Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health diagnosis in the United States, affecting over 40 million people. Some of the symptoms are fatigue, muscle soreness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, impaired concentration, and excessive worry.
My guess is that with the corona virus, high unemployment, racial tension, and increases in violence that the anxiety level is at an all time high.
Jesus had an important message about anxiety. He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6.25-32).
We are living in some of the most difficult times in recent memory. Anxiety over what the future holds is very real and frightening.
On the day when Jesus first spoke these words, Israel was in a crisis, too. There were hostilities with Rome that would soon erupt in a war with the world’s greatest super power. Hunger and poverty were realities of daily life.
Jesus’ message, both then and now, was to point people in a direction beyond the things that cause us worry, stress, and anxiety. Jesus asked three questions to bring the issue of anxiety into perspective.
— Question #1: Jesus said, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (verse 25).
I was speaking with some friends the other night and someone said, “I hate the kind of world that we are giving to our children and grandchildren.”
I agree with that statement, but I also remember several of my spiritual heroes. They lived through both world wars, the flu pandemic, the Great Depression, the Jim Crow era and more. Each of them had a relationship with God that was something that caused me to read their biographies and every books that they wrote.
Throughout a very turbulent and tragic time in world history, these people gave the correct answer to Jesus question. To them, a life with God was more important than anything that typically causes anxiety today.
They had plenty of struggles and obstacles to overcome, but they also lived lives of joy, peace, power, and spiritual strength.
Jesus has us take a look at the things that cause us anxiety, worry and stress. Then, he has us look to him and the life a relationship with him offers. Rather than investing our lives in striving to secure our lives by our own means, he invites us to live under his leadership.
— Question #2: Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (verse 27).
Anyone who has suffered from anxiety to any degree knows the answer to Jesus’ question. Anxiety does not add to life. The list of common ailments from anxiety – fatigue, muscle soreness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, impaired concentration, and excessive worry – all detract from life. In no way do they add to a person’s quality of life at all.
Jesus never offered mere pretty words, suitable for a refrigerator magnet or picture on the wall. He offered solutions to very real and troubling problems. He wants to set people free from anxiety, worry and stress.
I believe that the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6.9-13) is a great place to begin, when we address the anxieties of living in 2020.
The writers of the Psalms knew times of tremendous trouble and sorrow. The people of God have used them for centuries to connect with God, during anxiety producing times.
One Psalm writer simply wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56.3).
Peter also had it right when he said, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5.6-7).
Troubling times can drive us to sleepless nights, physical illness, fatigue and more. Let troubling times drive you to the arms of Jesus. Use the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms and other passages in the Bible to connect in a real way with him.
— Question #3: “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (verse 30).
Jesus’ question is whether we trust God to take care of us. One definition of faith that I like is: “Faith is not the absence of doubt, but it is going on with God in spite of our doubts.”
I think that definition could be expanded to be, “Faith is not the absence of anxiety in troubling times, but it is going on with God during these tough times.”
Jesus told us that the way our faith is best displayed is to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6.33).
The kingdom of God is the effective reach of his power. We seek it by desiring to be aligned with what God is doing on the earth. In this way, we flow with God’s power and don’t attempt to resist it.
When Jesus met Paul on the Damascus Road, he told Paul “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26.14). An ox was directed with a sharp pointed stick, called a “goad.” If the ox kicked back in protest to the direction of his owner, all that he would experience is the pain of a stick going deeper into his flank.
The world seems to be kicking “against the goads” during this time of turmoil and trouble. When we seek God’s kingdom by right living in the realm of his power, we cease kicking and begin flowing in his purposes.
Church history is full of examples of how God has cared for his people, as they aligned themselves in faith with his purposes. My desire for you and for me is that we will have our own stories of God’s provision, as we seek first right living under the effective reach of his power.
While we are seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness, we are ready to receive Jesus’ conclusion in the matter of anxiety. He said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6.34).
Dear Jesus, may we truly seek to live in a right way with the effective reach of your power. Please increase our trust in you and please reduce the level of anxiety in our lives.