Choosing Joy and Releasing Worry
Matthew 6:25-34 NRSV
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
There is a story of a farmer who is planning his garden so that he can have the best harvest ever. He plants the seeds, makes sure that there is enough fertilizer and nutrients and is careful about providing the right amount of water. And then he waits. And he worries. He doesn’t see anything happening — no sprouts, no baby leaves emerging from the ground. Now he is getting really concerned. He begins to pace up and down by the rows of earth, mounded up with nothing showing and nothing growing. He talks to the dirt. He coaxes the seeds to grow. He plays music for the hidden seeds. He does a “harvest dance.” Still nothing. Exhausted, he lies down by his empty garden and falls asleep. When he awakes, he is thrilled to find row after row of baby plants, pushing their way through the soil and reaching up toward the sun. He jumps up and says, “There! All of that worrying really did the trick!”
We laugh and yet we do so only because we can relate.
I must admit that I spend far too much time worrying. I worry about things that might happen. I worry about things that have happened in the past that I can do nothing about. I even worry about my worrying.
I know that a lot of us unconsciously think that if we somehow "worry enough," we can prevent bad things from occurring. However, the truth about worrying is just the opposite. Worrying can affect the body in ways that may surprise you. In fact, in addition to the mental anguish and anxiety worrying can cause, it can even cause physical illness.
WebMD shares the following information about what happens when you worry too much. “Chronic worrying can affect your daily life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. Many people who worry excessively are so anxiety-ridden that they seek relief in harmful lifestyle habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs.”
This article about worrying goes on to share that:
“Chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems. The problem occurs when fight or flight is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. The fight or flight response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel. The hormones also cause physical reactions such as:
· Difficulty swallowing
· Dry mouth
· Fast heartbeat
· Inability to concentrate
· Muscle aches
· Muscle tension
· Nervous energy
· Rapid breathing
· Shortness of breath
· Trembling and twitching
When the excessive fuel in the blood isn’t used for physical activities, the chronic anxiety and outpouring of stress hormones can have serious physical consequences, including:
· Suppression of the immune system
· Digestive disorders
· Muscle tension
· Short-term memory loss
· Premature coronary artery disease
· Heart attack
If excessive worrying and high anxiety go untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.”
As we close 2020, it is evident that the last year has given us a great deal to worry about. And although we joke about wanting 2021 to get here in a hurry, I need to let you in on a secret. When the clock strikes midnight, the Big Apple drops to the ground on Times Square, and 2020 is finally history, the problems of this world will not disappear even if I will need to write 21 on my checks.
The pandemic will still be occurring, the political divide will remain, racism will still be a plague on our society, and all the other problems of our world as well as our own personal lives will be there. We will still be living in a world of disease and dis-ease. I guess what I am saying is that there will still be plenty to worry about in 2021.
Of course, worry is nothing new to our world. In fact, it was so prevalent even in Biblical Times that Jesus thought it was important to include his thoughts about it in the Sermon on the Mount.
In that sermon Jesus tells the crowds not to worry. He reminds them that God knows what they need and cares for them as his children. Instead we are to live each day for the glory of God and in gratitude for this life we have been given.
Now I do not think that Jesus is encouraging us to be derelict in our responsibilities or not to have a savings account or do those preventative thing we need to plan to do take care of our health. Jesus isn’t opposed to a long-range plan or future goals. However, if I understand the text, I believe Jesus is saying is not to let our worries about the past or regarding tomorrow take away the gifts of today. Because if we let worry take over our thoughts, we lose the joy that is available us.
Simply put, our worry over things we can not control will take away from the strength needed to face today. And when we get stuck in this rut of worry, we lose our joy and quickly become ineffective in performing the work God has planned for each of us as disciples of Jesus Christ.
As Dr. Leo F. Buscaglia stated in so many of his books and lectures, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
Friends, Jesus gives us a plan for overcoming worry. He reminds us to “seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.”
So, as we move through the end of 2020 and into 2021, may we each seek to discern what God would have us do and be, both individually and as a community. May we spend time each day prayerfully considering the ways we might indeed bring about glimpses of God’s kingdom and that promised day here on earth, even as it is in heaven. And may we walk each day with love guiding our heart and joy as the song we share.
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Alleluia, Amen.
If you aren’t sure you can find any joy just click the link below and listen. I doubt any of you are old enough to remember the late folk singer Bob Gibson and his banjo and 12-string guitar, but I am sure you remember this melody which I am certain will bring a smile.
As we approach the new year, I would like to begin adding prayer concerns to the weekly musing. Please email me concerns that I might share with the congregation. I will include them for 3 weeks on the list but of course can continue to list them if you let me know. Thanks.
Dawn S. –Clay’s colleague who is having a 4th procedure to stop a spinal fluid leak in the coming days.
The City of Nashville as it recovers from the recent bombing.
All those battling the pandemic.
Our friend Harold Wilson in assisted living.
Les Conley — Mentor to Clay and friend of Richard and Ray who is battling cancer.
Letitia Cline — Clay/girls’ former principal and family friend who lost her father to COVID this week.
For the many who are grieving the loss of loved ones during this holiday season.