Life is full of difficulties. Cars and computers and refrigerators die. Hot-water heaters wear out. Planes and ferries and buses run late. And life is often full of pain. Our bodies are frail. They get injured. They get sick. And when life gets hard, our natural tendency is to get anxious, worried, or frustrated—or all three at once.
Have you had that experience, all three in one? But I want to suggest to you that the Bible tells us how to deal with life, which includes those times of anxiety and frustration. We can talk about character traits, and I was reading somewhere about author Jerry Bridges, who one day decided to sit down with his New Testament and check out some specific teachings about our character.
It’s no surprise that love came up as number one, with 50 instances. But what might be surprising is that humility was only just behind with 40 instances. What may be even more surprising is that trusting in God in all of our circumstances came in third place. So trusting God in all of life’s circumstances comes through strongly in the New Testament. Trust in God is a very important issue, and I’ve often spoken about that in this program.
But why is it, then, that we, who call ourselves Christians, fail to trust God in daily life? The opposite of trust in God is anxiety and frustration. But Jesus had a lot to say about anxiety. His best known words on the subject are in the Sermon on the Mount recorded for us in Matthew 6:25-34:
I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds?
Can worry make you live longer? Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith?
Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.
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Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today. (CEV)
In an older version of this passage, Jesus uses the word ‘anxious’ six times in those verses. He says we’re not to be anxious about anything; .. not what we have to eat, not what we have to drink, not what we have to wear, not even about all the unknowns that the next day might bring. And that’s where many of us feel uneasy. What will happen tomorrow? Will I be OK? In other places Jesus says, “Fear not.”
Trusting in God Is a Foundational Principle
This is one of the foundational principles of the Christian life. The Apostle Paul got it, and it’s in his writings too. He wrote to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6). The same goes for Peter. He wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
When we talk to someone who’s struggling with pain or difficulties in their life we might say, “Don’t be anxious” or “Don’t be afraid,” but we’re just trying to give them some encouragement—just trying to be helpful. But when Jesus, Paul, or Peter tell us in the pages of Holy Scripture, “Don’t be anxious,” it has the force of a moral command.
That means that it’s the moral will of God that we not be anxious—and that means that we disobey him when we do worry. We are not trusting him. After all, he takes care of the birds and flowers—how much more will he care for us?
That’s exactly why Peter says, “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him” (1 Peter 5:7 CEV). So when you and I give way to anxiety, what we’re doing, in effect, is believing that God doesn’t really care for us. That he won’t take care of the circumstances that have triggered our anxiety. Imagine if your child came to you and said, “I don’t trust you. I don’t believe you love me and will care for me.” That’s exactly what we’re saying to God by being anxious.
I like J. B. Phillips translation of 1 Peter 5:7, because it makes that verse even more applicable to the times when we’re prone to worry: “…You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern”. Again, Jesus said that God doesn’t forget a single sparrow. How much more, then, is it true that you, his child, are indeed his personal concern.
Forgive us, Father, for the times we forget that you care for us and forgive us for the times when we insist on being in control and become anxious or frustrated over our circumstances. You have given us your grace and your Holy Spirit dwells in us. Help us to remember to rely on you and to look for you in all of our circumstances. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
(Article Credit: Rev. William Klock – Living Word Reformed Episcopal Church, Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada.)