Do Not Be Anxious - Matthew 6:24-35

We all have fears. It might be a fear of closed spaces, a fear of clowns, or a fear of heights. We all have fears of some sort. This COVID-19 health crisis might foster nosophobia, a fear of developing a disease. Fear is not necessarily bad. It might help convince you to practice social distancing in a pandemic. But fear must be rightly ordered. What happens when our fears run amok?

When fears linger and the sense of the fragility of life remains, they transform into anxiety or worry. Ed Welch explains it this way, “While ‘fear’ refers to the experience when a car races toward us and we just barely escape, ‘anxiety’ or worry is the lingering sense, after the car has passed, that life is fragile and we are always vulnerable.”[1] Worry and anxiety can remain even when there is no real or immediate threat to your person. Anxiety and worry is the stress on mind, heart, and body that our fears might be realized. Anxiety and worry are false prophets.

Worry lives in the future. It lives in “what might happen” or “what I think will be.” It makes predictions about the future and then convinces you that it is right. There is something in our anxiety and worry that gives us a sense of control or certainty. It is a false sense of control or certainty, like going to a psychic or palm reader. The psychic speaks confidently about your future and what will be, but she doesn’t know. And yet, gullible people continue to pay good money to be given this false sense of control and certainty. Why? Because that’s just easier than feeling anxious or learning to rest in the fact that you’re not in control.

We need to understand from our perspective that control and certainty are myths. We are no more in control of our lives than a toddler sitting in his car seat with a pretend steering wheel is in control of a car. Lingering fears lead to anxiety and worry because we long to feel like we are in control. Worriers worry because occasionally and by sheer probability and dumb luck, they might actually be right, at least in part. And that gives them a sense of control and all the justification they need for worrying more. But the truth is that our worries are false prophets. They never get it completely right. Worry and anxiety does not add anything to your situation.

Jesus addresses this in Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus tells us that you don’t have control, but God does. The birds and flowers don’t have control, but look what God does for them. “Are you not of more value than they?” (v. 26). That is, of course, a rhetorical question that is meant to be answered affirmatively. You do have more value than they. And since you have more value, won’t God certainly take care of you? Oh course he will! God is in control, so you don’t have to pretend that you are.

Besides, Jesus asks what your anxiety and worry can add to this equation. Can you add a single hour to your life by worrying? Does your worrying actually change anything? Does your anxiety about your well-being actually do anything to change your future? No. In fact, the only thing is affects is your present, and that for the worse. So, Jesus instructs us, “Do not be anxious” (v. 34).

That sounds great, but how are we supposed to just stop? Jesus tells us that the way to stop worrying is to stop trying to control the future and instead look to the past. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (v. 33). Who has God already proven himself to be? What has God already done for you in Christ? If we understand the reign and rule of Jesus as king, then we understand who actually is in control. If we understand the righteousness of Christ, then we understand that all our failures and faults, our strivings to wrest control from God, have been forgiven and redeemed at the Cross. So stop worrying. God is in control. Save your present by forgetting the future and looking to the past.

[1] Welch, Running Scared, 25.

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