There was a song that came out several years ago entitled, "Don't worry, be happy." In this song the singer lists all the problems he has (no money, no job) but he ends each problem with the chorus "Don't worry, be happy." (Bobby McFerrin)
Of course it's easy for him to sing this refrain because he made 2 million dollars with this song and he doesn't have to worry anymore about money. But despite the cheerful lyrics, let's face it: we worry, right? We worry about all sorts of things.
- Big things like - relationships (with God, with others)
- Having a safe place to live
- Making enough money to take care of our needs
We worry about little things:
- Having a good hair day on the right day like on the first day of school
- Will our team make the playoffs
- Missing the bus or being stuck in traffic
If we had to list all the big and little things that we worry about it would be a very, very long list. So a song that says, "Don't worry, be happy" may be easy to sing, but not so easy to actually live on a day-to-day basis.
The reason for this is that on a day-to-day basis we do worry about all kinds of things, and that worry causes us to become ill and even depressed at times. For that reason I'd like to share some ways to deal with the big and little worries that all of us experience each day.
Coping With Worry
1. Don't Worry, Be Careful
When we worry it is a sign that we are concerned about something; now there's nothing wrong with being concerned about things. For example:
- The big exam is coming and we need to be concerned enough to study for it.
- The doctor finds a suspicious lump in our throat or on our leg, so we should be concerned enough to have tests done.
Being careful or concerned, however, becomes dangerous when it takes over our lives. You know, people who are so stressed out that they can't see the humor in anything anymore, people who over-react to every little thing, people who obsess over relationships or their weight, etc.
Jesus warns us that we need to be careful not to let "worry" about our problems take over our lives.
...this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world chokes the word and it becomes unfruitful.
- Matthew 13:22
The point is that worry can blind us to God's love, God's direction for our lives and God's encouragement from His word. Don't worry, be careful that worry doesn't only ruin our lives here, but also blinds us to the life that God offers us through Christ.
2. Don't Worry, Be Content
Much of our worry is focused on,
- What we don't have
- What might happen in the future
- What could have been
- What we did wrong in the past
In other words, we worry about things and events that we have absolutely no control over.
In addition to this, we also worry that we are not doing as well as so and so; or we're not as smart or good looking as we think we ought to be. This type of worry usually poisons any opportunity we might have to be happy. What is the antidote to this type of poisonous worry? Seeking contentment with what you have, not with what you don't have.
Paul says it this way in Philippians 4:11 and 13:
...I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am ... I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Paul focused on what he had, whatever that was, and learned to be content with that. When his ministry was going great and he had plenty of help and resources, he was content with his success at that moment. When he was in jail, abandoned by many of his previous co-workers, he accepted and made the best of his condition.
His ability was not that he didn't care so that his change in circumstances didn't affect him; he cared all right! No, his secret to being content in every circumstance was that he drew his contentment from his relationship with Christ, and not his relationship with his circumstances.
Things change, circumstances change, you change; but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. When your contentment is based on Him, you can be at peace in any kind of circumstance.
Which brings me to my third point...
3. Don't Worry, Be Christ Centered
Jesus Himself devoted a long segment of teaching specifically aimed at this topic of worry.
25"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
- Matthew 6:25-34
In this passage Jesus mentions several things about worry:
- Worrying is futile - God knows what you need, and if He cares for the flowers and birds, He will surely care for you.
- Worry is a sign of disbelief - Jesus says that a mark of the unbeliever's lifestyle is worry over the necessities of life. Believers know better than to worry about such things.
- Worry distorts your view of life - Worry brings a person to focus on the future or the past instead of the present. Each day has its own challenges, and God provides what we need to meet these daily challenges. Don't waste your resources by investing them in tomorrow's possible problems, stick to solving today's problems.
Jesus also provides us with the way to order our priorities so that no matter what happens, we're not carried away by excessive worry or anything else for that matter. He tells us to put the kingdom first! In other words, make Jesus and doing His will in your lives the #1 priority, and you will automatically worry less about the future. Jesus is Lord of the future and guarantees that no matter what happens, we will have an eternal future with Him.
You will worry less about the past because His blood has covered the past and wiped away every failure, every mistake, every sin. This is how He protects us from being haunted by the past. Putting Christ first will also guarantee that everything we need to do His will, to be content, to deal with problems, He will provide.
A Christ-centered life eliminates the things that cause us worry. When Jesus is first we are saved from the past, safe today and guaranteed eternal salvation in the future.
Excessive worry contributes greatly to physical and emotional illness that many suffer from. I'm not saying that there won't be things in your life that will cause you concern and heartache, but if you work at being careful and content in a Christ-centered lifestyle, then worry will not control you or lead you to unhappiness or disbelief.
If you're worried today that you're not right with God because you haven't obeyed the gospel in repentance and baptism, let go that fear and anxiety once and for all by being baptized today. If you're worried that your life is not right and you've not lived like a Christian should live, let go that worry by going to God in prayer and ask Him to forgive and restore you. If you're simply worried because of illness or family problems, cast these worries upon God in prayer and reach out to your brothers and sisters in Christ for support.
Whatever your need, don't worry, God loves you and wants to help you today - won't you let Him?