“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? ... Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life” (Matt 6:25-27).
Worry is a choice. We don’t think of it that way, of course. To us, worry is just what happens when you’ve got a lot on your mind, but the scriptures insist that worry is a choice that we’re making.
When Jesus talks about food and clothes, he’s not talking about modern, prosperous Americans who wonder if they can afford to eat out or want a new pair of designer jeans. He’s talking to people who wonder where their next meal will come from and only have one threadbare garment. He says to them, trust God to meet your material needs. If he expects that of them, he certainly does of us.
Jesus’ first point is that God takes care of his creatures: “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? ... 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” (v26, 28-29). If God takes care of birds and flowers, how much more will he care for the creatures he made in his own image?
Jesus’ second point is the utter futility of worry: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (v27). What is accomplished by worrying? Gray hair and ulcers! Oh, and telling God you don’t trust him.
What should we do instead of worry? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (v33). How do we do that? By doing everything he’s taught before this — shine your light so that God is glorified, practice real righteousness, love your enemy, and do your acts of piety for God’s approval rather than man’s. Do these things and trust God to take care of the more mundane things.
That’s what Jesus wants us to do, but will that necessarily keep us from worrying? No, worry will still be a temptation. So what do we do when we’re tempted to worry? Paul gives us an excellent action plan:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).
Take your requests to God "with thanksgiving." That last part is the key. Don’t just pray for what you need but take the time to thank God for all the ways he’s already provided, for all he’s already done. Go all the way back, and think of everything that has worked out far better than it could have. Think of all of those little providences where you saw God provide. Maybe there were needs people met before they had any reason to know you had them. Perhaps coincidences that solved your problems. Take the advice of the old hymn:1
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Go back and scour your life for signs of God’s provision; if you look, you will find them. Then thank him for them. If you’ve never done this before, be prepared to weep. Then, full of the memory of just how thoroughly God has taken care of you, ask him for whatever you need today. Then trust him to do what is best in wisdom.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
1 “Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman, Jr.
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Part of Christianity 102