Sometimes it seems we profess to believe in a personal God who loves us dearly, yet we act like we follow an impersonal God who's paying very little attention. We pray for God to intervene, but wring our hands as if it's entirely up to us.
Jesus addressed this at length in Matthew 6:25-30, (New International Version):
"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? See how the flowers of the field grow. 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?"
Look at the birds of the air
It's interesting that Jesus would talk about worry by focusing on birds. It's true that birds don't seem to suffer a lot of anxiety, but their entire day seems to be about collecting food. As the poet Josiah Gilbert Holland once quipped, "God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest."
Imagine catching your seven-year-old daughter putting food from dinner into her pocket. After the meal, you follow her into her room and she hides the food under her bed. When you confront her about it, she tells you that she wants to make sure she has food for tomorrow. A couple of things run through your mind:
- In seven years, you've never skipped a meal. Why do you feel the need to hoard food?
- Food has just been rotting under the bed where it's no good to anyone.
The point Jesus seems to be making is that birds don't hoard food for tomorrow. They innately trust in the provision of tomorrow's food. And even though they have to collect it, they trust the food will be there.
How to conquer worry
"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" (Matthew 6:31–34, NIV).
Jesus lays out a two-step process for beating our everyday anxieties:
- Focus our attention on putting the kingdom first and living righteously. When we put God's will first, we have less room to obsess over stuff that’s God's responsibility.
- Concern ourselves with one day at a time. We spend a lot of time focused on what should have been different yesterday and what we hope is different tomorrow. Jesus encourages us to focus on the things that are within our power to change, and that's what's happening right now. By focusing on the present, we can impact tomorrow—instead of just fretting about it.
Ultimately, worry zaps our vitality. It steals our joy and undermines our productivity. When we truly trust that God is personally and intimately involved in our lives, we're empowered to live with vision and purpose.
If you're struggling with a situation and feel that God may be far, you’re not alone. Check out four key Biblical stories of individuals or groups of people who each faced a unique difficulty and what we can learn about God from each of their situations.