“DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY!”
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
We are a society that loves acronyms. You’ll know some of these: YUPPIES = Young Urban Professionals; DINKS = Double Income-No Kids; GNP = Gross National Product; CPI = Consumer Price Index. A number of years ago, I read an article in a prominent financial newsletter entitled: “How’s Your DI Today?” That is, your Discomfort Index? You calculate your DI by adding the gain in the CPI to the current JR (Jobless Rate). The total of these two indexes indicate how worried people are regarding prices, jobs, and other economic factors. Interestingly, the DI index grew steadily from 12% in 1970 to 20% in 1999, despite a growing economy. No doubt, the DI today even eclipses the 2008 financial crises, although I couldn’t find a report on the internet.
So, how’s your DI today? How’s your WI today – your “Worry Index”? Worry is universal; most everyone worries. Some are worried about world problems, others about personal problems. Today, a great percentage of the population is worried about the contagious nature of covid-19 and their health, while others worry about the financial losses their business and livelihood have taken. Admittedly, the stresses of this pandemic are staggering! Competition, usual financial burdens, family demands, even terrorist threats, seem to pale in the face of this virus. It is no surprise, then, that the popularity of the song released in 1988 by Bobby McFerrin (and recorded by other artists in following years), “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, tapped one of the deepest yearnings of the human heart – to be free of anxiety.
But, is it as simple as the song would seem to be saying? Yes and No. Author and counselor, Wayne Dyer, divides worriers into two groups. The Amateur Worriers are concerned about relatively small, personal problems like catching cold, balancing accounts, and finishing a “to do list’. Many of these worries lead to useful actions like, today, washing hands regularly and practicing social distancing. Professional Worriers, on the other hand, are anxious about nearly every conceivable activity. “My heart could go at any minute!” “I can’t fly, with all those plane crashes!” “I can’t go out, I could be mugged!” Today, their anxiety may deprive them of a healthy walk outside…six feet from others, of course. Probably the distinctions between worriers are not so clear, as most of us would land somewhere on a continuum between the two groups.
What did Jesus say about these feelings of uneasiness, apprehension, dread – about that continual knot in your stomach? In the “Parable of the Sower” in Luke 8, Jesus warns us that there are three things that “choke off” our response to God and our spiritual growth: the pleasures of life, riches and materialism, and the cares and anxieties of life. Perhaps some good questions to ask ourselves would be: “Am I immobilized by my anxious thoughts? Are they my constant companions? Are they “choking off” what God desires to do in my life? Do they reflect a basic lack of trust in God’s good plans for me?” Good questions to ask even during this time of social isolation and unnerving media reports.
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus again gives the definitive lesson on why our lives should not be constantly controlled by the cares and anxieties of life. Take some time to read (again) these verses, as well as those in Luke 8. Here in Matthew, He gives us at least three reasons not to worry.
One – Because of Who You Are. As believers we are far more valuable to God than animals and plants. If He sees to their needs, how much more will He care for ours. Read also 1 Peter 5:7.
Two – Because Worry is Useless. Long before surveys, experiments and polls, Jesus knew that 92% of what we worry about will not change a thing! According to the surveys, of that 92%, a full 70% are things that never happen or are past events. Now, those percentages may have changed during this health crises. However, not only is worry useless, it is dangerous, as well. Medical research has linked excessive worry to all kinds of physical maladies beyond ulcers.
Three – Because of Your Testimony. Verses 31 and 32 should stop us up short. If our lives are characterized by continual, excessive anxiety and apprehension, we are no different than unbelievers. We say to all that circumstances have mastered us; we call into question God’s sovereign love and power.
The great reformer, Martin Luther, was said to have been in a black depression for three days over something gone wrong. On the third day, his wife came down stairs all dressed in black, in mourning clothes. Luther asked, “Who died?” “God”, she said. He rebuked her, “God cannot die!” Her reply went right to the heart of the matter: “Well, by the way you were acting, I was sure He had!” God cares deeply for you and I, and challenges us to not waste unnecessary energy on worry. Rather, dump your load of anxieties, place your trust fully in Him, and focus your energies on (v.33) seeking His kingdom and righteousness. Prayer, extended devotional times, reaching out to neighbors, the elderly, and friends come to mind. Your WI should decrease and you might get “happy”, even during this local, national, and global time of extended stress.