Growing up in church, I have read Jesus’ sermon against anxiety, Matthew 6:25-34, what felt like umpteen-million times. Familiarity had coated this passage, causing me to skim it with the pride of experience rather than humbly approach it as the Lord’s effective comfort to His people. “Yes, yes, lilies of the field and all that.” Despite often struggling with anxiety over my children’s well-being, I had written this passage off as too “used” to be of service.
And there were verses in it that always caused problems for me, as well. For instance, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25b).
My reaction to this verse has always been, “But food and clothing aren’t really what I worry about. I worry about random catastrophes like antibiotic-resistant bacteria or nuclear war or whether the bug spray we use is giving my kids cancer.”
Then there’s, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34b).
I always thought these words of Jesus sounded a little…unspiritual. Nearly pessimistic. Don’t get me wrong: since having three kids, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” has never been more real to me. But how was that supposed to help me combat anxiety?
Last year, though, God used these troublesome verses to break through the prideful veneer of familiarity, speaking directly to my anxious mother-heart. Jesus chose His words incredibly well, even the ones that I trip over.
Actually, putting my two “trouble verses” together shows me two truths about what I worry over:
Truth 1: If I’m going to worry, I’m not worrying enough.
“Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Only God knows just how much trouble each day has. Even when we worry, we’re still not scratching the surface of all the spiritual and physical danger that He, in His omniscience, is aware of.
I didn’t fully get this until I was a mother. My three girls have no idea what it takes to keep them alive each day. The hours spent meal planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up each week only cover the requirement of feeding them. A thousand other needs—character growth, education, allergies, Gospel teaching, safety—keep all moms on their toes. Have you seen that meme about how 90% of a toddler mom’s life is keeping your kid alive and the other 10% is comforting her when she is mad you have saved her from danger? Yeah…
Like our kids, we have no idea what it takes to keep us alive each day. Our myriad spiritual, mental, and physical needs are constantly being attended to by our Heavenly Father. Only He knows just how much it takes to care for us. I may only look and pray toward “big days” like upcoming recitals or confrontations, but no one knows more than God does that this day brings plenty of challenges to my well-being, many (most?) of which I am probably not aware of. I’m oblivious to the behind-the-scenes work that keeps me alive and well, just like the kids are oblivious when I use their naptimes to make doctor appointments, uproot poison ivy in the yard, and figure out the best way to teach them to read.
So Jesus tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). I think I have to meal plan, but there’s even more God does for my food each day. He’s got this provision thing going all the way back to the design of the plants that prevent erosion, to the function of earthworms, to the sowing of the seeds, to the birth of the baby that will become the farmer.
“Is not life more than food, or the body more than clothing?” I don’t worry about those things, per se, but the point of this verse is still the same: my worries are too narrow. He could just as easily say to me, “Is not life more than choosing a non-toxic sunscreen?”
I can spend all my time fixating on one tiny improbability—let’s say an unforeseen deadly allergy—while other disasters, like car accidents, are much more statistically probable. But I often don’t worry about those at all. And when I do worry about those, I’m leaving other things out. Only God can know fully what we’re up against.
I may worry, but I don’t even know the half of what I could be worried about.
Truth 2: At the same time, I worry way too much.
Yes, only God knows fully how much we really have to worry about—and He tells us not to worry. I find great, glorious relief in this fact. In showing us how much we’re missing in our worries, Jesus’ point is not, “Be scared!” but “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
When we worry, our picture is incomplete, in both the limitedness of our worry and the extent of it. We’re so busy worrying about particulars that we miss the goodness of God in this day, feeding a thousand cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10), keeping us alive with the perfect percentage of oxygen in the air, the perfect distance from the earth to the sun, and giving us the beauty of flowers and the laughter of children and the joy of holidays and the deliciousness of nachos on top of it.
God has the full knowledge of how much we’re up against, and He has the full capability to care for us. It’s counterintuitive to me that learning I’m not worrying enough was the first step to trusting God more with all of life. But thank God: He knew exactly what this child needed.