After writing an email encouraging a friend not to worry over a situation, I was thinking over what it means to not worry. My mind immediately goes to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter six: 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 clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (vv. 25-34)
Don’t you love that sort of backhanded reassurance at the close of the passage? Every time I read it, I think maybe Jesus didn’t need to add that to his otherwise highly uplifting words. Taken negatively, it is sort of this last ditch effort to convince us we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow. “If the truth that God provides and is faithful and generous doesn’t keep you from worrying, well, then, just focus on the fact that there is enough problems today to keep you well occupied without adding in everthing that might be wrong with tomorrow.” Probably not what Jesus wanted to convey to the listening crowd on the hill that day. So I will take a second look… “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” What it causes me to keep in mind is that there are, in fact, plenty of things to worry about. It is not that Jesus is telling us there are no reasons to worry, no problems, dilemmas or hardships. No, I would never dare to say that there is nothing to worry about. Instead, I come to a two-fold, rather uplifting conclusion. Firstly, worry over tomorrow or any future day’s problems is utterly pointless. It is only today that I can do something about, not tomorrow. Secondly, while we can acknowledge the “sufficient” causes for worry in a day’s time, Jesus has given us every reason to choose not to worry. Did He not just say that God knows of everything we need, and that He will provide for us far beyond the ways He provides for the rest of His creation? It may seem like a fine line, but there’s actually a sizeable difference between trying to convince yourself that you have nothing to worry about versus choosing not to worry about any of it. Like so many aspects of the Christian life, living without worry is a matter of choosing truth, choosing hope, choosing faith.
I love this Winston Churchill quotation: “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” A very freeing realization, if taken positively, is that I do not know what tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year will bring. I don’t know. It’s a humbling truth about being human, but awfully wonderful too… assuming I have faith in the great God in heaven who does know all that will and won’t happen. Surrendering worries, be they valid concerns or imagined problems, into God’s hands is the most logical action a person can take. It doesn’t mean ignoring what needs to be done, or neglecting to take care of ourselves or make reasonable preparations for the future. No, surrender is not synonymous with inaction. It is choosing to entrust to God everything that might tempt you to worry; it is living and moving within the guiding, protective care of God’s faithfulness and wisdom; it is being honest with yourself about what you can do, what you can’t do, what God calls you to do, and what God calls you to let Him do.