A Response to Anxiety

Matthew 6:31-33

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We live in an anxious age. How many people do you know who are on antianxiety medication? How many are speaking with a therapist regarding anxiety? We have so many things that would bring us fear and worry.

Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in global causes of fear. The economy in the US is plummeting. Many were terrified in 2020 and 2021 for medical reasons. All we hear or read in the news related to the border crisis, the fall of Afghanistan, or the Russian invasion of Ukraine all cause a good deal of discomfort.

How great is it, then, that we see the Lord Jesus, in his teaching on living as a citizen of God’s kingdom, call on his people not to worry, not to be anxious? Specifically, Jesus tells his people, beginning in Matthew 6:25, not to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear. Do not let yourself fret regarding the future and your provision. His reasoning is simple. God feeds the birds. God clothes the flowers in the fields. And we are worth far more to God than are they. Thus, if God cares for things as small as birds and flowers, he will surely care for his people.

God knows our needs. And God calls on us to seek not those needs, at least not first. We are to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. We are to have our lives and our hearts hungering for the Lord and for that which magnifies him. And when our hearts are set on God, we will not fear this world.

Consider the simplicity here. Just imagine that your heart truly hungers and thirsts after righteousness. You want Jesus. You want to be like Jesus. You want to act like Jesus. You want every step to magnify Jesus. You want to glorify Jesus. You want to love his word. You want to share his gospel. You want to see his glorious return. The more you want these things, the more you set your life toward these things, what will happen to your anxiety? If you know Jesus and therefore know that you who trust in Jesus are fully accepted by him, fully made part of his family, fully guaranteed eternity with him, you will not fear. What can this world take from you?

Jesus tells us that the gentiles, here meaning the lost and not merely an ethnic component, seek after food, drink, and clothing. They are terrified that they may not have the money they want, the clothing they want, the jobs they want, the vacations they want, the health they want. But Jesus says this is not the way of his followers. To follow Jesus is to love him, desire him, find satisfaction in him, trust him.

One beauty here is that this type of thinking is not a mere command to stop worrying. Yes, stopping worry is good and right. But we do not tend to kill anxiety with a direct thrust of willpower. We defeat anxiety best, according to Jesus here, when we have our focus changed. When we are deep in the gospel, turned toward the Lord, loving him and his kingdom, this is when our fears will be conquerable.

A response: Dear Lord, help me this day to desire you above all things. Help me to seek first you, your kingdom, and your righteousness. Give to me a true hunger for your ways. Let me trust in you totally. I know you provide for the flowers and the birds. Surely you will care for me and for my family. Please, Lord, show me your goodness that I might better rest in you. Please forgive me for allowing myself ever to be anxious about this life. My hope here is only in Jesus and in your great grace.