Fighting Anxiety in Troubling Times

Fighting Anxiety in Troubling Times

In many ways, we are living in troubling times. The many issues stemming from COVID-19, civil unrest, political uncertainty, general uneasiness, and day-to-day struggles can cause us anxiety. As believers, we know that we are commanded not to worry, but what can we do to fight against it?

Too often we try to fight worry by simply telling ourselves that worry is wrong, which isn’t likely to be helpful.

Don’t misunderstand. Worry is wrong. If it were not, we would not be commanded to not worry. However, repeating this fact like a mantra is not the medicine that Scripture prescribes to cure anxiety.

Jesus reveals that we do not fight anxiety by telling ourselves that worry is wrong. We fight anxiety by reminding ourselves that God is good.

Look at what Jesus taught in Luke 12:22-31

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Look at the concrete examples Jesus gives for what we should not worry about: food and clothing. These are basic necessities. Without food you’ll starve to death in a matter of days. Without clothes, you’re exposed to the elements.

By using these examples, Jesus is making an argument from the greater to the lesser. If we should not worry about these vital needs, then it follows that we should not be anxious about difficulties at work, or finances, or health problems, or family tension…

The command is to not worry about food or clothing (or anything else). But Jesus doesn’t simply give the command and then move on to the next topic.

Instead, he looks to the world around them and points out everyday evidence revealing that God is good. It is trust in God that relieves us of our anxiety.

In this passage, Jesus gives 5 reasons to have confidence in God’s goodness.

1) God Cares About You And Your Needs

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (Luke 12:24)

The lesson here is clear – The ravens are not farmers, they don’t plant or harvest crops, they don’t have barns or storehouses, and yet God feeds them.

Here’s an argument from the lesser to the greater: If God cares so well for the birds, how much more will He care for you who are made in His image? “Of how much more value are you than the birds!”

This is why 1 Peter 5:7 exhorts you to cast all our cares on God, because He cares for you.

The first reason Jesus gives for why we should not worry is this: God cares about you and your needs.

2) God Has The Ability To Give You What You Need

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26)

The phrase Jesus uses here can mean “add one cubit (18 inches) to his height” OR “add a single hour to his span of life.” The latter seems to be the better of the two possibilities, as Jesus’ point here seems to be that such a feat (though impossible for us) would be rather inconsequential. Maybe its because I’m fairly short, but I think adding a foot and a half would be a “big thing” rather than a “small thing.”

The point is there’s no point in worrying. What good does it do? Can you add an hour to your life by worrying? Can you increase your bank account by fretting over money? Can you resolve conflict by agonizing over hypothetical conversations?

Most of the time we are incapable of changing the issue we’re concerned about because we are not in control. Only God is in control our circumstances. Our worry reveals a reluctance to let God be God. It is He who dictates our height and it is He who has numbered our days.

So when Jesus points our complete inability to control our circumstances He is contrasting this reality with God’s complete ability to do so. Is anything too hard for the Lord?

To worry is to act as though everything depended on us rather than on God who is in control of our circumstances. Recognize that God alone is in control.

The second reason that we should not worry is that God has the ability to give you what you need.

3) God is Generous In Giving More Than You Need

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28)

From animal life and human life, Jesus turns to plant life – to the lilies that were no doubt all around them. Whereas with the ravens we saw God’s grace in providing the basic necessities of life, here we see God’s abundant goodness in providing beauty to this world.

He “clothes” the grass in such a way that even Solomon in all his glory can’t compare. But are the lilies hard at work or worry in order to be so beautifully designed? No, they neither “toil nor spin” – their beauty is not a factor of their anxious activity but rather a result of God’s gracious care.

God is not stingy! He is generous, providing far above what is needed. He does not need to make the landscapes beautiful, but He does because it is His good pleasure. He desires to do so, despite the fact that the grass and flowers dry out, die, and are thrown into the fire as fuel for baking bread.

Again, from the lesser to the greater: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which Is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you – you of little faith?”

Take a quick mental inventory of the comforts and blessings that you have experienced just since waking up this morning. God is generous beyond measure.

The third reason you can have confidence in the goodness of God is that He is generous, giving you more than you need.

