God has in many ways used the uncertainty of 2020 to expose our anxieties that rise up when things are unpredictable. Perhaps you usually plan months in advance, but have had to cope with short term and tentative plans. Perhaps you found your workload very unpredictable with weeks of low activity suddenly turning into extra work to adjust for changes. Or perhaps your finances have been unpredictable with less cash flow than before.
In times when uncertainty easily causes anxiety the following passage is a delightful reality check.
25 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 clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The things we worry about tend to be what we think we can control. Jesus mentions food and clothes as key examples, but plans, workload and finances also fit the category. As Jesus continues teaching, he exposes the deceptiveness of such perceived control. Unpredictable circumstances (like a global pandemic) can wipe out our control in a moment. Uncertainty leads to anxiety if we continue to insist that our “control” over factors such as food and clothes can preserve our life and body (verse 25). But we are fooling ourselves if we think we are sovereignly in control of either trivial or important matters. Jesus points out that God is ultimately the provider of all food (verse 26), and that our worrying does not lead to security or length of life (verse 27). What a striking truism Jesus gives us: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
What is behind our anxiety? It is our lack of faith, or in Jesus words of gentle chiding, “you of little faith” (verse 30). Jesus points to God’s provision for birds of the air and the flowers of the field as reminders of God’s faithfulness to provide. Furthermore, God’s provision is extravagantly generous, “not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these” (verse 29). Jesus makes an argument from the lesser to the greater: if God is abundantly faithful on such minor matters as birds and flowers, we can be confident to trust him to be faithful on important matters pertaining to us as people made in his image (verse 26 and verse 29).
How should we respond? Those who don’t know God “run after all these thing” (verse 32a), but Jesus encourages us to be people of faith, who trust the character of our faithful and generous God who “knows that you need them” (verse 32b). So instead of putting our energy into controlling the factors of life, like food, clothing, plans and finances, that are neither most important nor fully controllable, we should invest our energy in seeking first God’s kingdom (verse 33). Seeking God’s kingdom involves confessing our sins before God, receiving the forgiveness bought by the blood of Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live sanctified and increasingly righteous lives. If you already have placed your trust in this way, be confident that the most important need of being reconciled to God has been dealt with and so “all these [lesser] things [that you need] will be given to you as well”. If you have not sought a reconciled relationship with God as a priority over seek provision of needs from God, let me encourage you to say a simple prayer now confessing sin, receiving forgiveness and asking to be filled by the Holy Spirit.
Finally, in the words of Jesus, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”