So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. – Matthew 6:34
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world without worry, anxiety, or fear? I know I do, and quite frequently. In the world I live in, there are fears of being destitute, not being able to feed my furry kids, amassing any more debt than I already have, being unable to pay my bills, or having severe medical problems with subsequent and overwhelming bills. I’m sure there are a significant number of people with similar legitimate concerns. Yet, even uncertainty, without any immediate threats to well-being or status, is uncomfortable and cause for concern.
Jesus tells us not to worry about what is to come; it will come soon enough. He reminds us of the birds and other natural living things. They react to immediate threats but otherwise seem to take life as it comes, moving a bit further along if forage becomes sparse or nests blow out of trees with high winds. Some trees undoubtedly experience some form of pain when wildfires strike, yet it can be those very same fires that bring conditions that allow for seeds and cones to find life in the newly-cleared ground. Vegetation doesn’t worry about anything, while animals and avian life are always cautious; danger might be right around the corner. These members of the natural world instinctively learn to flee from predators, fires, or even the sound of gunfire, but these are things they don’t worry about until something triggers an instinct to escape from life-threatening situations. Still, they don’t consciously worry the way human beings do.
I’m pretty sure only human beings actively choose to think about worries and fears. It’s part of their makeup as humans. Their brains are hard-wired to consider possibilities between the dangers of eating the sandwich in front of them or not. Who knows where the bread and ingredients have come from, who has possibly spread germs on it, how long it has been sitting on the counter, and the like. How often has the phrase, “Be careful crossing the street or you could be hit by a bus,” cropped up (or, in some areas, the injunction is more like “Wear clean underwear…”)? Then, there’s the one I remember from childhood, “Clean your plate; after all, children are starving in (insert country).” It made sense then, but seen through adult eyes, how could my stuffing myself or not wanting to eat something I didn’t like do anything to change the status of children possibly suffering from lack of food? I still ponder that if I leave something on my plate that I don’t want to eat.
Jesus lived in a world where people believed that there was only so much to go around. What one person got meant that someone else either didn’t get much or might have to go without altogether. Today we may say we don’t believe in limited resources and that anyone willing to work hard could move up the ladder to more wealth and comfort and less anxiety. Yet, not everybody can believe that.
When was the last time you read, heard, or thought, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer”? The “self-made man,” someone who, through his/her own education, hard work, and motivation, becomes successful, usually in politics or business. Benjamin Franklin was said to have coined the phrase to describe his rise to fame and power despite being the son of a poor, unknown candlemaker. Frederick Douglass, born a slave and rose to prominence in writing, newspaper publishing, and as an Abolitionist leader among African Americans because of his motivation, hard work, and education. He also credited his involvement and interaction with others as part of his success. Each person he met or even passed on the street offered him something to learn. Each engagement with another person gave him an experience of what life could be like or perhaps an opportunity to help or be helped.
Jesus would undoubtedly note that both men were souls who not only worked their way up but found niches in realms where they helped a great many others. Yet, while both became successful, they each had struggles, worries, anxieties, and probably many fears at times. However, those fears and concerns did not stop them but instead taught them things that made them stronger and more determined to help others.
I think the important thing that Jesus would want us to learn from the verse from Matthew is that worries will always be with us. We should deal with what is on our plate now, not what will be for dinner tomorrow. In short, don’t borrow trouble. Much of what we worry about probably will not happen or, if it does, not to the magnitude of what we feared it might be. Instead of worrying about terminal cancer when the doctor suggests a lump or pain might need a little more investigation, perhaps we consider that it might be a small pocket of infection that antibiotics would cure, or a little liniment and rest might ease the pain and swelling.
My last decade or so has been less stressful. I’ve come to feel like God has a safety net under me. Even though I still have problems that seem insurmountable, I can solve them or find someone to help me overcome them. It’s funny how often I have what appears to be a perfect opportunity for a significant worry attack, but I can slide over it. I’m pretty sure God (plus Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and a few friendly saints) has got me covered, so I’m counting on that.
What are you counting on to help with your worries and concerns? Be open to any opportunity to ease your anxieties. God will be there with you.
Image: Romanesque tower of Sankt Peter Köln with permanent light installation DON’T WORRY by Martin Creed. Photo by Vincerama (2006). Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.