So here is something that has been bouncing around in my head for the last couple weeks. I am sure that you may have struggled with this as well. The question I keep asking is this, “Why are anxiety and worry such a large part of our makeup?” I guess more specifically, as believers, we have been commanded by Jesus and later on by Paul, not to worry about anything. So if our hearts know this, why do our heads still worry?
This may turn out to be several postings, but I will give you the verses and passages that I have been led to that got me thinking. The first is Matthew 6:25-34. You will remember this as Jesus’ commands to not worry about your life and seek the kingdom of God. Second is the passage in Philippians 4:6-9. This is where Paul tells us “Don’t worry about anything.” Keep in mind that at this point Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting his likely sentence of death. Finally, the verse in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” I know that isn’t a verse about worry, but we will get to that later.
Now I have been a believer for a long time. I have a graduate degree from seminary. I can probably turn to most of the passages in the Bible where it speaks on worry. I understand that I am not to worry. Furthermore, I have a pretty solid prayer life. I communicate with the Father daily about anything and everything. I know that once I leave my burdens at the Throne of God, He has things covered. He doesn’t need my help carrying the load. So why is it that as soon as I set the burden down, I feel compelled to pick it back up again?
I think the answer lies in several parts. The first part comes from the passage in Matthew 6:25-34. I like to try and look at things from all angles and see what I may have been missing. So as I read this passage for the umpteenth time, I got to thinking. In verse 25 Jesus says, “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Now you must remember the last verse before this one. Jesus has just explained that you cannot serve both God and money and that we must collect treasures in Heaven rather than here on earth.
I believe that God did not make us to be worriers, but he did create us to be problem solvers and thinkers. Think about it. Your mind will naturally focus on a problem to be solved or a solution to be found or a way to make things better. Look at history: this is how we got the wheel, the telephone, electricity, the iPod, toilet paper, plywood and the Lamborghini. We are always trying to make things easier, better, faster, smaller, lighter, more fun and more efficient. Where do you think that comes from? It comes from your Creator. He gave you a brain and wants you to use it. But here is the kicker. If we use this God given ability in the way it was intended, we come up with the things listed above; we focus on the right things. However, if we neglect to use it in that way, we tend to find problems to fix that perhaps we should leave alone. We tend to worry over things that God says he will provide for us if only we will let go of the burden. We even create worries and burdens where none needed to be. Do you see the parallel with verse 25? Jesus says, isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?
For the most part, we are seeking just that. We work to be able to afford to feed our appetites (whether our physical hunger or a host of other not so simple things.) We strive to wrap our bodies in nice clothes and to wrap our nicely clothed bodies in nice cars and to park our nice cars in nice garages attached to nice houses. Before long, we have a nice bunch of not so easy payments and the subsequent worry and anxiety to go with them.
So I got to thinking, if I am created to be a thinker and a problem solver, how do I avoid the trap of worry? And what should I be thinking about in the place of food and clothing?
Perhaps the point Jesus was making is this: …of course you need clothes and food and shelter to survive, but let me provide those things for you and you go “worry” about things that matter. Worry about the things you can actually control, the things that make you like Me and will last for eternity.
So what things can we control? What things will make us more like Jesus? I think the answer in this lies within us with a little introspection. First, make a mental list of all the things you worry about on a daily basis. For most of us it is paying the bills or something to do with money. Maybe it is the health of a loved one. Maybe it is the path your child is on. For some it could be a marriage relationship. Whatever it is, it is a load of heavy stones on your back. Now imagine setting that weight down. Don’t pick it back up! I know it is tempting. Now what will you do with that weight off your back?
I think what Jesus was saying is that if we will give our burdens to Him it will free us up to seek the things that matter in the long run and will build up those treasures in eternity. I am talking about things like character, integrity, good morals, kindness and gentleness, every other fruit of the Spirit. Any intangible that deep down you know you need to work on but just don’t have it in you because of the weight of worry that pushes you down. These are the things that will make us more Christ-like and less world-like.
Now prayerfully make a list of those things. I know I need to work on giving up control of certain things. I need to work on managing my time better to do the important stuff. I need to trust God to provide for my needs. Yours may be these or they could be a host of others. The fact is each one is a sin. It is not trusting in God, but trusting in ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I could use some help with my burdens.
Work on your list of things you need to let go and things you need to seek. The next post will look at “Leaving it All to the Lord.” We will look at what happens when you can leave your burdens with God and how that will make you feel.