“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 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.
"But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Well, that’s a lot easier said than done.
Worry is something that grips all of us, and it can become a major problem, disrupting our ability to focus and robbing us of sleep. But here in Matthew 6, Jesus says in no uncertain terms, “do not worry about your life…” He doesn’t say, “Therefore I present to you an option you may choose to consider.” No, he is clear and concise and says, “do not worry.”
How could Jesus say something like this? Was he out of touch with reality? Did he not see everything that goes on in the world that can cause us to tremble with fear and anxiety?
No, he was not out of touch. In fact, he was very in touch with the reality of this broken world. He was born into poverty, lived the first part of his life as a refugee because a crazed king wanted him dead, and the more truth He told about Who He was and His mission the more those in authority wanted him dead. No, Jesus understood the brokenness of the world and the treachery of people. He was well acquainted with grief and sorrow (Isaiah 53:3). He was well aware of what kept people up at night robbing them of sleep, peace, and a sense of safety.
And yet he says, “do not worry about your life…can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” The implied answer is a resounding, “No.” Worrying is a futile action. Instead, Jesus asks us to look around and notice the creatures and the creation that daily rest secure in the loving care of the Father.
Look at the birds! You are of more value to your Father than the birds, and He perfectly takes care of them. Look at the lilies of the field! Their lives are so fleeting, so temporary, and yet God clothes them with stunning beauty. Your life is of infinite value and worth, so much more than the lilies of the field. HOW MUCH MORE, then, will your Heavenly Father see you, understand your needs, care for you, and provide for you?
Okay, that’s the argument. You are valuable (Yes YOU. If you struggle with seeing that, then start there and don’t move forward until you get that. YOU are a valuable person of worth created by God to love and be loved. Your existence matters. Please believe me.) and God is your good Father who will take care of you.
So, how can we set worry aside? Or better yet, how can we replace the habit of worry with a more effective way of coping with anxiety? Here’s an idea:
When your brain starts to create scenarios, and you feel you must figure out a solution to every worst-case ending that your anxious mind dreams up, try changing your focus.
Instead of playing the “What if” game—“If this happens, then I will….”— flip the switch, change the story that’s being created and say, “Even if this happens, God will…”
Then, state what you know God will do, even in the face difficulty or pain:
God will never leave me. (Deut. 31:6)
God will take care of me. (Matt. 6)
God will comfort me. (2 Cor. 1:3)
God will keep loving me. (1 John 3:1)
*And on and on… you get the picture.
This practice takes the focus off of the “What ifs”, which are stories created with little to no facts that make you responsible for saving yourself if something terrible happens, and places your focus back on God and what He is capable of. It reminds you that there is NOTHING God can’t handle and NOWHERE He is unwilling to go for you.
There is no need to play the “what if” game. I’ve been there, done that, and I can tell you that it leads nowhere good. It actually leads you precisely nowhere. It only serves to keep you stuck and make you exhausted. In addition, none—not one— of the horrible scenarios I imagined in the middle of my worst fear and anxiety ever happened. They were lies generated by fear.
This may take some practice. It’s a skill that you will need to develop. It will take some time to get rid of the old habit of worry and replace it with trust in your Father, but you can do it.
God is there for you, always. God will act on your behalf and in your best interest. God is holding you. God is with you. So do not worry.
Be at peace today.
*The Psalms are a great place to find comfort in the midst of worry, fear, or anxiety. For instance, Psalm 23 is a great one to meditate on. Perhaps slow down with this one and meditate on a line or phrase that speaks to you. Another good one is Psalm 91. May you find your comfort, your security, and your peace in God and His promises.
NOTE: This Monday, March 23 at 10:00 am I will be having an online conversation on Facebook Live about the topic of worry. Head on over to the Parkway Heights United Methodist Church Facebook page if you would like to listen in and/or be a part of the conversation.