It was like a child had unrolled a skein of yarn and tried to put it back together, then placed the ensuing mess in my mind for me to unravel and place back in the proper order.
The things I needed to do today mixed with the list I needed to start for a family trip which overlapped with the appointments that needed to be made and the overwhelm of all the writerly things I wanted to, no, needed to get done. It was enough tangled yarn to hang oneself with. Nearly overwhelming, constricting the throat as my heartbeat raced my car down the highway. The thoughts would not untangle.
Jesus’ words on worry almost seemed trite.
“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? … So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
I wasn’t concerned about what I would eat or drink or wear. Those worries simply are not in my tangle of yarn. My tangle involves reams of paperwork and my son’s speech and whether or not my life is significant on this planet.
So Jesus’ words telling me not to worry about eating and drinking and dressing myself can seem…irrelevant.
Jesus was speaking to people who knew the gnawing pains of perpetual hunger, who knew the daily struggle of wearing worn-out clothing. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Jesus’ immediate audience was dealing with the most basic of needs: food, water, warmth, rest.
My needs rank higher in the hierarchy because I live in a different culture. But my need for belonging, esteem, and self-actualization are not lesser needs. They were put in place by the same God that made me require food and shelter. In that case, Jesus’s words do apply to me, I simply need to see them through the window of my own reality. If Jesus were to preach this sermon at my church today, the words might sound more like this:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, who you will marry or how your children behave or who will appreciate your work. Is life not more than the recognition of others, more than a job description, more than belonging in human relationships? Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Those are hard words to live by. On my own, I cannot untangle that skein of yarn and simply stop worrying. But I can drop it, and let God untangle it. These then, are the ways that God is teaching me to drop that unruly mess in my mind:
1) Seek first his kingdom.
In the midst of Jesus’ speech on worry, he seems to take a rabbit trail. He speaks these words: “but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” and then resumes talking about worry. But it is actually not a rabbit trail, because of that “but”.
He shows us exactly what we can do when the worries threaten to overwhelm. Do not worry, BUT seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
The cure for worry is not a trite answer or a simple turning of the mind, but a continual seeking of God, a perpetual chase, a thorough investigation into the goodness of God.
What does it look like to seek first His kingdom? You’ll have to talk that over with God.
2) Give thanks.
Day-by-day, moment-by-moment, label the good in your life.
Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Giving thanks in an integral part of the “do not be anxious about anything” process.
3) Recognize and refuse to worship idols
You know when I really start to be afraid? When I love my kids more than I love God. When I value the gifts more than the Giver, I turn them into idols. Then I start to worry about what would happen if I lost my gifts, and the panic creeps in. When I honestly love God the most (because I’ve been seeking first His kingdom and giving thanks for the work He’s done in my life), the idols will have no hold over me. I will be free.
I’d like to leave you with some homework today, if I may. Consider how God sees you and your fears, and write a letter from Him to you, concerning all those things that keep you bound up and afraid. What does He have to say to you today?
(This is my letter, if you’d like to take a peek into my journal)
I know what you need.
But seek me first: My kingdom, My righteousness…and My blessings will follow.
To remove your fears, look at Me.
Only when you know Me can you see the arguments and pretensions that are opposite of anything within Me. Only by knowing Me can you recognize the thoughts that lead you astray, and only in My power can you take captive those thoughts. My love will overwhelm them and wash them away.
My kingdom won’t look as you expect, because My thoughts are not your thoughts, not are My ways like your ways.
Seek Me, the King of this subversive Kingdom, and the beauty of My kingdom will be yours to inherit.