Monday, February 10, 2020

The Desperate, Universal Search for Worry-Free Living

Can you believe it’s been more than 30 years since many of us found ourselves singing the catchy words, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? It was 1988 when that lilting, uplifting tune by Bobby McFerrin perched atop the Billboard Hot 100 list for two weeks. 

"Hakuna Matata, anyone?"
Then, six years later, we were singing “Hakuna Matata,” the memorable little song from the original animated Disney film, “The Lion King.” Remember? “It means no worries, for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy, Hakuna Matata!”

Perhaps just mentioning these simple, infectious musical ditties has caused them to again dance around your mind. To this day, when I offer an apology for an oversight – like running a bit late for an appointment or failing to send a promised email – I’ll hear the other person respond, “No worries.”

Ah, if it were only that simple: Don’t worry, be happy! No worries – Hakuna Matata! Because when worries set it, we want to shout, “That’s easy for you to say!” We do worry, don’t we? A lot. 

We worry that it might rain; we worry that it won’t. We worry about not having enough money; if we have enough money, we worry we’ll lose it. We worry about getting sick, losing our jobs, the car breaking down, or growing old. We worry about what people think of us; we worry if people don’t think about us. We even worry if we don’t have anything to worry about, certain something will emerge to worry about. We just don’t know what it is. And that worries us.

This is a universal human problem, and hardly a new one. Jesus Christ devoted considerable time talking about the futility of worry in His “sermon on the mount”: 
“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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes?... Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25-34).

Another time, Jesus was explaining how worry can prevent responding positively to the Gospel’s life-changing message. In His “parable of the sower,” He described one such category of folks: “The one that received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). 

Can you imagine settling down somewhere, surrounded by thorns? This was the metaphor Jesus used. Whenever we allow worries to overwhelm us – and I admit, I’ve been guilty of this at times – we’re treading into thorny territory.

Recently I read about something called a “friendship bench.” It was introduced in Zimbabwe, a war-torn, economically depressed African nation where despair has been rampant. The idea was for people beset by hopelessness to visit a friendship bench where trained elderly women would listen to them. 

The concept spawned the Friendship Bench Project, dedicated to establishing places where troubled individuals can engage in “a warm conversation with someone who cares.” They can now be found in London, England, New York City, and other parts of the world.

It's definitely sounds like a good way to at least provide encouragement for people who find themselves at wit’s end in dealing with their life’s circumstances. But did you know God already has a “friendship bench” for us? In Hebrews 4:16 we’re admonished, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Through prayer, God waits eagerly to hear from us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about our lives. We oversee our children so they don’t run out into busy streets. We create budgets for handling our finances wisely. We make sure our vehicles are properly maintained. But as Jesus said, needless worry can choke all the joy and peace out of our lives.

So the next time worry starts consuming our thinking, let’s boldly approach the Lord’s throne of grace, His “friendship bench”: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

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