4) God Knows What You Need (And When You Need It)

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” (Luke 12:29-30)

We are told not to “seek” what we are to eat or drink or be worried about such things. The word for “seek” here means to search diligently for. So this does not mean we should make no provision for ourselves or our families. Rather, we are not to pursue material things more than we are to pursue God. We must put first things first. Don’t set your heart on these things; don’t worry about them.

Why not?

“All the nations of the world” seek after these things. Perhaps the NIV has the better translation when it says “the pagan world” seeks after such things. Jesus is referring to the unbelieving world that lives outside of a covenant relationship with God.

Are we as Christians to be consumed with the same cares and concerns as those who do not know God and are ignorant of His loving provision?

We can be assured that, “…your Father knows that you need them.” Here’s our fourth reason for confidence in God’s goodness: He knows exactly what you need (and might I add, He knows just when you need it).

Of course, it is not by accident that we are told that God knows what we need. God does not cater to our wants and desires, and what we think we need does not always line up with what God knows we need.

So we’re not supposed to worry, but are instead to trust God. We can trust Him because He cares enough about us to give us what we need, He is able to give us what we need, He desires to give us what we need, and He knows exactly what we need.

5) God Promises To Give Us What We Need

“Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:31)

Jesus has, up to this point, been outlining why we should not do something. Now we see a positive command for what we should do. Rather than eagerly seek after the same things that the pagans do, we are instead to eagerly seek the kingdom of God.

What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom?

To seek the kingdom of God is to make our greatest concern that His dominion would be continually strengthened in our own lives and that we would be used by Him to strengthen His dominion in the lives of others.

When we put first things first, by making His kingdom our greatest pursuit, all other cares and concerns will fall into their proper place.

Even more than simply giving us a proper perspective, God makes a promise here: “seek His kingdom and these things will be added to you.”

Which things? The same basic necessities that Jesus has been speaking about and that the nations of the world are seeking. Food, water, clothing, and by extension anything else that God has determined that we need.

We have here a promise and our fifth reason for confidence in God’s goodness: He will give us what we need.

When we are walking with God we can be assured that He will supply what we need for the journey.

But how are we to understand this promise in light of the hardships that Christians throughout the ages have faced?

Well, we can immediately steer clear of what is peddled as the so-called prosperity gospel, where preachers promise that if you do God’s will you will have everything your heart desires (and God’s will just so happens to be for them to own a jet).

No, such a perversion of the gospel would be unrecognizable to the Apostle Paul, who wrote to the church in Corinth, “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.”

So if not a magic formula that obligates God to bless us in ways that we desire – or even a guarantee that we shall never be in want – what does this verse mean? Here we see yet another reminder to trust in God’s goodness.

If God has commanded something (seeking His kingdom above all else), we can rest assured that He will not fail to provide what we need to obey Him.

This is about trusting that God will give you what you need – and trusting that whatever He has given you is what you need. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Sometimes what is best for our soul is a period of poverty, or loss, or isolation.

We may not understand at the time, but so often we look back and see that our greatest periods of growth were in times of trial where we were made aware of our utter dependence on God’s gracious care for us.

Even when God’s knowledge of what we need is different than what we think we need, and His perfect timing does not meet our expectations, we should not be anxious. Instead, we should trust in the goodness of God.

As we read in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

So how can we fight anxiety?

What is it that we can do when we are living in the gap between what we feel we need and what God has given us?

How should we respond when relationships are strained, finances are tight, health deteriorates, or trials come?

God knows that you need encouragement during such times, and that is why He has preserved Christ’s teaching for us in Luke 12. Reflect daily on these truths.

Don’t be anxious, because your life consists of greater things than food, or clothing, or work, or relationships, or finances, or even health. God cares so well for the birds – will He not care more for you? It is God who is in control of our very breath and existence – will He not then provide what you need?

Look at the beauty that God has blessed us with – His generosity will not run out before He gets to you.

God cares about you; He is able to provide what you need; He delights to be generous towards you; He knows exactly what you need and He will not withhold it.

Trust Him.

The antidote to anxiety is not telling yourself that worry is wrong, but by reminding yourself that God is good.

 

I pray that Jesus’ words in Luke 12 will be a help to you as you seek to trust Him in the midst of troubling times.

Pastor Clay