Study: Where in my life am I anxious, worrying about things I have no control over?
Pray: Ask the Lord for the wisdom to focus on the needs that I have the power to change and affect.
Serve: Is someone in my life struggling with useless worry right now? How can I walk with them and offer comfort and strength?
8th Sunday Readings
Do you ever wonder how much time we waste worrying?
The Lord says “Do not worry” three times in the Gospel of Matthew, and I am inclined to believe that the repetition is there because, quite simply, we worry too much. I am constantly reminded in both my personal experience and my ministry how much life can be lost when we get anxious, and I take great comfort in the words of Jesus. Frankly, I believe the devil laughs when we worry; we waste our lives in an effort that gives nothing, absorbs our attention, and offers no growth or peace of mind. It is utterly useless.
To understand this passage I think it is important to make a couple of simple distinctions. First, we can be mindful of what is in and out of our control. Certain things in life we have the power to change; our effort (thinking, planning, choosing, carrying out) can make a difference.
Yet we also know that there are many things that are out of our control: weather, economic forces, complexities in our relationships, accidents, and the like. Nothing we do can affects these events – we can only adapt and respond as the situation warrants.
Second, planning is not worrying. Sometimes part of the work in our control is to make the plans and preparations necessary for the best outcome. God has given us many talents and skills, and our ability to anticipate needs and situations can help us add goodness and beauty to our world – it can save lives, and allow us to experience life through our best effort.
So, if something is outside my control and I am spending time, effort, and emotional energy on it – I am wasting my God-given gift of life.
If something is within my control and I do what I can to create the best outcome possible – I am using my God-given gift of life.
Third, not all activities are the same. The point in this passage is simple:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Mt. 6:33)
Our first priority is to put God at the center of our lives. Jesus invites us to build our lives on a foundation where the love and pursuit of God come first. With the Lord at the center of our lives we can then enter into proper perspective with others and the material needs of life. Simply put, when God is first then everything else falls into place.
Here’s a final question: Am I anxious? Am I wasting time, effort, and energy on things out of my control? What are the obstacles that are robbing my life of beauty, strength, and goodness. Can I locate the points of worry, recognizing their impact on my life and choosing to let them go?
Perhaps now is the time to turn to God and focus our lives on the one who made us, redeemed us, and strengthens us each and every day. Life is a precious and holy gift – meant to bring the love of Jesus to those around us. Perhaps now is the time to ask the Lord to plant peace in our hearts, letting go of anxiety and useless worry.