COLLINS COLUMN: How to banish anxiety
Published 10:30 am Saturday, July 30, 2022
By Dean Collins
I don’t know about you, but Jesus keeps pushing me to trust him with bigger things than what I am going to wear today or where my next meal is coming from. I can quote some of the same verses you quote and I read a few of those familiar verses this morning again.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
I don’t think I am anxious about my life in general, including what I will eat, though I am being more careful about the quantity and quality of my diet. I am also not worried about what clothes to wear to work today. I have options. Many in the world today have these concerns, and we with more have a role and responsibility as followers of Jesus to help provide. But I think there is more than basic survival in the point Jesus is making.
“Consider the ravens,” Jesus said. “They don’t own any property. They have no barns for accumulating and storing raven stuff or food, and God still feeds them.” Seems like the ravens are doing fine, in fact, and Jesus said we are of more value than the birds! And then he went right back to our anxiety. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
That’s a fair point, Jesus, but we are working pretty hard down here on extending our days on earth. We’ve basically figured out that if we watch our diet, do our exercise, get some sleep, and avoid excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol, we probably will live longer. So is Jesus right about not being able to add any days to our lives? Should we just eat, drink and be merry and die when the arteries clog or our liver fails? No, but maybe Jesus is suggesting that our obsessions about our health can be a stumbling block just like our obsessions about wealth are to us.
“If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that [adding an hour to your life], why are you anxious about the rest?”
Jesus got me on this line. It is the rest of the stuff of life that I get anxious about. I get anxious about payroll in a tough economy. I get anxious about all of the regulations and compliance requirements in my current industry of higher education. I get anxious about the 200-300 employees staying focused on our mission to educate students for Christ-centered service. I get anxious about quality in everything we do and whether everyone will focus on doing their best. I get anxious about students focusing on their education and on their spiritual growth over just enjoying college or playing their favorite sport.
But all of that worry won’t change anything. Jesus is right that worrying about all of these concerns robs me of the joy of life, family, community, and fellowship with him. So how do we stop being anxious about what we can’t control?
Jesus seems to think that telling us good stories and calling us to trust him will make a difference. I have become increasingly confident they do, but it is only in reading and rereading and with prayer that it begins to sink in. It’s only by daily surrender and seeking his wisdom that we find the answers and discover the solutions we need for our problems. It’s only when we take steps of faith and surrender to his control that we ever realize he in fact will never abandon us in our hour of need.
Seek his kingdom is exactly what Jesus says we are to do. He is not calling us to stop doing our daily work. He is calling us to remember that we are first his children and that he has given us his kingdom; this means he is in charge now and forever and has a better plan than we do for how things will work out. Our surrender to his plan combined with our confidence in his great and generous love for us is the foundation that will slowly and finally wash away all of the things we are anxious about.