Worry-Warts Anonymous

Sermon preacched the Eighth Sunday after Epiphany + February 27, 2011

Some people can be very nervous, almost neurotic by nature and live lives of perpetual worry. Their constant worrying may be about large concerns, or be about far lesser matters. The casual term for these folks is worry-wart, someone who obsesses over fears that are for the most part, seen by others as irrational, or out of proportion to the realities of a given situation.

A worry-wart parent spends an excessive amount of time worrying about their children. Almost any situation can be perceived as life-threatening to their child or children. Germs, strangers, and barking dogs are some of the things that might put this person on edge. They play out ‘what if’ and ‘worst case’ scenarios over and over in their head.

In a business environment, a worry-wart may spend most of his or her time stressed about getting laid off or fired. While the actual chances of this person actually becoming unemployed may be remote, a neurotic employee may continuously seek advice from co-workers on how to handle his or her inevitable dismissal. Others may worry excessively about job performance or minor disagreements with their supervisor.

For anyone that watches television news, or reads a newspaper, the usual news of the day, no matter how dramatic might be too much for a worry-wart. The instability of governments like Egypt and Libya, daily stock market ups and downs, extreme weather, or catastrophic events like the earthquake in New Zealand, may keep the worry-wart up at night worrying that the unrest, uncertainty and suffering of these events are surely headed their way.

We all worry, and a healthy level of worry is part of our basic survival instinct. But worrying can get out of control. Its impact can sneak up on us and overwhelm. So what do you worry about? Job security, rising fuel and food prices, the next big snow storm..? But Jesus says not to worry three times in the Gospel reading from Matthew today… He might as well have told us not to eat, sleep, or breathe!

Why is it that we worry so darn much? Why is it that we have to be in control all the time? Why is it that worrying is woven deeply into the fabric of our lives? I think it is because the sense of control that comes from worrying, trying to solve all those problems, and playing out how to address all those scenarios in our heads is a feeling so intense, so powerful, so all consuming, that it can be as addictive as any drug. It is a false high that many chase by worrying, particularly when there is little else that can be controlled of in their lives.

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The song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin was released in September 1988, and became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. At the 1989 Grammy Awards it won three awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. It had a catchy tune, was associated with the popular Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail” and more importantly, told worry-warts and carefree people alike, what they wanted to hear… don’t worry, be happy!  

 Here’s a little song I wrote, you might wanna learn it note for note,

          Don’t worry, be happy…

I every life we have some trouble, but when you worry, you make it double.

          Don’t worry, be happy…

So when you worry, your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down.

          Don’t worry, be happy!

Far easier said than done Mister Bobby McFerrin!

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Worrying is unproductive because it doesn’t change anything. You can’t solve the worlds or your own problems by worrying. You can’t lengthen your life by worrying, if anything it will shorten it according to medical research. Worrying has no return on investment, and it is said that there are two things you should never worry about:

1.) the things you can’t change, and

2.) the things you can change.

We fill our days with little worries, often keeping us from the big things, the hard realities of our lives that we need to face. We fill our days with little worries to avoid the big ones…. The broken relationship, the person we haven’t forgiven, the things God asks us to do. And we selfishly believe that somehow if we worry about it, we are in control, or a better parent, friend, spouse, employee, or team player.

We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the three twelve-step programs that meet weekly in this place each week. Did you know that there are as many (and often more) who gather for three different anonymous meetings where spiritual and relational lives are supported, than there are people who gather for two different worship services where spiritual and relational lives are supported? These neighbors we often don’t see also find sanctuary here at Faith.

These neighbors know that a primary approach for living with addiction is the biblical concept of one step, one day at a time. Jesus says: “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Jesus says three times not to worry, but in all things, take one step at a time, live one day at a time. What a great lesson and model we have from our family, friends, and neighbors in recovery, to listen and live as Christ reminds us to do!

The one day at a time approach is biblical. We get so panicked worrying about ourselves, that we forget the preaching of Christ. Jesus reminds us that unbelievers worry about tomorrow, about their wealth and material possessions, while the faithful worry less, trusting that God will provide.

Those living with addictions know that worrying won’t make the problems caused by alcohol, food, or narcotics go away. People are powerless over ones addiction, thankfully God is not. In gathering in community, sharing the walk together and sponsors to guide, those living with addictions know that one cannot control oneself without God’s help… today, or tomorrow.

Belief and faith in the Word of God is nothing to worry about. Jesus says let it go, trust in God to provide for tomorrow. But we often fool ourselves when we worry because it feels like an appropriate response to the situation we are in. It feels right, but it is as dangerous as any addiction.

Worry is false belief and it distances us from God. When we worry we fail to put our faith in God, we put it in the god of worrying. When we worry, we fail to trust or see God at work in our lives. We live as though God cannot help us, and that some how our worrying, our thoughts and actions can save us, or our loved ones.

Jesus says to not worry about tomorrow, for it will have its own worries. Live and serve God today, let go and let God provide, for tomorrow will sort itself out tomorrow.

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This text is a summons to trust God with our undivided attention and heart. When we are distracted by worry, we miss the simple and complex beauty of creation, the joys in life and we are unable to participate fully in creation.

  • We miss out on the gifts God has given us. 
  • We miss opportunities to experience grace, and to be grace for others. 
  • We miss the kind actions of loved ones and strangers. 
  • And we miss opportunities to act in love toward neighbors known and unknown.

Worrying shuts us down to the presence and action of God in our lives. Worrying distances us from the very people and places we worrying about. Worrying becomes the God you think you can control. Worrying is sin, is selfish, is isolating.

So my worrying friends let us take to heart Jesus’ divine wisdom this day…

Here’s a little song He wrote, you might wanna learn it note for note, don’t worry, be:

  • as free as the birds of the air…
  • as beautiful as the lilies of the field…
  • an active part of God’s kingdom today and forevermore…

   Be the you God created you to be, a beloved Child of God, so:

  • let go and let God…
  • let go and worship God…
  • let go and live as God invites you to live…trusting more,  sharing more, proclaiming more.
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