I’ve been thinking about worrying lately.
Not as an abstract idea but something closer to home.
What do I worry about, and I do worry.
Can’t number the times I have spoken on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where He encouraged us to not be anxious about anything. Don’t worry about the most basic things of life, like what we’ll wear or what we’ll eat or what tomorrow may hold.
Jesus said to not worry because God takes care of the birds in air and lilies in the field and so it goes without saying that we’re more important than these.
Here are some of His thoughts from what we refer to as the Sermon on the Mount from Matthews Gospel.
“Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? Matthew 6:25-34
I’m sure if we had been present to hear Jesus say these words, while sitting on a hillside on a nice sunny afternoon, surrounded by our friends we might have been one of those saying Amen, Preach it Jesus.
I’m never going to worry again.
But then we’d have to get back to our regular daily lives and probably we would worry.
Worry about our children and grandchildren.
Worry about bills to pay. Worry about our health.
Things that are natural to worry about. (If I can get away with saying this.)
For us right now this Virus is cause for worry. I’ve heard it often said that It’s hardest on those who are 70 or older. If that’s the case, I only have another month and I’ll really have to start getting serious about worrying.
So, are we less than we should be as Christians if we admit that we have moments when we can be consumed with worry? Is Jesus disappointed when we can’t get past the things in this life that bring us to a state of concern?
John described Jesus as being full of grace and truth. There’s consolation in these words when we recognize that we’re not fully able to live in Jesus words of encouragement.
Full of grace.
But still, it’s worth thinking about worry and all of the negative consequences that can accompany that emotion. Therapists tell us that it can take years off of our lives. Then there are the “self-help” authors who rightfully remind us that most of the things we waste time worrying about never happen. We pay an emotional price and it’s all for nothing.
Perhaps it can be a good exercise to go back and try to understand the audience Jesus was speaking to. These were people without any social nets such as unemployment insurance or healthcare. These were people living under occupation, the heavy hand of the Roman Government who used crucifixion as a means of keeping everyone in line. These were people with limited resources who had to pay heavy taxes to the Romans out of their meager finances. And Jesus says don’t worry. Don’t worry about the necessities of life, or about what may or may not happen tomorrow and He gives them a reason for accepting this as a way to live.
In one of my favourite Peanuts cartoons, Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus all come upon a rather discouraged looking Snoopy and they all say the same thing. “Be of good cheer Snoopy, yes, be of good cheer.” I may have missed the message in this cartoon had I not read an article about Charles Schulz, who created Peanuts for 50 years and the message he had buried in this short story. He said, may times our words of encouragement hold no meaning, there’s no weight behind our best wishes.
Be of good cheer sounds good but the question could be, why?
Jesus added weight to his teaching about not worrying when He says because your Father, your Father, the God of all abundance and supply has all of these concerns taken care of.
That needs to be our fallback when the cares of this life begin to weight heavy. The Jews in Jesus congregation were under occupation. We’re living under occupation. Not by an army with swords and lances, but by a virus that most of us never saw coming.
So, in this time of concern and anxiety and worry, Jesus says don’t worry about all of the things that can give us cause to worry, but instead He ends this lesson with the encouragement to seek God’s truth and direction and the rest of the important needs in life will be met.
I think Jesus was saying this is a different way to live in the world, as opposed to living in a state of anxiety and worry which includes so many of us and as I have confessed, me as well sometimes.