Last week, as I waited in a doctor’s surgery waiting room, I observed a young boy and his mum enter the surgery. The boy, about 9 or 10 years old was wringing his hands and this didn’t escape his mother’s watchful eye. Kindly, she uncurled her son’s hands and asked him whether he had remembered his stress ball. Unfortunately he hadn’t, so after reassuring him of the fact they were there just for a consultation with the doctor, she got out her phone and started played games with him to keep his mind off the upcoming appointment.
As I watched the interaction between the mother and her anxious son, it made me think about the nature of anxiety and our culture that seems to both cause and encourage anxiety. Over the past few months, as we awaited the arrival of our newest addition, and in the weeks since her birth, anxiety has been something I’ve actively had to fight against. I have clearly felt the battle between my flesh’s desire to control an uncontrollable situation and the Holy Spirit reminding me to “cast my cares on Him because He cares” for me (1 Peter 5:7). This tension between trusting a God who has even the hairs on my head numbered, and my anxiety, was made even harder with a culture that promotes control and the self-sufficient individual and fears any situation that cannot be controlled.
In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus addresses anxiety as part of His Sermon on the Mount:
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Do Not Be Anxious
25 “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? 26 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? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 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? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
In these verses, we see that anxiety about the issues of life, particularly those surrounding finances, food and clothes, are not something foreign to those listening to Jesus’ speak, nor are they foreign to us. Yet here, Jesus reminds us that our “heavenly Father knows that we need them all.” (v. 32). Just as the waiting room mother could understand her son’s anxiety, yet encouraged him to take comfort in her presence, we too, are to take comfort in the fact the God of the universe knows what we need and is with us.
Jesus then goes on to instruct us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (v. 33). We aren’t to focus on the cares of the world, we are to cast them at His feet and then lift our eyes, seeking above all His kingdom. As we lift our eyes to God, our focus changes and the cares of the world quickly get put in their place.
Finally, on a practical note, Jesus ends with a command that because (therefore; v. 34) God knows what we need, we can trust Him; as we fix our eyes on seeking His kingdom, our anxieties can be replaced with an eternal purpose. We can also put off worrying about tomorrow or the future, knowing that we can’t control it. Instead, we can work with the day we are given and choose to trust God for the outcome, instead of filling our minds with worry.
Just as the waiting room mother tried to distract her son and comfort him, leading him to work through his anxiety, our Heavenly Father leads us out of our anxiety as we surrender our cares to Him. When Esther’s birth did finally come around (4 days overdue I might add!), I was amazed at God’s peace that surrounded me throughout the labour and over the few weeks since. It wasn’t that I had control of the situation that brought peace, rather God gave me peace as He filled me with the knowledge that He had ordained the timing, the process and the outcome of Esther’s birth and that He could be trusted in this.
In these verses, Jesus reminds us once again that His kingdom is counter-cultural. While anxiety finds fertile soil in the culture that surrounds us, God’s kingdom is not built in anxiety. He leads us out of anxiety, through reminding us of His sovereignty and care. If you have worries or concerns today, may you take them to the foot of the cross and recognise that as a child of God, we can leave our cares there and trust that God has got this. He is bigger, He is infinitely more capable, He knows the future and He can be trusted with it.