The Attribute of Anxiousness
The more I get to know those around me or discuss the illusions of having it all together, I find that anxiety plagues the minds of many. One of my entire chapters in, "And Still You Called: Walking in Christ's Freedom With A Broken Past", I expand upon my own personal battles with anxiety. This blog post is an excerpt from that chapter unpacking what scripture has to say about this particular subject. I hope it brings you hope in the midst of whatever you're facing and ultimately points you towards Christ's covering of it all.
After becoming a Christian, I started to become acutely aware of how my actions were oftentimes out-of-line with the desires of the Lord. I want to mention that although acutely aware, God never cast a level of shame or guilt upon me for such behaviors. Rather, He pulled me near His divine throne and reminded me of my ability to overcome these things through a belief in what Christ did on the cross. During times when anxiety and overwhelming fear strike, God has pushed me to open His word to see that I am again not alone in facing my specific trial or temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13) No temptations or sinful habits are so uniquely distinct to me that God has to formulate a new design on how to tackle them. Since we know no temptation or tribulation is entirely unique to only us, we should aim to understand what God has said in the midst of similar stories of the Bible. As always, I want to stress that we should not solely focus only on the people within the story but rather what God enabled them to do or to happen to them. If we read stories like that of David and Goliath and as a result pray a prayer like “God, make me like David. Help me to overcome my enemies just like him,” we put David at the center of our heart’s desire and not God. I stress approaching the word in this way throughout in order to always remind us that the micro stories (David and Goliath) point to the macro story (Jesus). Therefore, how we approach the Bible should retain the conscious thought of Christ over self; Christ over Biblical figures. With all of that being said, what does the Bible say about my health-related anxiety, fears, worries, and worst-case-scenarios? I first want us to open up the book of Matthew. Specifically, let’s open chapter 6. Put some study boot straps on because we are going to dive deep into 9 verses. I want us to unpack this section of chapter six with detailed binoculars in order to grasp the authority Christ had over his command not to worry.
Scripture Reference: Matthew 6:25-34
In Matthew 6:25-34, Matthew is writing from a first-hand account of Jesus’s teaching. In the chapter prior, Jesus was giving the Sermon on the Mount, and as the sermon moved into chapter 6, Jesus was still being quoted by Matthew. Therefore, the lessons on fear and anxiety and worry are coming directly from the teachings of Christ. This section of chapter 6 is titled “Do Not Worry”. Upon Matthew writing what Jesus had preached, he was led to title the entirety of these verses as this. I put specific emphasis on this because of how incredibly difficult this command is and always has been for mankind. Three words in total, do not worry, amount to a mountain as rigid as that any climber has faced. The command to not worry was important enough for Christ to preach about it then and retains its unequivocal importance now. Before we dive into the totality of these 9 verses, I want us to specifically look at the first four words of this passage. Verse 25 says,
“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?” (Matthew 6:25)
Throughout the gospels, we hear Jesus start many sentences with truly, truly I say to you. This phrase in Greek is amén. This word/phrase is translated to mean most assuredly or certain - coming from a first-hand account while having authority over what was said. This word is often used in modern contexts as well. Amen is said at the end of a prayer or statement in order to show agreeance. Jesus said this phrase at the beginning of certain statements in order to distinctly point out what was being said was both true and who was saying it had first-hand wisdom on the statements to tell you. I point this out to show Christ’s unique authority over what he is saying and to also contrast it with how he starts this section on not worrying. Therefore I tell you. These four words are often said prior to someone expanding upon or discussing something in which they are keenly knowledgeable or familiar with. Some synonyms for therefore are “for this reason, consequently, and since.” (Thesaurus, 2019) The word I is speaking from firsthand wisdom or authority and the phrase tell you is simply pointing out Jesus’s reason for saying what he is about to. He is not simply speaking just to speak but rather to inform those listening of an important concept. If we use some synonyms in this beginning verse it can also say, “Consequently, I, Jesus, declare to all of you, do not worry about your life… (Matthew 6:25a)
Before we even attempt to grasp Jesus’s command to not worry, I want us to understand his unique, distinct, and one-and-only authority and knowledge over what he is teaching us. Take what the world has told you about worrying, fearing, or being anxious and throw it out the window for this moment; for the authority of Christ’s command casts down all of what this world commands of us in the same sweeping motion. Christ takes the words of this world and subjugates it with these four words,
“Therefore I tell you..” (Matthew 6:25a) Moving through the rest of this verse, we read that Christ’s authority tells us “Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 amp.)
