Paul Grossman