Jesus taught them, saying: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”Matthew 6:27
Confession time: I am a worrier. I know I shouldn’t worry, but I can’t seem to help it. Will my worrying add a single hour to my span of life? No, of course not. I realize that. But it doesn’t stop me from worrying!
I suspect that I am not the only worrier out there. Because there are lots of things to worry about these days. This pandemic, the economy, our society’s polarization, climate change, and on and on. Not to mention all the things that are happening in our families and in our personal lives! There is a lot to worry about, isn’t there?
But into this worried, anxious, and fearful world, Jesus offers us a very simple, almost naïve, message: Do not worry. Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? So, don’t do it. Strive first for the kingdom of God instead. And all these things that you are worried about? They will be taken care of. But how? We want to ask. How will they be taken care of? And the answer is always the same. Jesus says to his disciples, and to you and to me: Trust me. Have faith in me. Do not worry. It will all turn out okay, if you just put your trust in me.
It seems too simple, doesn’t it? But the more I have thought about it, the more I am convinced that it really is that simple. We just make it more complicated. At least I do. And I don’t think that I am alone. So, I want to share with you three things that I think Jesus is teaching us, especially in this section of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34), about how to handle the worries and fears of life. Three things that we can do in the face of our worries and concerns. So that tomorrow, we will be a little less worried than today.
Don’t Feed Our Worries
First, Jesus teaches his disciples not to feed their worries. “Look at the birds of the air,” he says (Matthew 6:26). They hunt for food, they build their nests, they protect their young. But they don’t lose any sleep worrying about these things. They don’t think obsessively about these things. They don’t feed their worries.
Have you ever been at a beach or park and watched what happens when someone feeds the birds? They work themselves up into a frenzy and come from all over to fight over the scraps. But what happens when you stop feeding them? They eventually give up and go away. Isn’t that true with our worries? Don’t feed your worries. Instead, feed your faith. Limit your exposure to the news. Spend more time reading the Bible and other devotional books. Focus on God, and on what God is doing in your life and in our world. Feed your faith, and your fears and worries, as they say, will starve.
Focus on Today
Another specific thing that Jesus teaches us to do to reduce our worrying is this: Focus on today. “Do not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). Focus on today. If you think about it, many, if not most, of our worries have something to do with what has already happened, or has not yet happened. We relive the past, or we worry about the future. In the face of this, Jesus simply points out the practical wisdom that can be found in almost any religion. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t obsess about yesterday. Focus on today.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t plan for the future. The smart squirrel saves some nuts for the winter. But there is a difference between planning for the future, and living there. We can plan for the future, even as we live for today.
There is one more specific thing that Jesus teaches us to do with our worries. And it may seem obvious, but it still needs to be said. We ought to pray. Right before Jesus told his disciples not to worry, he taught them to pray. In fact, he just taught them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. And right after he tells them not to worry, he continues to teach them about prayer. And the basic message that he teaches is really quite simple: When we worry, we should pray.
I know that in my own life, when I am worrying about something overly much, I am usually not praying about it enough. In fact, worry has become a signal to me of my need to pray. When I catch myself worrying, I turn my worry into a prayer. Worry is simply a reminder to me, a wake-up call, to get busy praying. And when I turn my worry over to God, something good happens, every single time.
So, go back to whatever it is that you are most worried about today. What might it look like to take it to the Lord in prayer? To pray about it more, and to worry about it less? Or, every time you catch yourself worrying about it, to turn your worry into a prayer. My guess is that if you do that, something good will happen. Every single time.
So, what are you worried about? Turn your worries into prayers, focus on today, and feed your faith. Or, as Jesus himself put it, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
This is another in my series exploring scripture’s most compelling questions. I share more about this series here: What Are Scripture’s Most Compelling Questions?