“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” –Matthew 6:34
This statement from Jesus has to be on the short list of ‘most relevant Scripture verses’ of the past year. It also has to be on the short list of ‘most difficult Scripture verses to put into practice’.
The past year has been full of worry for many people. Among the more sobering statistics are those reported by Mental Health America: the first nine months of 2020 saw a 93% increase in the number of people who took anxiety screenings, with 8 out of 10 scoring in the ‘moderate to severe’ range of symptoms, i.e. those which may require counseling, therapy, and/or medication.
Given that, is it really enough to simply say, “do not be anxious”? Don’t instructions like that often make the problem worse?
I’ll offer two quick observations, and also encourage you to join us for worship this Sunday, when Greg Burdette will preach on this passage and help us consider it more deeply.
First, the ‘anxiousness’ that Jesus mentions is not necessarily the same thing as what modern mental health indicates by the term ‘anxiety’. There is overlap, certainly, though in this passage Jesus is referring to the kind of concern and uncertainty we feel when we spend our time intentionally worrying about or deliberately meditating upon things that are ultimately not of eternal worth.
Second, the call to “not be anxious” follows the call to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (v. 33) and, earlier, the reminder to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (v. 20). That’s why Jesus says, “Therefore…” Our worry, fear, or anxiousness about life is not dismissed simply by having someone (even Jesus) say, “do not be anxious”. Rather, it is overcome when we first direct our hearts and minds to “the kingdom of God and his righteousness”.
Only by intentionally and regularly turning our attention and affection to the Lord can we relieve the crushing worry that comes when we are consumed by the concerns of the world. This is not escapism. Instead, it gives us the right perspective that enables us to engage the world and serve others the way we should.
I invite you to join us for worship this Sunday (onsite or online) as we consider these things further, and we take time to seek the kingdom as we give thanks for the grace of the King.
I pray this finds you healthy and well.
Grace and peace,