self help Archives | Chaplain | JM Faith at Work

Don’t Worry — Be Happy

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Jesus said, “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?” Matthew 6:25-27

I had a hard time falling asleep the other night. My Fitbit, which tracks my sleep, confirmed that the quality and duration of my sleep was far less than it should have been. I drug my butt around the whole next day and didn’t accomplish much.

What was keeping me awake? My truck’s brakes had been feeling squishy and so I took it in to the dealer before I rear-ended somebody. I didn’t get much comfort from the slogan of the brake technician in the second-rate garage in a recent AT&T commercial, “If the brakes don’t stop it, something will.” I was expecting a call from the mechanic in the morning. In the meantime, I tossed and turned worrying about how much the repair would cost me.

As it turned out, it was pretty much a worst-case scenario. I needed a new master cylinder. Ouch! $688.53 later I’m confident that my brakes will stop me before I hit the driver in front of me. (Please don’t tell me if you think I got ripped off.) Here’s my point. That master cylinder replacement would have cost me $688.53 whether or not I tossed and turned all night. As Bobby McFerrin sang, “In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry. Be happy.” $688.53 is a lot of money to have to shell out; but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Bobby McFerrin got a lot of grief for his song. It’s naïve and simplistic some people said. And in some ways, it is. There are times in life when worry is inevitable and warranted. Some really bad things happen. Much of the time, however, our worry is unnecessary. We are always better off if we can at least manage our worry, because unrestrained worry robs us of the ability to deal fully with the problems we face.

I take the words of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” seriously because Jesus said the same thing. Jesus fortified this teaching with the promise that God will care for us and provides for us no matter how bad things get. Even when we face death, he offers us eternal life. Faith provided him with that assurance, an assurance that he shared with us. Faith is a great cure for fretful insomnia in the face of the greatest challenges of life.

When our faith is shaky, there is one little technique for short-circuiting worry that helps sometimes (even though I failed to use it during my recent brake incident). In my experience, worry, particularly in the middle of the night, takes the form of a recording playing over and over in my head. When you hear that recording start to repeat, press your mental PAUSE button. If it starts up again, hit the PAUSE again. You can choose to shut it down. The more you practice; the more effective you will get. The more effect you get, the less sleep you will lose.

That’s the first step; choose not to worry. Then, be happy. How do you do that? You may find your own path to happy, but the next time I can’t sleep for worry, I think I’ll hum Bobby McFerrin’s song. “Doo doo doo doo doo doo. Don’t worry. Be happy.” With that little ditty in my head I will either go to sleep or go nuts. Don’t worry. Be happy. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I pray that your worries are little ones and that God sees you through the big ones.