Anxious for Nothing
Anxious For Nothing
"For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing" (Matthew 6:25). "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). "Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
Unfortunately many people tend to resent Jesus’ direct command not to be anxious about the things of this life. We might even complain, "What’s the big deal about worry?" "Why is it so bad?" "Are there not bigger issues than this?"
Proof That God Loves Us
We can be so blind to what is really in our best interest. Any adult knows the symptoms and physical side effects caused by worry. Worrying is a good way to make ourselves absolutely miserable. Jesus says, "You have my permission to stop worrying", and instead of expressing our appreciation, we say, "Hey, I have a right to worry!" We need to be honest and admit that many of things which God tells us, "Stop doing that", such as being afraid, worrying, getting angry, lusting, envying and so on, are things which aren’t any fun. "There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, "And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?" (Ecclesiastes 4:8). Unbelievers often claim that God is trying to keep them from living a fulfilled life, and sadly, at times even believers start buying into such a blasphemous statement. The truth of the matter is that the only person keeping us from enjoying life, is that part of us which refuses to trust God.
A Real Answer For Worry
Man has written a good number of books dealing with anxiety, worry, and stress, in which human authors give various reasons why people shouldn’t worry. While some of these books contain some real good points, all of what these men write is meaningless without the foundation that God exists, He controls this world, He is in charge and He can really do something about the things which worry us. The reason that God says, "casting all your anxiety upon Him" (1 Peter 5:7), is because He really cares about what happens to us and He can really do something about the things which concern us. The answer to worry and anxiety isn’t putting your head in the sand, thinking about something else, ignoring the problem, or pretending that it doesn’t exist. The answer is to let God deal with the things that frighten you.
The True Nature of Worry
Far from being harmless, Jesus gave us various reasons why stubbornly holding on to worries is so counter-productive to the Christian life.
- "Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25). Someone noted that one way to deal with worry is to imagine yourself at your own funeral. "When we look back on our lives, how many of us are going to be pleased at how uptight we were? Almost universally, when people look back on their lives while on their deathbed, they wish that their priorities had been quite different" (Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, Richard Carlson, Ph.D., p. 59). Predominately, our worries are about physical things or things in this life, putting such an importance upon such things to the point that we are distracted from more important things proves that our minds are really on earthly things and that our treasure isn’t in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 3:1-2). Our worries reveal where our heart is, and being overly concerned about the things of this life, demonstrates that we are serving a Master other than God (Matthew 6:24). Notice the statement, "For this reason" (6:24), Jesus’ discourse on not worrying is inherently connected with His teaching about not being able to serve two masters. John Stott notes, "Our basic choice of which of two masters we intend to serve will radically affect our attitude to both. We shall not be anxious about the one (for we have rejected it), but concentrate our mind and energy on the other (for we have chosen Him); we shall refuse to become engrossed in our own concerns, but insteadseek first the concerns of God" (Christian Counterculture, p. 160).
- "Are you not worth much more than they?" (6:26) Worry "betrays a false view of human beings, as if they were only bodies to be fed, watered, clothed and housed, and human life, as if it were merely a physiological mechanism needing to be protected, lubricated and fueled. An exclusive preoccupation with food, drink, and clothing could be justified only if the physical survival were the be-all and end-all of existence" (Stott p. 162). Hence, worry tends to degrade us, it makes us look far more helpless than even the birds or the flowers (6:26,27).
- "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?" (6:27). Worry is such a waste of time and energy, it is completely unproductive. Here we see the dark side of worry, for when we are worrying we are basically putting all our trust in ourselves and our own abilities. Worry is a subtle form of idolatry, or worshipping the creature rather than the Creator(Romans 1:25). When I am refusing to let go of my worries, I am saying, "God can’t handle this, but I can". By giving all our cares to God, we are admitting our vulnerability and limitations. Jesus noted, with all our worrying, we couldn’t even add 17 inches to the span of our life. But we do insist on worrying about our health, doctor’s checkups, and the like. Brethren, worrying can’t even give us an hour of extra life, in fact, it often tends to shorten our lives if anything. Carlson notes that "One of the major reasons so many of us remain hurried, frightened, and competitive, and continue to live life as if it were one giant emergency, is our fear that if we were to become more peaceful and loving, we would suddenly stop achieving our goals. I have learned the important lesson: When you have what you want (peace), you are less distracted by your wants, needs, desires, and concerns. It’s thus easier to concentrate, focus, achieve your goals, and to give back to others" (pp. 11-12). The Apostle Paul was a very successful preacher and yet he was a man who had learned the secret of being content (Philippians 4:10-13).
