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What a Lot of Worry!

Worrying does not achieve anything

by Helen Lycitt (revised, originally published in 2005)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To focus on the causes of and solutions to worry.

Preparation and materials

  • Familiarize yourself with the Bible story in the passage Luke 10.38-42, which is about Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha. You can either use the version of the story given in the ‘Assembly’, Step 7, or retell the story in your own words.
  • You may wish to display some of the information in the 'Assembly', Step 7, on a screen (optional).
  • Have available the song 'Don’t worry, be happy!' by Bobby McFerrin and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. Have any of you ever felt worried or stressed?

    At some point, all of us feel both of these emotions. Worry and stress affect people in different ways. Some people may become angry and aggressive; some may find it hard to sleep; others may eat more or less than they need or eat unhealthy foods; some people may spend a long time on computer games or even simply become quiet and stop talking to other people. Just as people have different ways in which stress and worry affect them, they also have different ways of coping with it.
  2. Can you give me some ideas of what factors might cause stress in young people?

    Listen to a range of responses.
  3. I shall now read out a list of things that could cause us to feel stressed. I'd like you to think about which of these stresses apply to you as I mention them.

    – Falling out with friends.
    – Being teased too much.
    – Too much schoolwork or homework.
    – Exams.
    – Pressure to do well at school.
    – Bullying.
    – Friends and relationships.
    – Fitting in with friends and peer pressure.
    – Deciding what to do when you leave school.
    – Arguments at home.
    – Low self-esteem and confidence.
  4. What do you think you should do if you feel stressed?

    Possibly the best way to deal with stress is to talk with someone about it - a friend, parent or teacher. A ‘problem aired is a problem shared’.
  5. However it may seem, you are not alone when you worry about things. Statistics suggest that millions of students are affected by school-related stress!

    Worries can include not performing well enough in school, bullying from other children, relationships with friends, the future and concerns about self-image, drugs and alcohol.
  6. Many parents admit to feeling worried about their children!

    Parents’ main worries can include their children’s behaviour and how they should be disciplining them, having enough money to support them, how peer pressure and bullying affect their children, their self-esteem and exposure to drugs and alcohol.
  7. Stress and worry are part of almost everyone’s lives today, but this situation is not new. Some 2,000 years ago, people’s lives were also full of worries. In the Bible, Luke tells a valuable story about how Jesus helped a worrier when he visited the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10.38-42).

    Mary and Martha

    Jesus and his disciples were on their travels when they stopped for a visit at Martha's invitation. 

    Caring for the needs of the group was no small task. Martha busied herself in the kitchen with all the preparations, while her sister, Mary, sat at the feet of Jesus. 

    Things weren't coming together for Martha. All that work - and she wanted everything to be perfect. She felt frustrated and helpless. She glanced into the living room, hoping that Mary would come to help her, but, fascinated by the words of Jesus, Mary showed no signs of moving. 

    Finally, Martha could stand it no longer. She marched into the living room and demanded, ‘Jesus, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?’ Then she gave Jesus an order: ‘Tell her to help me.’

    Jesus responded in two ways. First, he made Martha aware of her worry by saying, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.’ There was real concern in his voice as he repeated her name. He helped her to see that she had a problem to be dealt with. Jesus didn't judge Martha - there's nothing wrong with being a good hostess or wanting things to be the very best - he just drew her attention to her worry. 

    Second, Jesus showed her that worry is a choice. Martha had chosen to become filled with anxiety about the preparations. Again, Jesus didn’t condemn Martha for the choice she'd made, he just pointed out that Mary had made a choice, too. In Mary's case it was a better one!
  8. Martha learned a valuable lesson from Jesus. Sometimes we all worry about things that really don’t matter that much! Sometimes we choose to worry rather than stop to look at situations clearly and logically.

    In the Bible, it tells us that Jesus spoke about worrying. In Matthew 6.25 and 27-29 (NRSV), the following famous words are recorded: ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.
      . . .  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? 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.’

Time for reflection

Read the following quotes, giving the students time to think about each one.

Worry is interest paid in advance for a debt you may never owe. (Keith Caserta)

Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but doesn't get you anywhere. (Erma Bombeck)

Worry is the darkroom in which negatives are developed. (Wanda E. Brunstetter)

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength. (Corrie Ten Boom)

Worry gives a small thing a big shadow. (Swedish proverb)

Don’t worry, be happy! (Bobby McFerrin)
Dear God,
When we feel that no one is listening, grant us a sympathetic ear.
Whenever we feel worried, grant us soothing words.
Whenever we suffer from stress, grant us peace.


'Don’t worry, be happy!' by Bobby McFerrin

Publication date: March 2016   (Vol.18 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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