"Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?" (Matthew 6:27)
The readings today bring us great comfort. “Why worry?” the Lord asks. It doesn’t accomplish anything, it doesn’t solve any problem, and it doesn’t add a moment to our life. So why do we engage in this meaningless exercise so often? I preface all of this by confessing that I am a constant “worrier.” I’ve spent most of my week worrying about things that were broken in our church that were all eventually fixed by yesterday afternoon. Worrying did not fix them. Trusting in God and being proactive did. I often think of worry as an exercise in vanity and pride because we think we can control something when really there are so many things that are out of our control. For example, every summer whenever a gust of wind and some clouds emerge off the coast of Africa, our television stations here in South Florida go to Defcon 1 and start predicting “the most dangerous hurricane ever that will obliterate Miami” (cough*Channel 7*cough). They play ominous sounding music and put together apocalyptic graphics all to accomplish one thing: to get us to worry about a gust of wind 3000 miles away that may or may not come our way and keep us tuning in. And you know what? It works! We all know that at 11:00 and 5:00 the infamous cones come out to get us worrying about said storm.
So what do we do? Here I like to make a grammatical distinction that works better in Spanish than in English. When faced with any storm in our life, whether literal or figurative, we can “pre-occupy” (worry) ourselves with it or “occupy” ourselves with doing the things that are within our control. (Again this works better in Spanish where the translation for “worry” is preocupar or pre-occupy our minds needlessly instead of occupying our minds constructively.) So if we return to the example of a hurricane, worrying about it will not prevent it from coming our way, but we can prepare ourselves for the possibility of its arrival by stocking up, boarding up, and basically placing everything in God’s hands. What else can we do? Worrying just increases our stress levels and anxieties (and makes us bad company at a hurricane party).
Jesus tells us that the birds in the air and the flowers in the fields don’t do anything for their well-being, yet our Heavenly Father takes care of them. How much more will he take care of us? What comforts us about today’s readings is the assurance that God will never abandon us. Isaiah tells us today that even if our mother should forget us, the Lord, our God will never forget us. Lately there are a lot of memes that appear on social media that begin with the words “Keep Calm.” That is what Jesus tells us today. Keep calm. He is in control. Whatever we are worrying about should be placed at his feet so that he can take care of it. We accomplish nothing when we worry, but can accomplish everything when we place those worries in the hands of our God.