- "O men of little faith?" (6:30) Worry isn’t a personality problem, rather it is a manifestation of a lack of faith. It is refusing to trust what Jesus said, that God will provide for all your needs (6:32-33), without you having to be obsessed and focused upon such things. "It seems that we have it backward in our society. We tend to look up to people who are under a great deal of stress, who can handle loads of stress, and those who are under a great deal of pressure. When someone says, ‘I’ve been working really hard’, or ‘I’m really stressed out’, we are taught to admire, even emulate their behavior. You’ll notice that the people who say, ‘I can handle lots of stress’ will always be under a great deal of it" (Carlson p. 53). We tend to excuse our present worries, by saying, "Well, when this project is done, things will get back to normal". But I have noticed that with such an individual that there is always another stressful project to replace that one. People need to wake up and realize that claiming to be stressed out is simply another way of saying, "I have little faith". In addition, we tend to excuse certain people for being stressed out, and this excuse usually is linked with personal income. When in reality, the man of little faith who is trying to make ends meet is under just as much stress as the person much farther up the social scale.
* "For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek" (6:32). And so let them, distracting cares are for unbelievers. God created us for a far more important purpose than worrying about physical things. Carlson notes, "It may seem strange, but if you were to enroll in the average stress management workshop, what you would probably learn is to raise your tolerance to stress. It seems that even stress consultants are stressed out!" (p. 54). Note the word "eagerly", which comes from the Greek,
epizeteo (ep-eed-zay-teh'-o); which means to search (inquire) for; intensively, to demand, to crave. Are you knocking yourself out for the things of this life? Which master really gets your intense seeking, God or the things of this world? (6:33).
- "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (6:34). Note, God doesn’t deny that this life can be dangerous and filled with cares and worries. He asks us to entrust all those cares and troubles with Him and for us to be busy serving Him. We need to surrender to the fact that this life will be filled with setbacks, delays, breakdowns and other troubles. God doesn’t owe us a trouble-free life, and if we think He does then we are going to be the type of person who always feels sorry for themselves. In view of the sins that we have committed, I think honest people would all agree that God has spared us from many troubles (Psalm 103:10). The above verse reminds us that we need to live in the present moment. "Irrespective of what happened yesterday, or last year, and what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is where you are—always! We allow past problems and future concerns to dominate our present moments, so much so that we end up anxious, frustrated, depressed, and hopeless. On the flip side, we also postpone our (legitimate) gratification, our stated priorities, and our happiness, often convincing ourselves that ‘someday’ will be better than today…While were busy making ‘other plans’ our children are busy growing up, the people we love are moving away and dying…In short, we miss out on life. Many people live as if life were a dress rehearsal for some later day…Mark Twain said, ‘I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened’" (Carlson pp. 29-30). The same writer notes, "So many of us live our lives as if the secret purpose is to somehow get everything done. We stay up late, get up early, avoid having fun, and keep our loved ones waiting. Sadly, I’ve seen many people who put off their loved ones so long that the loved ones lose interest in maintaining the relationship. I used to do this myself. Often, we convince ourselves that our obsession with our ‘to do’ list is only temporary—that once we get through the list, we’ll be calm, relaxed, and happy. But in reality, this rarely (never) happens. As items are checked off, new ones simply replace them" (p. 19).
- We need to accept the fact that having many things to do simply means that you are needed. Someone said, "Should you have a bad day at work, think of the man who has been out of work for years". Stop resenting "things to do", rather, such a list should remind you that you are still alive, you are needed, people need you, you can contribute, you have talents, and you are not living a boring life! When you die there will be a stack of things in your "in basket"—that basket is always meant to have things it in, it’s never meant to be empty. In fact, it can be argued that a full "in basket" is essential for success. It means your time is in demand.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/(503)644-9017