We were already an anxious people, but then along comes a pandemic, the worldwide spread of a new disease, and along with it all kinds of new anxieties.
What does this mean for our economy—everything from what we need today to what we had stored for retirement? What does this mean for school? What does this mean for work? Oh, yeah, and what does this mean for our health? Do we have the food we need? Do we have the medicine we need? Apparently the biggest question is, Do we have the toilet paper we need?
For those who are weighed down with worry, I want to encourage you with 7 simple truths to combat anxiety based on Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:25–33:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Jesus says three times, “Do not be anxious” (vv. 25, 31, 34). Apparently, Jesus desires for you to be totally free from anxiety in this world. However, we need to be careful not to read our definitions of anxiety into the biblical use of this word. It’s unlikely that Jesus is referring to clinical anxiety, as if the medical condition itself is a sin, nor is He talking about the ways in which the Bible talks of anxiety in a positive sense. Paul speaks of having anxiety for the churches he cares so much about (Philippians 2; 2 Corinthians 11). That’s a good, genuine concern for people.
Here’s my best attempt to define anxiety biblically: Carrying concerns in this world in such a way that we lose perspective on life and/or lack trust in God.
Having concerns in this world is not a bad thing—it’s right to be concerned for other people or for ourselves. The problem is when we carry concerns in such a way that we that lose perspective on life and/or lack trust in God. This is exactly what we are tempted to do right now.
So what does Jesus say to us in a world filled with so much anxiety that weighs us down?
Here are seven truths He gives us to combat our anxiety.
1. Your life is about more than anything this world offers you.
Jesus mentions food, drink, and clothes in this passage, which are pretty basic needs. If you’re going to worry about anything, these seem like they’d be at the top of the list. They aren’t frivolous things, like the kind of car you drive or how many Instagram followers you have.
They’re basic necessities. So why not worry about them? Because your life “is more than food, and [your] body more than clothing” (v. 25).
Your life is about more than what you eat, or what you drink, what you wear, or anything else this world offers you. Your life is about more than what others think of you. Your life is about more than what school you get into. Your life is about more than what job you have. Your life is about more than how much money you make. Your life is about more than whether you marry or whether you have kids.
Or, to speak directly into this pandemic, your life is definitely about more than what happens in the government or the sports world. Which leads to the question, then what is my life about? This leads directly to the next truth.
2. Your life is about trusting the God who eternally values you.
Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Who knew the antidote to anxiety was bird watching? How do you have peace amidst a pandemic? Behold the birds. They’re not worried one bit right now.
No bird is watching cable news, no bird is reading articles, and no bird is worried about what’s coming next. Because the birds know that God will provide for them. And if they know that, then you can know that, because you are more valuable to God than birds. You are God’s prized creation. Why are you worried about what to wear when God is going to dress you in eternal glory? Why are you worried about your paycheck when God is going to give you the whole earth as your inheritance? Why are you are worried about your position at work when you are going to reign in God’s kingdom forever? Why are you worried about your health when God has guaranteed you eternal life? Your life is about so much more than all these things that are weighing you down; your life is about trusting the God who eternally values you.
3. Avoid anxiety because it’s unhelpful.
It’s pointless, Jesus says in verse 27: “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Worrying never makes things better; it only makes things worse. It is completely counterproductive. Life is challenging enough as it is; why weigh yourself down with worry on top of everything else?
4. Avoid anxiety because it’s for unbelievers.
In verse 31, Jesus says that “the Gentiles seek after all these things . . .” Worrying is what the world does, not what God’s people do. If you don’t know God as your Father, you have a lot of reason to be anxious. But if you do know the God who is in control, if you know His goodness and His greatness and His wisdom and His mercy, and if you know Him as your Father in Heaven who values you as His child, then you have no reason to be worried right now. Anxiety is for unbelievers, not for believers. Maybe we could say it this way: anxiety is a sign of unbelief in God, not of belief in God.
5. God your Heavenly Father knows all that you need.
Jesus says, “. . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (v. 32). According to Jesus, God knows everything you need even better than you know what you need. God is not up in Heaven looking down on you saying, “I wonder what he needs,” or, “I wonder what she needs.”
He already knows.
6. God your Heavenly Father will supply all that you need.
Jesus says that when we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness that “. . . all these things will be added to you” (v. 33). How’s that for a promise? God, the One who possesses everything, will provide what you need. We’re not talking Amazon here. We thought Amazon had everything until everybody started buying Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. Now there’s nothing left.
The supply line is empty. But with God, the supply line is always full.
You don’t have to worry about God your Heavenly Father running out of strength when you are weak. He never runs out of courage when you’re afraid, He never runs out of hope when you are hurting, and most importantly, He won’t run out of life when you are dying. At every moment for all of eternity, your Heavenly Father will always supply all that you need.
7. God guarantees you mercy today for trouble today, and mercy tomorrow for trouble tomorrow.
Jesus says in verse 34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” These words from Jesus are life-changing if we will grasp them, and live in them. Who among us knows what the news is going to say tomorrow? No one. And that leads many to anxiety, especially if we think things might get worse.
We’re already weighed down today, and we think we can’t take anything more tomorrow. But that’s just it: the mercies God gives today are not designed to carry the burdens that may come tomorrow. God’s mercies today are designed to carry out troubles today. And when tomorrow comes, if new trouble comes, new mercy will come with it. That’s guaranteed by God.
At numerous times over the last year in the adoption process that our family has been in, my wife, Heather, has looked at me at the end of a long, hard day, and said, “Can we handle a fifth child?” And I have looked back at her and said, “No, we can’t . . . not today. Do you know why? Because we don’t have five kids today. We have four kids today, and God has given us mercy today for four kids.” Now when we bring our fifth child into our home, which we pray every day will be soon, we are banking on the fact that extra mercy is coming. Because God has guaranteed it.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds in my life, in your life, or in this world. But I do know this: tomorrow’s mercy from God will be sufficient for tomorrow’s trouble in this world. Therefore, you and I have no reason to worry for one second about what tomorrow holds. When we get there, new mercy will be waiting for us. And that guarantee frees us from anxiety.
–Editor’s Note: This excerpt has been edited and adapted from David Platt’s sermon, “Peace in the Middle of a Pandemic (Part 1).”