Uncertainty can be quite unsettling. Sometimes in life, things we would want to be sure of get out of control, which sometimes leads to anxiety. These times of a pandemic have led to many in the world asking big questions; What does the future hold for me? Will a cure for this disease be found? How is work going to be? For how long can I feed myself and my family on unpaid leave? Am I even going to lose my job after all?
I have found myself anxious, especially in times of transition in my life and when faced with uncertainties. However, Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 have been particularly helpful to anchor my soul. I am aware that anxiety can be a medical disorder at times, but I do not intend to handle this in this article. I will share a bit of what has been helpful to me from Matthew 6, and I hope the Lord would be helping you if you are facing anxiety now or in the future.
In Matthew 5-7, Jesus gives the disciples and the crowd listening instructions on Kingdom living. He handles real-life issues like murder, adultery, divorce, how to deal with the needy, and many others. In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus helped them understand that wherever their treasure is, there their heart will be too. Not only so, he tells them that no one can serve two masters; they will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Either serve God or money.
It is out of this that Jesus tells them “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious 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?” Verse 25 (ESV).
Food, clothing, and shelter are the most basic human needs. They are very core to what we need to live life here on earth. Jesus recognizes this, and tells them not to be worried about their lives; their basic needs. He tells them, life is more than these basic things. And these leads us to ask; so what is life if it is more than these things? What was Jesus thinking? Jesus gives them more proof of why they should not to be anxious. He takes care of the two main things that were in question here;
Jesus gives the example of the birds of the air. He says, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matt 6:26
It is quite interesting to see that the birds of the air do absolutely nothing to get food to eat, yet our heavenly Father feeds them. When we get anxious, we are always thinking of what we should do or should have done better to save the situation. But the birds of the air do nothing. Absolutely nothing! Have you ever seen a bird tend a field to grow any food? Or pay for food at the supermarket? Of course not!
And the question here is “Are you not of more value than they?” Remember, from Genesis we see that unlike all these creatures, human beings were created in God’s image and asked to rule over all the other animals. Indeed, “Are we not of more value than they?”
Jesus then asks the question of life again; “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life span?” Matthew 6:27. It’s ridiculous how anxiety lies to us that we can sort things in our lives on our own. We can work a little harder to get food on the table. Although working hard is not bad in itself, we cannot by hard work alone get provision for ourselves. We cannot guarantee how life will go and therefore, cannot anticipate all the curve balls life might throw. We are limited. We are not in control of life. We cannot add a single hour to it. God is the one in control.
As we see God providing for the birds of the air, why should we not trust that he will provide for us?
In this case, Jesus gives the example of flowers. Verse 28 -29 “They neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”. I Kings 10:14 says “The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents,” (that’s about 23 metric tons). And this is not only what he had. He had more than enough to clothe himself. Yet, in all his wealth, Solomon was not dressed like these flowers.
Just like the birds of the air, the flowers do absolutely nothing to have their need met. God even clothes the grass of the field, which is perishable. “Will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith?”
Whenever I read this, it’s like Jesus punches me with the heart of the problem here; you of little faith.
Anxiety is a question of unbelief. It is failing to understand that:
1. Life is more than our basic needs.
2. We can trust the one who is in control of both our lives here on earth and the life to come.
- Life is more than our basic needs
We need to hear the question of Jesus in Verse 25 more keenly. Yes, in life we need food and clothes (we will come back to this), but “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?”
In fact, Jesus tells them in Verse 31 “Therefore, do not be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat? ‘Or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ The reason being “For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” Verse 32.
- The Gentiles seek after these very things. What follows would help us understand this better. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…” verse 33. There are two options here. One would be to seek after the things that we need here and now and what non-believers seek after, or to seek after God’s Kingdom and his righteousness. Anxiety shouts to us and tells us, “YOU NEED THESE THINGS NOW!”
It makes us forget that there is something more to life than our immediate needs. That seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is more important than our felt needs of food and clothing because it leads not only to life now, but also to life after death.
May the Lord help us to focus our minds in seeking his Kingdom and righteousness (which will last forever) before we even think of pursuing the things we need here and now. There ought to be a difference between Gentiles and Believers.
- Your Father knows that you need them. I know as you read the earlier paragraph you wondered how then we can deal with daily needs of food and clothing etc. By saying that we seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness first, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need food and clothes.
It means that we seek the most important thing; that which will last for eternity, and then we can trust that our heavenly Father will take care of the rest. He is concerned with our daily needs – he knows that we need them.
Jesus uses the same words while teaching his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6: 8-13. He tells them not to pray like the pagans do, for our Father knows what we need before we even ask. He is aware, so we can confidently pray that he provides for our daily bread and trust that he will do so.
- Trust God Who is in Control Now and in Eternity
Remember the question in verse 27,” Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Worry is the evidence of deluding ourselves that we are in control. We want to say, “we are in control and God is not”. This is a sin. We easily forget that we did not bring ourselves to life and came with nothing and can’t sustain our lives through it and eternity. It is God who created us and he is the one in charge of our lives now and through eternity. He is in control and sovereign over all the circumstances that happen in our lives, whether good or bad and so we can trust in him.
Therefore, instead of being anxious, we can learn to;
Turn our anxieties to God. Phil 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God.“
When we know that we are not in control, but God is, we can turn our anxieties to him. In prayer and thanksgiving, we can present anything and everything to him who provides for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.
We can thank him because he has provided for us in the past, and we know that he is in control of our current situation. Next time you are worried about anything and everything, please do take time and present that to God, before starting to think of how to take control by yourself.
And the result of trusting God is…
The peace of God. “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7. When we present our requests to God, God gives our restless hearts and minds peace in Christ Jesus. What a joy! We can rest knowing that God has taken care of it.
Article by Ann Mwari. Ann serves as the Accounts and Admin Assistant at iServe Africa.