An Answer for Anxiety

My youngest daughter, Leia, just finished up her 11th year of homeschooling… and with a summer filled with lots of free time dead ahead, she has plotted a course to find herself a job. So far she’s put forth a fair amount of effort, but as of now the only thing she has acquired is a first hand knowledge of how hard job hunting can be.   She’s learned that it isn’t  enough to just put in an application, sit back and wait.  What she is discovering is that those who get hired quickly are usually those who follow up and can effectively ‘sell themselves’ to potential employers. And not surprisingly, this has not been her favorite endeavor. In fact, it’s been just plain hard. 

So today, we spent the morning planning strategies to overcome the very normal levels of apprehension that come with trying to explain to a total stranger why they would want to hire a high school teenager. After I patted her on the back and sent her out the door with freshly polished resumes in hand, I paused to think about fear and anxiety a little more. 

Whether it’s employment, relationships or things going on in the culture, it just seems like today there’s an unending list of things we can choose to be worried about.  But Jesus cautioned the people of His day about the folly of worrying.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
For the pagan world runs after all such things,
and your Father knows that you need them.
But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luke 12:29-30

A cursory reading of Christ’s words may seem initially irrelevant. I mean in today’s world,  most of us don’t (and never have) worried about such basics as eating and drinking.  That kind of day to day concern about where basic necessities will come from is long in the past for the vast majority of people in America. But even so, Jesus is still speaking to us about issues of survival. While they might not be quite as tangible as eating and drinking were in the first century, all of us end up labeling some elements of our lives as real necessities. It could be a relationship, a job, a 401-K, standing in the community, or any number of things. While most of those things aren’t inherently wrong, we do have to guard against looking to them as our security.

So, to modernize it a little, Jesus might say to our culture, “don’t set your heart on where you will work, how healthy you are, who is in the White House, how good the economy is, or how much money you have.” Essentially, He’s telling us not to wrap our longings and affections around things that we think are crucial to our survival. People who have no relationship to God and no understanding of His character naturally lean towards that. They blow up, freak out and cave in when things don’t go their way, but believers should have a different response to the challenges of this life.  

Christ’s teaching is a reminder that the Father knows you need a retirement plan, or health insurance, or money for college tuition or a summer job. He knows about the state of the economy, the job market, and your relationship status. He knows all that, and says, “Don’t be anxious.” It’s wasted energy, and worry isn’t going to accomplish anything anyway. In fact, when we do worry and fret, it is a big indicator of a lack of faith and that our hope and security may have become tethered to something besides Jesus.

Instead, God wants us to “seek His kingdom” (vs 30) which means we need to shift our energy and focus toward Him. Seek Him in His Word.  Live by His principles.  And most importantly, set our affections on Him.  When we do that, He promises to meet the needs we have in His way and His time. 

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything, 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.

Philippians 4:6-7

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