Anxious Thoughts

As Jesus was discussing fears, worries, and anxious thoughts, he said this to his disciples: “Do not be anxious about your life.”1 Then he highlighted a specific situation regarding worrying over food and clothing, using flowers and birds (who do not worry, yet God takes care of them) as a good example.

     But . . . I don’t worry about food and clothing—except for how much food I consume and how my body looks in certain clothes. Okay. I do worry about food and clothing. But I think there is more to Jesus’ point than our diet! In order to really understand it, let’s try a little fill-in-the-blank exercise.

     Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you _____________, nor about your _______________.”1 So, fill in the blanks with what you are worried about and then read on.

     Jesus said this about that: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”2  His point? We need to let go of things that are out of our control. Here’s what Jesus said next: “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”3  What’s the small thing? Adding “a single hour” to our lives. Hmm. Is our real worry that we do not have enough time to take care of everything? I think perhaps it is! Or at least it is very closely attached to our worries.

     How often do we say that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that we are required to do or desire to do? We believe that if we only had enough time, all things would be done, all things would be resolved. But then . . . there comes the next day. The other thing to consider is that Jesus referred to adding an hour “as small a thing as that.” It might be a small thing for Jesus, but it is an impossible thing for us! Which, I think, is the real point.

     Consider this: “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”4 Why are we anxious about things over which we have no control? Why do we doubt that God, who created the world, would have difficulty with our request?

     So, how do we eliminate anxiety from our lives?  Paul elaborates on the idea in his letter to the Phillipians. He wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”5  The instructions are clear: pray about anything and everything. And then? Don’t worry!

     But Jesus is not done with this message yet. He adds, “O you of little faith! And do not seek ________ and __________, nor be worried.”6  So, fill in the blanks again by adding more things you are worried about, and then read on.

     Why should we not worry? Jesus answers that one for us, too. “Your Father knows that you need them.”7  God knows our needs and he knows our tendency to be anxious—especially over things out of our control. But Paul writes that if we would only pray, then “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”8  God’s peace can guard our hearts and minds from being anxious.

     And it is only with the peace of God guarding our hearts can we then do what we are supposed to be doing (rather than worrying); that is, “instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”9 This clarifies for us, then, that we must prioritize “these things” so that they do not interfere with seeking the kingdom, i.e. “doing the good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”10

     So, here is the real problem. We want things and worry about things more than we “seek his kingdom.” That’s one reason we are anxious. Our loves are out of order. These things that we want—these things that we worry about—are not bad things (necessarily), but they can rob us of peace. And the one thing precedes the other, by the way. Seeking God’s kingdom comes before the things we generally worry about are provided. Plus, one more observation. This peace? Don’t try to understand it before you experience it. Don’t question it; don’t challenge it; don’t diminish its power, wrestle with it, ruminate over it, cogitate on it, or try to analyze it. Because it “surpasses all understanding.”8  But here’s a hint as to how it works: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”11

     Frances Havergal (1836-1879) knew something about it. She wrote the famous hymn “Like A River Glorious” in 1874, the refrain of which reads:

“Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,

Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.”

1Luke 12:22   2Luke 12:25   3Luke 12:26   4Jeremiah 32:17   5Philippians 4:6   6Luke 12:29   7Luke 12:30   8Philippians 4:7   9Luke 12:31   10Ephesians 2:10   11Isaiah 26:3

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