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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

By the Revd Canon Deborah Parsons

When I was speaking to a friend recently about a difficult dilemma, she turned to me and said: “Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles; it takes away today’s peace.” Wise words indeed.

Some of us will remember the Bobby McFerrin song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. The lyrics went:

“Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double.
Don’t worry be happy.”

Its catchy tune is an antidote to anxiety but if we’re honest, it’s difficult to remain happy all the time. They’re easy words to sing; hard to put into practice.

I recently heard of an employer who hired someone to do their worrying for them. “I’ll pay you a £100,000 a year to take care of all my worries.”

“How on earth can you afford to pay me that?” said the employee.

“That’s your first worry!”

If we’re honest, which of us hasn’t allowed worry to rob us of sleep? We all worry.

I’m very conscious that at this time of year, many young people are preparing for or sitting public examinations or nervously awaiting the outcome. But it’s not just young people who worry.

We worry about paying our food or fuel bills, our spiraling rent or mortgage. We worry about the shortage of NHS dentists or a forthcoming test result or operation. We worry about the effects of climate change. We worry about our family and our friends. And we worry about everyday things like what to have for supper or what to wear to a special occasion.

Yesterday, I was speaking to a guest at a Memorial Service, who confided in me that although she’d chosen her outfit with great care, she wasn’t sure she’d pitched it quite right. Actually, she looked fabulous.  

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his disciples to focus on God, not mammon. To live day to day, in simple trust, as they seek the kingdom of God: “Don’t worry about your life. What you’ll eat or drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Television’s full of programs which focus on surface things. What to eat or drink, wear or buy. Can the cares of today really be erased by Botox and beauty treatments, or eased by fine dining, shopping or a new lick of paint?

If God provides for the birds and adorns the passing flowers with such beauty how much more will God care for you.

To the disciples who’ve left livelihoods and families to follow Jesus, the novelty of being on the road, has lost its gloss. They’re tired of living hand to mouth, so Jesus calls them back to the beginning. To the utter life-giving generosity of God. He’s not offering cotton wool comfort but a costly challenge. An invitation to embrace a radical new way of life. A new way of seeing. A new way of being. A bigger picture. A grander narrative. God’s love for all of creation.

When our world becomes too small it’s natural to worry about the little things. Jesus invites us to see things differently and to put our hope and trust in him.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)

Why worry?