Don't Worry, Be Happy
Luke 12:22-34 - It’s not that we need to put our immediate thoughts of worry to a halt, but instead shift the focus of our heart. It is not about training your mind to live without worry, but changing the direction on which we set our sights.
We often hear the phrase “don’t worry, be happy” (or is it just me remembering that from Michelle Tanner in Full House?). Every time I hear this phrase though, I never quite understand how to adopt this mantra into my life. Thinking about it, it feels vague and unhelpful to hear in a time of distress. How is it that I am expected to let go of the very things that are causing me turmoil with the snap of my fingers? We all know that that is nearly impossible. But Jesus, on the other hand, has an answer designed for each of our hearts to hear, expanding on that very phrase itself.
“How much more important are you than birds!”
In Luke 12:22-34, Jesus is speaking to large crowds and preaching to them particularly about worry. A universal message for everyone, He essentially explains that in His care not one thing should be causing us to fret. Yet He doesn’t stop there. He continues on, giving us the very remedy for our worry. He begins by reminding us of the ravens and explaining how “they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them.” His point is this: if God so watchfully provides for the animals of this earth, then He certainly watchfully provides for us too. God so intricately created this earth from the smallest of insects to His pinnacle of creation: you. If He takes care of the birds of the sky and the grass of the earth, then why do we not trust that He will also take care of us?
In this passage, Jesus spoke about the worry of His followers as it pertained to food and drink. Being a different time, this was a valid concern for many. Yet He still told them to rest those worries, reminding them that their Father knows what they need. While this may not be the very thing that is causing your worries today, His same message applies. The Lord knows what you need. He knows your heart better than you do. He sees the turmoil you are going through and He wants you to know that He’s got you. He says, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Have assurance in God’s will, for He loves and cares for you more than you could ever imagine. Sometimes it may not always look as you envisioned, but because He knows you so intimately He always provides something more fruitful and beautiful than you can imagine.
A Change of Heart
Though Jesus makes it clear that we should not worry, it still seems to be easier said than done. No matter how hard we may try, we find ourselves tangled up in circumstances surrounding us, the material needs we have, the desires in our hearts, etc. Knowing this, Jesus gets to the root of the issue next: our hearts.
What are the things that you find yourself worrying about? It could maybe be the health of a loved one, your ability to pay the bills, a career decision, or even how you will get everything on your checklist completed. The options are limitless and worries seem to change daily. Yet these things are exactly what cause the restlessness. Jesus preaches that when we set our hearts on things of this earth, we are bound to worry. Therefore, the root of our problem is that our hearts are set on the wrong thing. Instead, Jesus says to “seek His kingdom.”
So maybe it is not what we thought: It’s not that we need to put our immediate thoughts of worry to a halt, but instead shift the focus of our heart. It is not about training your mind to live without worry, but changing the direction on which we set our sights. When we set our sights on God, we gain a new perspective. We get our priorities straight, and everything else we worried about before becomes secondary. It’s when we put our sole attention on our needs alone that we experience fear and miss out on the joy that He has put in our lives. We forget that all of our worries should be eliminated by the mere fact that we have been redeemed. God has already met the biggest need we have.
It is this focus that brings about the peace we so ardently desire. When looking to the lives of the saints, you quickly realize that their lives were not easy. They were not spared from suffering any more than we. They actually seem to have had even more. But this suffering was secondary to the treasure they found in their hearts for God. St. Rita, for example, lost both her husband and children during her life. Her husband was brutally murdered by a feud in her very own family and her two twins died from the plague. Yet, somehow, St. Rita’s trust in God and her devout love for Him led her to be a saint. Look also at St. Maximillian Kolbe. Never abandoning his priesthood, he was imprisoned at Auschwitz and heroically martyred so that another man with a family may live. Neither of their circumstances were easy, so how did they overcome their worry?
The answer to overcoming worry is not an easy one to hear. It requires action on our part. Concluding this passage, Jesus urges His followers to sell their belongings and give alms – to give away the very things that have caused their hearts to turn their heads away from what matters most. Essentially, He asks that we give away everything that we fear losing. Why? Because it allows us to truly focus on the things that we know are free of worry – the very things that can’t be taken away. It allows us to shift to thankfulness, greater faith, and fervent trust. God wants to give us His kingdom, but many times we are not focused on it enough to see His generosity.
Recall Jesus’ agony in the garden prior to His Crucifixion: a moment where we see Christ depicted as worried as He begins to sweat blood. Here we are given a perfect example for which we are to follow. Though the dread of what was coming was great, His surrender was greater. Jesus accepted His cross, thus bringing about the Resurrection and our salvation. This is a lesson for all of us to take with us, learn from, and imitate. Surrender brings about the good we’ve been so longing for. It eliminates the worry that paralyzes us and gives us the freedom to live in peace. This is how we begin to trust that God has promised us His kingdom.
Next time you find yourself worrying, remind yourself of the very One for whom you were made. Because as Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”