Anxiety

Jesus is clear when in Matthew 6:25 he instructs his disciples, “Do not worry about your life.” He goes on to encourage his followers to trust their Heavenly Father for their earthly needs. No doubt it is for this reason he includes in his teaching on prayer the petition, “Give us each day our daily bread.” Prayer to God becomes the highest expression of confidence in the faithfulness and goodness of our Father. This is the reason Paul tells the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Only this, according to Paul, brings peace.

Yet I’ve always thought that in teaching us not to worry, Jesus assumes we do and that we have to learn otherwise. Certainly to the extent that we often end up putting our trust in material things, anxiety arises when circumstances force us to realize that jobs, bank accounts, and other forms of material security are unreliable and unworthy of our trust.

But we continue to place our trust in these things. Why?

Well, they’re tangible. We see them. And we almost always trust what we see more than what we don’t see. Sight provides confidence. Our faith can be fragile.

Not to mention that God promises to give us our daily breath and bread, not every desire under the sun. What we need might in fact be less than what we sometimes think we need. It’s definitely less than what we likely want. Our lifestyle expectations in our culture are high. We think we deserve quite a bit, to the point where we can sometimes have a feeling of entitlement. Of course everyone in the family needs a smart phone and computer tablet. So we look to these things because we don’t want to give up our wants, despite the fact that such material things are not dependable.

Living as Jesus’ disciples means that trusting God in a consumer culture involves allowing him to transform our expectations and desires. We’re called to be content both in times of want and in times of plenty. And if we are content, then we will not be anxious — or as anxious!

The transformation we need to undergo occurs only as grow in our relationship with God. It’s never about trusting something; instead, it’s about trusting someone. Such trust is based on the character of God, on what he is like. The accumulation of experience has taught me that God is reliable. Because he’s always provided, I continue to trust that he will. He has demonstrated his goodness, faithfulness, and trustworthiness over time. Experiencing God’s character in this manner has had the effect of transforming me into someone who is less anxious about material needs and more confident that he will give me each day my daily bread. Such provision may not always arrive in the form I would prefer, but arrive it does; and for this reason I have less reason to be anxious.

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