My mother would often say to me, “Don’t borrow trouble.” Then she would quote Matthew 6:34, “each day has enough trouble of its own.” Webster describes anxiety as worrying “about anything needlessly or before one has sufficient cause.” Six times in this passage Jesus speaks to the issue of anxiety.
I am reminded of Jesus at the reception in Bethany with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Martha has invited Jesus into her home and is more than a little angry that her sister Mary is not helping with the preparations. She even commands Jesus to “tell her to help me.” Jesus answers, “Martha, Martha, you are worried [anxious] and bothered about so many things. . . .”
Lloyd Jones in his comments on this passage writes, “What our Lord is warning us against is the danger of being distracted from the main objective in life by care, by this anxiety about earthly worldly things, by looking so much at them that we do not look at God.” And there we have it. The root definition of anxiety for believers is to be so distracted by earthly cares that we fail to look to God.
Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that anxious thoughts will not supply our food, drink, or clothing, nor will anxiety lengthen our life! He points to the birds and the lilies to illustrate the futility of worrying about those things because–as He goes on to say–the same God who takes care of them, will take care of us. God created us; He sustains us; and He determines the length of our lives. We are in His hands.
Lloyd Jones goes on to point out that of the twenty-five times “anxiety” is used in the New Testament that “five of them are positive, denoting taking appropriate care. The others indicate a real distraction or anxiety which is less than healthy.” This sort of anxiety is unhealthy because it distracts us from our focus on God and the life and ministry He has entrusted to us. Clearly, God commends appropriate care, but when we become distracted by the concerns of this world to the extent that we no longer focus our hearts and minds on God and His Word, then we have fallen into an unhealthy pattern that perhaps reveals a lack of focus and a lack of faith.
What, then, are we to make of extreme, debilitating anxiety that plagues millions of people in the U.S., many of whom are Christians? In my experience as a counselor, people suffering with this extraordinary clinical anxiety likely need professional medical help. However, for most of us, we, like Martha, often allow the cares of the world to drive us into unnecessary worry.
What should we do when we drift into unhealthy worry? We can refocus our thoughts by turning to His Word, taking to heart Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4:6-8: “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”
Written by: Ralph Busby