I want to put two of my favorite people together in conversation about a topic that dogs us all: Worry. The two people? Jesus and Dr. Seuss. Jesus … because, well, he’s Jesus. And Dr. Seuss because in addition to the fact I love him, this week marks what would be his 111th birthday. While most of us think of him as a children’s writer who created great stories with funny rhymes, Dr. Seuss was also a Dartmouth and Oxford educated writer who won two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody, and the Pulitzer Prize. So listen up: here are three lessons on worry from some heavy hitters.
Lesson #1 just focus on today. In the book of Matthew, Jesus says “So do not worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Amen. Life is hard. It is true, we face a lot of obstacles. In fact, as Dr. Seuss explained, “Step with care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balance act.”
That said, sometimes we make it worse on ourselves. Sometimes we just make up extra stuff to worry about: like what might happen tomorrow, or what could happen day after tomorrow. Dr. Seuss put it in terms of writing: “The writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
When we focus only on today, we can stand little straighter and look our troubles in the eye. Like Dr. Seuss explained: “I’ve heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind. But I’ve brought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see; now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
Lesson #2: Worry is a waste of time. Jesus also asks this heady question: “can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Can we? No.
So … why are we worrying? What do we expect to get? We can’t worry a project into success. In fact, worrying probably sets us up to fail. Worry scatters our attention, saps our strength, and prevents us from operating at our best. As Dr. Seuss explained: “You miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”
We can’t worry a mistake away. Harsh words or actions, we can’t take them back. And worrying about it simply takes the focus away from what we should be doing – working to move forward and making things right.
We can’t worry a loved one back to health. In fact, worrying does nothing but ruins our precious time with them. Dr. Seuss explained it this way: Sometimes you’ll never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.”
Nothing productive comes from worrying. Interestingly, the word worry comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning to strangle or to choke. We all know what that’s like — that feeling of tightness that comes over us in the middle of the night when we are worrying about something that might happen the next day. Worry can get a strangle hold on us and cut off our emotional and spiritual air.
The irony is that if we stop worrying, we might be able to take some steps forward on the things we are worried about! Dr. Seuss adds this: “When things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”
Lesson #3 we have no reason to worry for we are loved and worthy and exactly as God has designed us. Dr. Seuss explains it this way: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
Jesus also offers this lesson through his famous scripture about the lilies of the field. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
Lilies are some of the most exquisite, stunning things in creation. Yet, on our best day, on our most creative day, we couldn’t make one. Oh we’ve tried – Michael’s craft store has silk and plastic versions, Monet tried to paint them, and the jeweler Harry Winston even created a lily necklace with seventeen carats of diamonds. Not-even-close.
Bottom line – humans and lilies are not that different. We are both creatures molded from God’s hands. We are both exquisite and perfect just as we are. Most importantly, we are both loved and we are both worthy. The main difference is that the lilies know it and we don’t.
Try imagining this: dawn is beginning to break, the skies are lightening, the birds are beginning to chirp, and the little lily raises its beautiful face to the morning sun and says, “I feel fat.” Or “I hate what I’m wearing,” or “this color washes me out,” or “my IRA is not producing as I expected.”
No. A lily is not going to say that. But we will; we will because we just can’t trust the gift we’ve been given – like somehow, God didn’t think through every aspect of how we were made or plan every hair on our head.
Unlike human beings, lilies know they are loved and worthy and beautiful exactly as they are made. There’s no worry that they should be something they are not. There are no worries about where they fall short. Every moment of their lives is spent living their gift—living simply as God designed them to be. Or as Dr. Seuss said, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out!”
This week, when we start worrying about something, and we will, ‘cause that’s what we do, I want us to remember three things – three simple things:
1-just focus on today,
2-worry is a waste of our time and energy, and
3-there is no reason to worry. We are beautiful, beloved children of God. We must have the trust and have the faith that we will be cared for at least as much as the beautiful lilies of the field.
Will these lessons make our worries disappear? No. But they will cut them down to size and that is our goal. That is a goal we can indeed achieve, “98 and ¾ percent guaranteed! You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”