“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?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (NIV, Matthew 6:25, 31-34)
I am a worrier. In fact, I clearly remember one of my first BIG worries -- I was about 8 years old, and I just realized that human life is but a speck in eternity. My parents were ALREADY in their 30s (so old, I thought!), and they were only going to live 50 or 60 more years, at most. At the age of 8, I actually mourned the loss of my parents -- 50 years ahead of time -- and worried that this event was occurring too soon, too fast. (Yes, they are both still alive and well).
I'm also a risk-taker. Or I was. As I've gotten older, I've failed in enough risk opportunities over the years, that my desire to try new things has become filled with intense worry over the possibility of what could go wrong. I can't even see the successes that were achieved in various risks. At different times, worry has affected risks I've taken (or didn't take) personally, professionally, and spiritually. Worry can be all-consuming.
I've seen in my own life how worry can shrink my life down into a small, eensy little box - anything inside my tiny box is safe, and anything outside of it is too risky, or has too many unknowns. I spent many years living safe inside this box, but completely overwrought and sick with worry that something will come up that I haven't thought about and addressed inside my box. In addition, I've spent time making sure that those around me respond appropriately to my worry - running "fire drills", so to speak, so that I can be sure that responses will be accurate in case a situation that I've worried about occurs.
I can truly say that there have been times that my worries can interfere with my relationship with others and with God, leaving me with the inability to sufficiently trust Him or anyone else.
So what do these verses say to me today?
Because of the ill effects of worry, Jesus is telling me to not to worry about those needs that God promises to supply. Worry can cause: 1) damage to my health 2) cause the object of my worry to consume my thoughts 3) disrupt my productivity 4) negatively affect the way I treat others 5) reduce my ability to trust in God.
Now, I do believe there is a difference between worry and genuine concern -- worry immobilizes us (and creates small boxes), but concern moves us to action. I do think that planning for tomorrow is time well spent; but worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. Careful planning is thinking ahead about goals, steps and schedules, and trusting in God's guidance. When done well, planning can help alleviate worry. And I think God acknowledges this in verse 33 -- "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." He will guide our planning if our eyes are on Him. Then our plans will align with His plans.
What do you worry about today? When you take a step back, can you see the damage worry is causing in relationships with others? With God? Be honest with how it affects your productivity and has created a small box for your life. Now, join with me praying throughout today that we are able to let go and hand all of our worries over to God - He knows what we need and we receive all of that and more (what we can't even fathom is needed). We just need to keep our eyes focused on Him. Keep our minds in tune with His saving Grace and His calling on our lives. He will take care of the rest.