Back in 1988, there was a catchy little song whose 4 words caught on quicker than anyone might have thought: "Don't Worry - Be Happy"! Back in 1988 when Bobby McFerrin put the tune into an album, it hit the Billboard Hot 100 list pretty quickly and stayed at the top for two weeks. The song is kind of catchy, with lyrics ranging from, "In every life we have some trouble when you worry you make it double - Don't worry, be happy!" to "Listen to what I say, in your life expect some trouble; when you worry you make it double - But don't worry - Be happy, be happy now!" (source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/) I know these words are not exactly "biblical", but their message is pretty close! Jesus' words were, "I tell you not to worry about your life." He went on to ask, "Can worry make you live longer?" So, I have to ask each of us why it is we spend so doggone much time fretting over what we have absolutely no need to worry about?
Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today. (Matthew 6:31-34 CEV)
Food, drink, clothing, a place to lay our heads, and even the little things in life seem to get our focus and attention way too much. We spend time ruminating over the impossibilities, while at the very moment we are expending our energies in worries, God is setting about to provide all we have need of at that very moment. The question Jesus asks and the one we need to ponder deeply is really set forth a few verses before our passage today - if his Father would care so much about the birds of the field to provide food for their wee bellies and beautiful plumage for their backs, how much more will God care for those he calls his own?
In answering this question, Jesus points out something we are to do instead of worrying - put God's work first and do what he wants. In other words, we make God our priority and we seek to live obediently to what he asks. In the background, God is at work providing for our needs - without us having to take all the energy and time to "worry things out" in our own minds. So, the steps to overcome worry are really twofold: 1) Get our focus clearly and solely on God, and 2) Get busy doing what he asks us to do. Obedience is a result of focus - focus drives trust.
I think this might be why we spend so much time in worry - we don't get to the place of trust in our lives. We just hold onto stuff we are supposed to let go of and find ourselves trying to continually "work through" those things. In essence, they clutter up our lives with all manner of stuff which has no business being in our lives. This is why Jesus said to get our focus right - clear the slate so God's plans become our focus and direct our actions. When our slate is so full of stuff we are trying to work out ourselves, we find our focus is too muddled to actually produce clarity as to the actions we are really designed to take in the first place.
A week ago, I took my mother to see a long time friend in California. It was a driving trip and we had to prepare for the three day excursion a little because mom is nearly 96 and I was driving the entire trip. A while back, I learned to trust God with even the simplest of things, like where to stop for bathroom breaks and when to stretch our legs at the right intervals. In fact, I didn't worry about anything for the trip. The night before we left, I packed our bags, put them aside and went to bed. My best friend who came with us as company for me while mom visited with her friend was so surprised I had not even programmed the GPS unit with my mom's friend's address! In fact, she commented on her surprise.
Guess what? I have learned to travel a little differently these days. Not everything in life has to be "planned out", "set in stone", and "itinerated". In fact, the more leisurely the planning, the more I enjoy the time away! I have learned to be very spontaneous and I rather enjoy allowing God to unfold the plans rather than me having to always plan things far in advance. Now, a little vacation jaunt is not the totality of "life", but it is an example of what I am trying to get us to realize - not all of life has to be planned out to the infinite degree! God can unfold things "on the fly" - we just have to be close enough to him to hear him when he reveals it!
Worry just gets us muddled - mentally, physically, and even spiritually. So, why worry? In fact, we are commanded to act entirely contrary to worry - we are directed to trust. Trust comes by spending time with the one we enter into a trust relationship with - without this time spent, we find it difficult to develop any depth of trust. You see, when we lay down the stuff we cannot control, God takes up control. When we draw near to his heart, we begin to hear his heartbeat. When we begin to listen to the beat of his heart, the sound of our mind's chaos begins to settle. When our minds finally settle, our actions are free to be directed by his loving hand. Just sayin!