“How are you doing today?” How do you typically answer this question? Many of us tend to default to superficial answers of “good” or “fine.” But maybe we’ll give a more honest answer like “stressed,” “worried,” or “anxious.”
Daily anxiety is the norm for the average American and Christians are not exempt. Whether we like it or not we are inundated with western culture. We are part of the make-up of our society. Although we are distinct as Christians (or at least we should be), we also share many common threads with our neighbors. We work, we have families, hobbies, dreams, ambitions, likes, dislikes, etc. Our life is flooded with internal and external expectations and we feel the weight of that daily. The question must be asked:
Can we even dream about a life without worry?
Jesus said many counter-cultural things in his day, however, what was counter-cultural then seems to stand the test of time and be counter-cultural today. It is like he was addressing the deep needs of humanity that transcends time and place. If we are honest, we either end up disagreeing with what Jesus says or downright do not believe it can be true.
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus does not shy away from addressing the daily struggle of worry. In fact, Jesus used the Greek equivalent to the word “worry” 6 times in these 9 verses! He both begins and ends his statement on this topic with his conclusion that we can have life without anxiety ruling us. Before you stop reading this and rule out that outcome altogether, why not allow Jesus’s words to seep into your soul? Perhaps, you may even become less anxious.
From the lips of Jesus:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34, NIV)
One of the most striking elements of this passage is that Jesus uses imperative verbs to his listeners (imperatives being commands or exhortations). Essentially, he isn’t giving a good suggestion, he is giving an impassioned invitation. “Therefore… do not worry” (verse 25). “Therefore, do not worry” (verse 31). “Therefore, do not worry” (verse 34). One time would have been sufficient, two times is to draw emphasis. But three occurrences make it impossible to miss the precision of the point.
Jesus’s invitation to those who follow him is to replace anxiety with trust. In a world where we like “to-do lists” to obtain results, Jesus’s method changes our focus. Instead of an ideology to apply, we get a person to trust.
God is the rest for the restless, the warrior for the weary, and the anchor for the anxious.
Our empowerment to resist anxiety doesn’t come from within. Jesus turns our way of thinking upside down and says “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The hustle, doing more and trying harder, doesn’t solve your anxiety, it only feeds it. Only Jesus can provide what we need to replace our worries with trust.
Notice how God uses nature and common aesthetics to compose our concerned hearts. This passage of scripture is just another example of nature’s proclamation of God’s providence.
Jesus uses the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields to convince us that God is sovereignly watching over us. He makes the world our classroom and the curriculum is to learn how much the Father loves us.
This passage of Scripture is another example of nature’s proclamation of God’s providence.
God is far more concerned with our character than with our comfort. These verses should not be wrongly used to say that God will give us a luxurious and prosperous life. On the contrary, this life is full of grief, sorrow, and trouble. The Gospel doesn’t promise to rid us of all that now, however, God does promise to, one day, do just that (see Revelation 21:4). Instead, his promise to us in this life is exemplified in the end of verse 26. After expressing the worry-free life of the birds Jesus turns the spotlight back to us and asks rhetorically, “Are you not of more value than they? ”The answer is loud, resounding, yes!
The great God of the universe sees you. He knows your anxiety and he chooses to walk with you through it.
He knows what we need because he is a good Father. He demands us to switch our attention away from worrying about daily needs to the concern for “the kingdom of God” (verse 33).
The Christian life should not be wasted on worry or the vain pursuit of privilege. Did you get that? Because this is important. God wants to take our anxiety from us, but he also wants to invite us into a gospel-driven life. All of the energy we exert on worrying about what is petty can be redirected to a genuine concern for seeking after God and the mission of God for, in, and through our lives.
Anxiety begins to lose its grip on us when you and I realize that God does not just see tomorrow, he is already there.
He is like a composer who wrote a symphony. Although the music is touching the ears of the audience presently and for the first time, the composer had orchestrated a fantastic piece and is watching each note unfold, page after page, just as he planned. God is the great composer who we can trust as we presently engage in our daily lives. He wrote the pages of our days that are to come and nothing will befall us as a surprise to God. If there is any anxiety left in us it is more so in gaining confidence in God’s good character and will. The Gospel gives us responsibility, but it also grants us serenity in God’s sovereignty.
In light of everything that has been said, ask yourself this question as you fight for an anxiety-free life: