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Of all the commands that Jesus delivered over the course of his ministry, this one continues to elude me in practice: “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?” (Matthew 6:25). What’s striking about this verse is that Jesus tells his listeners not to worry about food and drink and clothing. He goes right for our practical, daily needs.
Frankly, I don’t give much thought to these things for myself. The bedroom closet has more than enough to keep me covered every season. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I purchased a new shirt or pair of pants. In short, staying up-to-date with the latest fashion trends is low on my priority list. As for food and drink, this too fails to keep me up at night in lingering angst as God provides.
As a first-time parent, however, I’m unequivocally committed as a father to making sure my son has enough to eat and to wear. I want him to be happy as he approaches two. Anxieties related to parenting often come with an urge to do something. Buying more clothes, taking on more hours, finding cheaper food options. Sacrifice is good, but Jesus still calls us to rid ourselves of worry.
How are we supposed to do that? Here are three biblical ways to cast off your worries.
Remember that God is your Creator and Provider
“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (v. 27).
As parents, there is a lot to think about. We experience anxiety about work deadlines, family stress, and illnesses. These worries cause us to hustle harder throughout the day in an attempt to maximize the time between waking and sleeping. “There’s never enough time in the day,” we say with a deflated sigh as one task ends and gives way to the next.
It’s in this state of hurry that we fail to consider that God decided to perfectly order the entire rhythm of the universe, which includes Earth and its 24-hour day. (In contrast, the planet Mercury’s length of a day is 58.6 Earth days; Venus is 243 Earth days; Jupiter is only 9 hours and 55 minutes, which makes for a much shorter stint at the office!).
If God, who created all things, decided on 24 hours, then it’s enough for a day. Still, believing this truth and applying this truth are at odds for most of us. We cram stuff in at a frenzied pace. Personally, I’m still in a state of anxiety about professional aspirations. Why? If Jesus said not to worry, why do I still worry?
I suspect that we worry about stuff because of past pain. Letdowns, disappointments, setbacks, and the general belief that God didn’t provide at our time of choosing is the basis of worry that engulfs our mind. We expect breakthroughs shortly after prayers are said, and if the timing doesn’t align, there’s unease and angst about trusting God completely.
But parents, know that God is not slow about keeping his promises (2 Peter 3:9). He is our Creator and our Provider, both for us and for our children. Therefore, accomplish much between waking and sleeping, but then set it down until the sun rises tomorrow and God grants fresh mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Increase Your Faith to Decrease Your Doubt
Who else is willing to raise their hand and acknowledge a faith that feels small at times? I will be the first. Jesus gently rebuked those who wondered whether God would be faithful to feed and clothe them. Why does anxiety constantly dwell with our faith though?
External circumstances come to mind. If you recall the story of Peter walking towards Jesus on the water, he wavered after observing the imposing waves and heavy rain (Matthew 14:22-33). Peter started to sink, Jesus immediately grabbed his hand and lifted his doubtful disciple quickly: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” asked Jesus.
Peter’s brush with death causes me to think about physical safety. As a distance runner, I have to be extra vigilant about crosswalks, traffic lights, and shorter daylight as I trek through the city on foot.
As a husband, however, I worry less about myself and more about my wife. There’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t pray for the safety of my wife—a teacher—who has to entertain regularly the thought of guns showing up in schools across the United States. The enemy is alive and well in this age, looking for someone to snatch and ensnare and destroy (1 Peter 5:8). As a father, too, I will worry about the safety and well-being of my son until I die or the Lord returns.
Overcoming these worries, however, requires little faith to become big faith. Ironically, faith is the very substance required to believe and trust in a God who’s not physically present (Hebrews 11:1). Oh, but God is trustworthy and faithful in all things that we give him in prayer!
Seek the Kingdom of God
Since God is the only one we can trust with certainty, we should seek him first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Jesus says as he closes out his message about not being anxious (Matthew 6:33). As a husband and father with a recurring proclivity for worry, seeking the kingdom of God first in this context means repeatedly returning to the cross. As often as necessary, I lay my worries down again and again and again to the Savior who faced all temptations. Who faced the enemy death, conquered it, and forsook the grip of the grave.
Peter, who once sank in the ocean and feared for his life, would later say with deep boldness, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
I don’t know if I’ll personally see this command fully realized in this life, but I can be grateful that at the renewal of all things, worry will permanently fall by the wayside. All the worries that keep us from sleeping will end as the kingdom of God arrives in its complete and radiant splendor.