While we’re told in the Bible that “God loves us” and “don’t be anxious,” we’re still very anxious even though God may love us. How do we get through this? ◊
Sarah’s broken bathroom pipe was not what she needed. With 3 kids and already in debt over her head, she now faced another unexpected bill and now more headaches finding a plumber she could trust. Her mother kept telling her not to worry, that God will take care of everything. She always told her that “all things happen for a reason.” Well, she was worried and questioned why this happened, and wondered if God knew any good and inexpensive plumbers.
Nick just got laid off from his job. They told him that while he was experienced, they were moving in a different direction and were cutting back on his department. In his 50’s, Nick was afraid of facing the age-discrimination that many of his friends and peers were experiencing. He trusted God and had been praying for a while that he wouldn’t lose his job. He knew his wife would be worried sick and that they really might lose their home if he couldn’t find another job, quickly.
Kristen’s boyfriend was just offered a job across the country and decided to accept it. He told her he wasn’t ready to get tied down so broke up with her abruptly. She was devastated and, at age 28, is loath to enter the dating scene again. Her confidence crushed, she was in no mood to get out and mingle. Her Christian faith took a blow as well as she had fervently prayed that Tom would marry her at some point. She now was scared, lonely, sad and depressed. Why did God do this to her?
Everyday there are scenarios like these, and worse, being played out. Some hit us pretty close to home with someone we know and love, or we’re experiencing them directly ourselves. While we’re told in the Bible that “God loves us” and “don’t be anxious,” we are still very anxious even though God may love us.
How do we deal with this and/or help others deal with this?
Consider the Lilies?
Jesus had some very specific things to say about worrying. Here are His famous words from the Sermon on the Mount:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 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? 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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life
And why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 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? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
In many ways, these words at first blush do not do much for calming us down or even making us feel very good. In fact, they might seem out of touch with the reality of modern life, bills, pressures, etc.
How does this apply to Sarah, Nick, and Kristen? And you and me?
Application for Modern Man
Before one is tempted to think that Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about, let’s take careful measure of this passage. First of all, Jesus makes a very specific call out about living for God vs. money. In fact, He calls them two masters that are at war with each other: love vs. hate, devoted vs. despised.
This sets up the rest of the passage.
Our real decision in life first has to be choosing God or the world. “Money” represents all that world has to offer. Quite the choice for each of us.
With an implied decision for God, Jesus then tells us not to worry about the essentials for life: food, shelter and clothing. “Look at the birds” – they don’t do anything yet God provides food for them – everything they need. Then Jesus makes a statement about our value compared to birds: “Aren’t you much more valuable than they?”
What benefit really comes from worrying? Worry adds absolutely no value to your life.
Then Jesus shifts the focus to flowers, specifically lilies or wildflowers. They, like birds, do nothing to earn the provision, glory and splendor that God gives them. Again, a statement is made about their relative worth to us as humans. How much more for us? “You of little faith.”
Finally, Jesus wraps up with a summary object lesson: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. That is, in this present world put your whole focus first on God and his righteousness (goodness, purity, holiness). All other things cascade off of that and will be provided.
Provided as you would like? No, not necessarily at all. In fact, Jesus closes this passage with another call to not worry about the next day for each day will have its own trouble.
It is really simply a matter of devotion and priority.
The point should be clear to all of us. In this life we will have struggles, but our focus should be God, as should our faith, as should all small and big details and trials of life. Yes, while pipes burst, jobs terminate, houses foreclose and relationships end, God does love and care and provide and sees above all things with a higher view and purpose of which we can only trust and submit and live in simple peace that surpasses understanding.
It’s the only way to live.
Are you worrying? Still?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7