A Problem-free Philosophy?

Do you know this little ditty: “Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase. Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata!” Doesn’t that sound great? All we need is to adopt a problem-free philosophy, Hakuna Matata! Don’t you feel better already?

The reality is that for some of you reading this, Hakuna Matata won’t help much at all, as you are presently suffering from excessive worry and crippling anxiety.

Google’s online dictionary defines worry as: “feel or cause to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems.” The same dictionary says anxiety is the “feeling of nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.”

Just like when we experience physical pain which tells us when something is wrong with our bodies and is actually quite a good thing (despite what we might feel at the time) it seems to me that to experience worry might be a normal reaction to threatening, dangerous, and uncertain but important situations.

But there is whole other level of worry and anxiety which can cripple someone from doing anything at all. Stop someone from forming any meaningful thoughts and ultimately lead to depression and feelings of hopelessness. This kind of worry generates ideas that are focused on fear and danger. For some, anxiety is excessive and chronic. It interferes with their ability to function in normal daily activities.

At this point, let me make the case that there is a distinction between ‘worry’ and ‘concern’.

As an example, when my wife and I first let Niamh, our daughter, walk to school on her own, we were concerned about her safety on the way. The probability of anything bad actually happening to her was very low. But what concern did was help us recognise potential problems or issues, and we did what we could to deal with them. Before we began to let Niamh toddle off on her own ahead of us, we’d made sure, through our concern for her, that she knew how to cross the roads safely and that she could identify anyone that seemed to be acting oddly and so keep her distance. If myself and Kathi hadn’t been concerned about Niamh’s safety, then we wouldn’t be responsible parents.

However, a concern can very quickly turn to worry and worry can attach itself to excessive anxiety. We might have found that, almost without realising it, we’re suddenly terrified for Niamh’s safety, and we become consumed with fear about what might happen. This kind of high-level worry and anxiety might cause us to keep walking with Niamh to school until she graduates, or even stop her from going to school at all! It’s an extreme example, but one that may be in the realms of how some people think.

We often worry because the future is uncertain and because we’re not in control, we can’t effectively control the future. We can’t effectively control the future because we can’t control others and their actions. This lack of control can cause us to worry.

The truth is there are always going to be things to worry about, so what can we do to help ourselves?

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus talks to us about worry: 25 “This is why I tell you to never be worried about your life, for all that you need will be provided, such as food, water, clothing – everything your body needs. Isn’t there more to your life than a meal? Isn’t your body more than clothing? 26 “Look at all the birds – do you think they worry about their existence? They don’t plant or reap or store up food, yet your heavenly Father provides them each with food. Aren’t you much more valuable to your Father than they? 27 So, which one of you by worrying could add anything to your life?”

In other translations, the words of Jesus are written this way: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” And the answer is: No one!

There’s a saying you might know that goes like this: “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Not only does worry not help us, it often has the opposite effect.

Worried about losing your hair? Consistently worrying about it might accelerate the process!

Worried about losing your job? Worry will probably lower your performance which might lead to losing your job.

Worried about getting sick? Worry and anxiety have been shown in some experiments that they could actually suppress your immune system, and this will make it even more likely you’ll get sick.

If you’re tempted to worry, remember that it accomplishes very little, and Jesus Himself says it adds nothing at all to our lives. Often we’re worried and anxious because we’re focused on the wrong things. It’s not that those other things aren’t important, the issue arises when those other things become all-encompassing.

We can have our priorities so out of line that we get confused and worried about which line is the one we’re supposed to be crossing.

We worry about what we eat but don’t care enough about what we are doing with the life that the food makes possible.

We worry about what we wear but aren’t concerned enough about what we are doing with the bodies we put those clothes on.

We worry about living as long as possible, but we don’t give enough attention to what we are doing with our life.

If you’re a follower of Christ, your top priority should be the one that Jesus tells us to seek: His Kingdom and His righteousness. When our most significant concerns are about God’s stuff, then all the other stuff is kept in the right perspective, we need not be anxious.

Here is a key phrase you might want to put in your back pocket: Don’t worry about yesterday’s mess or tomorrow’s stress, just live in the awareness of today and remember to pray. Any time we find ourselves beginning to worry that should be our invitation and reminder to pray. Take it to God and leave it with God. And what is the result? “God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding…”

Let me leave you with a final verse: 1 Peter 5:7, “Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for He always tenderly cares for you.” or put another way, “Load upon Him your every anxiety, for He is always watching over you…”

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