Without looking at the rest of this writing, it would seem like an incredibly daunting task Christ commands us of. Yikes, Jesus! Matthew continues on to discuss one of the many parables Jesus used to teach his followers. In it Jesus tells his followers to look at the birds of the air and how our Heavenly Father feeds them. Although God created animals, He did so with the truth that they were created lesser to Him than man. Jesus points out the fact that God cares for the birds of the air, feeds them, and because of this they do not reap or store away extra supplies in barns. (Matthew 6:26) This analogy is important because it points out how it is human nature to both worry and desire to control any deprivations or negative consequences from happening. If God cares enough about the birds of the air to ensure they are fed, how much more does He care for us; His creation made in His image to be in intimate relationship with Him. The paragraph ends with the question, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) Here, Jesus is asking a rhetorical question to those in whom he is speaking to. Clearly the followers back then and even now often need a simple reminder such as this. No day can be added to our lives when we decide to place specific worry or anxiousness to a circumstance.
In the next section, Jesus again uses a comparison within nature to point towards our human tendency to worry. Starting in verse 28 with another question, Jesus asks his listeners “ And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (Matthew 6:28, NIV) He continues,
“Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?" (Matthew 6: 29-30)
Christ brings up a specific well-known figure in these people’s history in order for them to fully understand the lesson in which he was speaking of. In the Old Testament, Solomon was someone who not only clothed himself in fine garments but his servants as well. (2 Chronicles 9: 4b) With this knowledge, those listening to Jesus’s teaching could better understand the gravity of this particular comparison. Therefore, even in all the splendor of Solomon and his servants, he was never dressed like one of these flowers Jesus is referencing. Does he mean that flowers are literally dressed better than everyone, including those with exquisite clothing? No, Jesus is simply personifying how as any of us give unnecessary and ungodly worry on things of this world, we will never achieve that in which our soul is seeking. As seen in chapter 9 in 2 Chronicles, Solomon desired to be dressed well and to retain a certain image to those who saw his grand palace. Since a place in Solomon’s heart was held with the self-serving aspiration to be dressed in splendor, it can also be assumed due to the context of Jesus’s teaching here in these verses, that it was also accompanied with a certain level of fear of losing it. Furthermore, since we uncovered that when Jesus speaks, it is always coming from a place of both authority and first-hand knowledge, Jesus was entirely aware of what Solomon's heart and motives were always point to. Jesus knows the depths of every man’s heart (John 2:24). Without outwardly saying it, Jesus was speaking of Solomon’s reverence for maintaining a powerful outward appearance. Since the flowers of this world are unaware of their splendor, they lack a simultaneous worry. Jesus draws this comparison between Solomon and the flowers to move our eyes away from a worry or fear of retaining a certain perception of self and to instead relish in the splendor in which God created us. Jesus continues forward in concluding this chapter while wrapping up the importance of maintaining a lack of worry. He also expands upon what we should be doing instead of spending our time worrying about the many concerns of this world.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)
Jesus doesn’t dismiss our basic needs of food, drink, and clothing but rather points us to our Father who has infinite knowledge on such needs. After reminding those listening that God already has full wisdom on the things in which we need, he ends the chapter with a command on what instead we should be seeking. Jesus commands to seek first above all else God’s kingdom and righteousness. He continues to say to not spend any moment worrying about tomorrow because each day has its own allocated worries. Friends, I beckon you to rest in this fact. God allocates just enough worry for us to handle each day. Anxiety enters into our brains when we allow for any worries beyond that in which the Lord allocated to invade our thoughts. As anxious thoughts of future events creep into our brains, find refuge in this gentle reminder and truth - God is infinitely knowledgeable, existing out of time, and therefore understands specifically that in which we can endure each day. Tomorrow’s worries will remain regardless if we allow them to enter into today. Therefore, seek first the kingdom of God and his almighty righteousness.
