Two friends were enjoying lunch together when one of them asked, “How are things going in your life these days?”
The other replied, “Well, my house is in foreclosure, I lost my job, my medical insurance has been canceled, and my credit cards are maxed out.”
“Wow!” the first said with great concern. “How are you coping?”
“I’m not worried,” the friend smiled “I’ve hired a professional worrier to worry for me.”
“What’s that costing you?”
“He charges fifty thousand dollars a year.”
The first gasped, “Where in the world are you going to come up with that kind of cash?”
“I don’t worry about it,” the friend laughed. “That’s his job!”
But, seriously, have you ever been overwhelmed with worry? There’s no limit to the things we can fret over—our kids, our health, our finances, our relationships, our material possessions, and even our salvation. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have someone do all our worrying for us? In a sense, we can, and the good news is that it’s free. The apostle Peter tells us to “cast all your anxiety on him [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Indeed, Jesus commanded us not to worry—but don’t let that worry you! Christ teaches us how not to worry by providing some inspiring lessons from nature. Let’s look at how listening to Jesus will help us better manage our anxiety about, well, all kinds of stuff.
A choke collar
Jesus understands our temptation to worry. In the Sermon on the Mount, He addressed this pervasive anxious attitude: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear,” He said. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25–27).
Some people worry so much about stuff that they burn up an excessive amount of time and energy agonizing about how to have fulfilling lives. The problem is that the joyful life they want slips right through their fingers because they spend all that time brooding over how to live. They’re sinking while they’re thinking. Few workaholics lying on their deathbeds wish they’d spent more time at the office solving problems. Instead, they regret not spending more quality time with their families. Jesus told us that there’s more to life than accumulating wealth, wearing the latest fashions, or obsessing over our physique and our appearance.
Worry has been defined as feeling anxious about things that might happen. The word worry comes from the Old English word wyrgan, which means “to choke or strangle.” Worry reminds me of the choke collars used on dogs—the harder a person pulls, the more the dog fights for breath.
Yet worry gets us nowhere fast. Studies show that 85 percent of what people worry about never happens. And of the 15 percent of things that do happen, most people said they handled things just fine. Jesus reinforced the uselessness of worry in a rather amusing way when He asked, “Can worrying actually make you taller?” (verse 27, author’s translation). The obvious answer is no.
Take your cue from nature
Jesus draws our attention to the birds to illustrate an attitude of trust that will help us soar in life. He said, “Look at the birds of the air.” The first time I read that verse, I thought, Lord, I’ve got so many problems that I don’t have time to look at birds! Birds don’t have problems like mine.
Have you ever seen a bird carrying a briefcase to work or hoarding food? Of course not. Birds usually begin their day by singing. A little rain doesn’t bother these carefree creatures who must trust in their Creator to feed them. There’s nothing wrong with gathering your produce in barns or planning ahead. The bottom line is that no matter what circumstances on this earth are, we live by faith in the knowledge that we have a loving heavenly Father who cares for us.
Jesus once explained how God’s care for even the small things in our world is so broad that He’s aware when a little sparrow falls to the ground. And He added, “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Worry melts away when we truly believe that we’re safe in God’s compassionate hands.
To help us not worry, Jesus also told us we should look at the flowers. “See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28–30).
Back in Jesus’ time, clothing was much harder to come by, and people had to spend a lot of time literally spinning and weaving their one set of clothes. Few people in America today sew their own garments, yet many spend hours and hours shopping for the latest trends. Jesus is asking you, “Does all that time and money spent trying to buy happiness really work?”
Observe the matchless beauty of a delicate lily. Breathe in the incomparable fragrance of a rose. The Creator’s attention to the fine detail of an orchid, a tulip, or even the common daisy can never surpass the deep love He has for each of His children.
If God cares so much about flowers and birds that quickly perish, how much more does He love and care about people made in His image, for whom His Son died to redeem for eternity?
One thing needed
One day while Jesus visited in the home of His friends, He addressed a woman who struggled with worry. “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke 10:38, 39).
Can you imagine Jesus visiting in your home? He enjoyed the fellowship of friends, and one of His favorite places to relax was in the home of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. During this particular visit, Mary enjoyed sitting peacefully at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words of wisdom. But in this story, one person was not relaxed. She was worried.
“Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself ? Tell her to help me!’ ” (verse 40).
Have you ever felt “distracted” by the busyness of everyday life? Maybe you’ve felt like Martha, who was worried about getting dinner ready for a house full of guests. She was bustling around the kitchen, peeling potatoes, chopping up a salad, setting the table, and working up a sweat. It was no small affair to feed thirteen hungry men!
As Martha rushed around, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed her sister Mary sitting in the living room, engrossed by the presence of Jesus. Martha’s worry over preparing the meal led to resentment in her heart toward Mary. She even felt Jesus was an accessory to her sister’s “irresponsible” behavior and asked Him to “tell her to help me!” Maybe you know exactly how Martha felt.
Study closely how Jesus responded because He’s speaking to you and me here as well. Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, . . . you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (verses 41, 42). Jesus spoke gently to His hostess and reminded her that many things can cause us to worry, but the antidote for worry is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our ears open to His Word.
Do you burn up a lot of time and energy worrying? Go out into nature and reflect on the things God has created for you to enjoy—all the beautiful reminders of His love for you. Then quietly sit at the feet of Jesus. By choosing “what is better,” you will find a Burden Bearer who will carry your troubles for you. True worship will evaporate your worries.
Doug Batchelor heads up Amazing Facts, an international evangelistic media ministry.