Sitting outside, something struck me. Unlike the usual hustle and bustle of the corporate world – whether it’s my job at Starbucks, moving 100% of the time, or simply taking calls and placing orders at Crossway – nature is quiet. There is no hurry in nature. Geese mill about while a squirrel quietly chews on something across the yard. A gentle breeze blows a few leaves to the ground. Suddenly, time becomes less important. You find yourself checking your watch less. We might almost grow jealous of the superabundance of nature. Things happen in nature, just because: not everything runs on a schedule. The birds don’t have to be back at the nest by five. You don’t see the worry that has come to characterize us as people in a commercial age.
We have become accustomed to watching men on their cell phones, making another business deal or calling home, letting their family know they’ll be late. We have become accustomed to women in line for their coffees, angry that it will be just another minute. We have become accustomed to watching people lose out trying to make another dollar – if only we had it, I could do this, I wouldn’t have to worry about this! With that one minute, I could be doing this sooner, or this would be done a lot faster! We can’t help but hear the whispers: you are not enough, you are not doing enough, you are not worrying enough.
We have become a people too accustomed to movement. We have become too accustomed to taking control of our surroundings and getting angry when things don’t go our way. Whenever we lose control, of our time or of our situations, we become anxious. Anxiety comes when we focus too much on ourselves: we worry that we won’t have enough food, or what will we wear, how will I manage to do all of this in one day, and so on and so on and so on and we exhaust ourselves.
For some people, anxiety is a passing phase. We are anxious for a speaking engagement or a date with a cute girl or coffee with a good looking guy or about our work. Some spend their mental energies on one event; when it passes, the anxiousness is gone, and all is well. Some people spend their days in constant anxiety. It could be fear of an upcoming event, or the anxious person could not know why they are anxious; they only know that they are, and it is driving them insane. Both forms are valid, both forms are scary, and both forms should force us to seek help.
I think, in watching a few animals mill about on one of the last possible nice days of Fall, I learned something that Jesus has been trying to teach us for thousands of years. Look again at what he says: Consider the lilies. Consider the ravens. Consider, well, nature. Have you ever seen them worry? Are they afraid of where their food is coming from? Has the lily worked a day in its life? Yet, look at it. Even Solomon himself, in all of his wealth and splendor, has never looked so beautiful, never arrayed in such a glorious way.
He challenges us. Gently, I think. He was, after all, tempted in every way that we were. He is sympathetic to our weakness, like us in every way. I think Jesus was tempted to be anxious. So he asks us to consider, “Have you ever, by worrying or being anxious, added even an hour to your life?” We can banter, fight, argue, but we know: no, we haven’t. We’ve only cut ourselves off from the energy we could have had to face that problem. No, we find ourselves powerless in our anxiety. And that makes it even worse. It could even be another source of anxiety, if we’re so predisposed.
I know I am.
So Jesus tells us something new. He gives us a hope we could only dare of. “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you.” It’s too good to speak: if we seek God’s kingdom, how could we possibly have enough to eat? How can I focus on doing God’s work when I have business to attend to? If I’m busy spreading the gospel, am I not missing out on time that I could be working? We hush, afraid to listen to Jesus. We can’t possibly believe that’s true.
So we become anxious again. We worry, we stress. We pull our hair out. Our life with Christ suffers because, if I just send one more e-mail, make one more call, I’ll have enough. I’ll have done enough. I’ve felt it, too. My time in the Scriptures, in worship, in prayer, have all suffered because I am anxious. I’ve let the worry of the world overtake me.
I have been a person of little faith. We all have.
But Jesus doesn’t tell us that we must not be anxious, otherwise we will be judged. I think he knows that we won’t believe him. So, in a different setting, he adds something else. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Seek ye first the kingdom of God, the one that God is delighted to hand to you.
So, when we are anxious, we betray our God who delights in blessing us. He who sent his Son to die, wouldn’t he give us any good thing? Would he withhold anything from us? No, when we worry, when we are tempted to despair for yet another minute, for something to ease our anxiety, God has given us the way. Seek first the kingdom, the one that’s not far, the one he desires and wants to give to you! In seeking this kingdom which is not far from us, ruled by the Giving God, the giver of all good things, everything we need will be added to us.
So, consider the superabundance of nature, where things happen on their own terms. The same God who gave creation its superabundant nature is the same God who freely, lovingly, delightfully, gives the kingdom and everything else that follows.