There is so much more to be said on anxiety. Honestly, I could attempt and write a whole book on this subject. In fact, there has been a lot of incredible books written on this subject. This fact points towards the validity of this enveloping emotion that attacks so many of us on earth. Any given day presents a new worry or fear, and that is why we have to remain steadfast in the truth that Christ has complete authority and wisdom over both us and all things of this earth . The Bible is not just a document full of stories that we can find grains of wisdom. Rather, it is living and breathing. It is a precious gift from our Father to interrupt our hearts and lace the inner-workings of our anxious beings with the truth of all that Christ was and is. God is not a God of anxiety, fear, or worry; He is our Father that takes those fallen emotions and nails them firmly to the cross in which Christ bore. This earth will be full of difficulties, and all of ours will look different in different seasons. Although none of us are made exactly alike, we are still not exempt from being tempted or tried in a way that already has been.
Even if you are sure your anxiousness is specific only to you, be reminded that our Savior Christ felt both what you do now and what all of us will in the future. He is before, during, and after all things. Christ is the ultimate answer to all the worries our world presents.
I still struggle to understand why I gained the ability to worry about the most unlikely of outcomes, and yet somehow I could weather a moment where spotlight was on my talents. I believe my need for control (which still continually surfaces at this stage of life) led me to assuming the worst in situations outside the perceived control I thought I had. I can practice piano until my fingers hurt, study and write until the knowledge was readily attainable, sing until it was second nature, but I could not control the actions of another.
I look back on these years where anxiety deeply plagued my life, often wishing I could have a chance encounter with my current self in order to speak the truth that we are never fully in control into my young, anxious heart. You know who is completely in control of everything always for all time little Mary? God. You know who has a grander plan that is for everyone’s best? God. You know who offers freedom from such worries and fears? Jesus. It’s difficult to look back on the years and time I spent (and often still spend) going piece by piece through the most unlikely of outcomes and how to avoid them. Furthermore, it truly pains me to resonate on the efforts and guilt I extended to seasons of life where I made decisions that could potentially result in these worst case scenarios. God is never surprised by the choices we or others make. He never approaches a situation as says, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming. I better draft up a quick plan B.” No,
God knew I would spend my time assuming the worst and planning for it; He knew those behaviors would result in continually stretching me to surrender such thoughts and actions in order to draw me under His wings of refuge.
I wish I could say these insatiable worries didn’t follow me into my life as I became a believer. Oftentimes, people assume that the Christian life is one lacking in trials and former worries. It’s as if there's this idea that the moment you declare Jesus as your savior you suddenly become free of what once plagued your mental landscape. I wish it were that easy. As you’ll see throughout my journey in other posts, God has awoken my soul to it’s own vices and strongholds; disallowing me to simultaneously both walk in freedom and melt into the blistering heat of human-perceived control. Looking back upon this young girl full of ideologies the world presented on a shifting platter, I cannot simply pretend part of her doesn’t still live on with me. For those parts, God is working out and providing me soul’s rest. Although I am forever changing and oftentimes going backwards to the habitual, sinful behaviors - He remains the same. It is his consistency that gives me stability in this walk as a Christian. Even on uneven ground, my feet no longer waver to the wider steps. Rather, he makes my path on level ground among the mountains terrain. It isn’t a path for me to walk easily but rather to declare His goodness throughout.
I pray the truth of what Jesus said both in Matthew 6 and the entirety of the Bible points you towards His taking on of your anxiety. I pray you find refuge in His wings rather than in the many spaces where freedom lacks here on Earth. God is both fully in control and desiring for you to find your soul's rest in His perfect gift of Christ.
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