Dealing With Anxiety: Why We Don’t Need to Worry
We live in very anxious times. After many years of relative peace, security, and predictability, we now find ourselves in one of the most turbulent periods of recent history: a global pandemic and the biggest economic downturn since the great depression. To make it worse, nobody knows when it will end. It’s no wonder that we feel anxious. Right now, we may be worried about our jobs, our family, our health, our studies, our church or many other things. How do we deal with anxiety?
1. Why we don’t need to be anxious
In Luke 12, Jesus gives us some wonderful words of reassurance. He reminds us of what matters most: our loving heavenly father and the security we have in his eternal kingdom:
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.~ Luke 12:22
Jesus is not trivialising our anxieties. Right now we face many real concerns. It’s only natural that we feel worried about those things. Jesus’ original audience were farmers, fishermen, labourers and traders who lived from day to day. They too were familiar with famines and plagues, and the daily worries of life. Yet, Jesus gives us three reasons why we need not be anxious, even about the most basic necessities of life.
a) There’s more to life than material possessions (22-23)
Firstly, Jesus reminds us – that there is more to life than material possessions.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… for life is more than food, and the body more than clothing”~ Luke 12:22-23
Understanding the context helps to clarify what Jesus means. A few verses earlier, Jesus had warned a man anxious about money saying: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15). Jesus explained what he meant in the parable of the rich fool that followed (Luke 12:16-20). In it, Jesus tells of a man who stored up great possessions for himself, thinking he’d secured his future: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” (Luke 12:19). He thought that all his possessions would make him happy and secure. But he was wrong.
God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”~ Luke 12:20-21
Jesus reminds us that life is not just about what we have. It’s about how we treat God. Having all the possession in the world doesn’t bring real security. The current pandemic has shown us that. God is the one who has given us everything that we have. He is also the one who can take it away in an instant. So what matters in life is not our possessions, but God. He is the true source of meaning, security and happiness in life.
So when we’re anxious, it’s worth remembering that we haven’t lost what matters most. God is still there and in control and our lives remain in his loving hands.
b) There’s a heavenly father who cares for us (24-28)
Secondly, Jesus says we don’t need to be anxious because there’s a heavenly father who cares for us. Jesus continues:
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!~ Luke 12:24
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!~ Luke 12:27-28
Often in the busyness of life, we don’t get much time to look around at creation. But when we get anxious, creation can remind us that the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe knows our needs, and cares for us. If the birds are precious to God, how much more valuable to him are we, whom he made in his image and saved by his Son. God knows even the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:6). If this is so, he certainly also knows my bank balance, my job situation and my health report. Knowing that God is sovereign, wise and good can get us through many difficult times in life.
The alternate, being anxious, achieves very little.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?~ Luke 12:25-26
Being anxious does little to change our situation. If anything, our anxiety just makes things worse, because it is so time consuming and exhausting. Our anxiety ought to remind us that we’re not really in control of our life. This can be difficult and even scary to acknowledge, because we’re so used to depending on ourselves. That’s why our anxiety can sometimes betray a lack of faith (Luke 12:28).
But when we realise we’re not control, we are liberated to turn to the one who is. God’s generosity and his provision for this created world, ought to remind us of his provision for us. In the midst of troubles, we need to learn rest in the loving care of our heavenly father.
c) There is a perfect kingdom secured for us (29-34)
Thirdly, we do not need to be anxious because there is a perfect kingdom secured for us. Jesus continues:
And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.~ Luke 12:29-31
Our world is often crippled by anxiety, because it does not know God’s loving care. But knowing that our Father knows our needs and cares for us, we are free for a different focus: to seek God’s Kingdom.
In the Old Testament, God promised to reverse the curse of this world and bring humanity back under God’s loving rule. In the New Testament, Jesus gave us a glimpse of what that kingdom would be like: a perfect world where sin, sickness, suffering, and death will be no more. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, so that we might enter God’s Kingdom. In his resurrection, Christ gave us unshakeable hope that death is not the end. So now we can look forward with great hope to the day Christ returns to gather all his people into God’s heavenly Kingdom.
Knowing that our future in God’s eternal kingdom is secure brings immense comfort and hope when we’re anxious. It means that no matter how desperate our present situation might be, we can be sure that one day our suffering will end. So ultimately, we do not need to worry what tomorrow may bring. For our ultimate tomorrow in God’s kingdom is absolutely secure. Our present sufferings are only temporary.
With this eternal perspective, we can now live radically different from those around us. Jesus continues:
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.~ Luke 12:33
If we treasure the things of this world, we will hoard them and look to them for security. But if we know our eternal future is secured, we’re freed to care for the needs of those around us. Jesus reminds us “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. In other words, our anxieties often reveal what really matters to us. In the midst of our worries, we are to set our heart on heaven and the care of our loving heavenly Father who holds us in his hands. Trusting God will not mean our problems will go away. But it will make an enormous difference. It will mean that we can find peace, hope and joy even in the midst of our troubles.
2. What to do when we feel anxious
What should we do in those times where anxious feelings inevitably come upon us?
a) Pray to your Father (1 Peter 5:6-7; Philippians 4:6-7)
The first thing we can do is pray. Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:6-7:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
We need to resist the temptation to sort out everything ourselves. Our first instinct should be to turn to God in humble prayer, recognising our need for his help. In prayer, we recognise that ultimately God is in control of our situation and that means that all is not lost. The one who has humbled us under his mighty hand, has both the power and the care to exalt us at the proper time. We need but be patient.
Similarly, Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In the midst of anxiety, we can come to God in prayer and thanksgiving. As we do, God gives us a wonderful promise: the peace of God, which will keep us trusting him whatever we may face.
b) Look to Christ in Scripture (Romans 8:31-38)
Secondly, when we are anxious, we should look to Christ in Scripture.
Christ understands our anxieties like no one else ever will. Despite the agony and anxiety of Gethsemane, he willingly went to the cross to for our sins. Christ sought God’s kingdom even at the expense of his own life. Yet, all was not lost. As he entrusted himself into the loving arms of his heavenly father, God raised him up from the dead.
So when Jesus tells us, “Do not be anxious”, he’s not dismissing our worries. He truly understands our anxieties, and he truly cares. The cross reminds us that nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love. No trouble, no hardship, no problem with our work, our family, our studies, our health, our church, or anything else can stop God loving us. Nothing can take away our place in God’s heavenly Kingdom.
So, when you feel anxious, we should remember in Scripture what Christ has done for us. Read a part of Scripture that will remind you of those gospel truths. Psalm 23, Romans 8, 1 Peter 1 and Luke 12 are favourites for me.
Whatever you are going through, may the gospel calm your anxious heart. As you pray to your heavenly father, and look to Christ in Scripture, may God’s Spirit remind you of God’s presence and love, and fill you with his peace.
This article is based on a sermon by Tim Nicholls available below on the Malaysia Gospel YouTube Channel.
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Originally from Australia, Tim came to know Christ as a child, before maturing in his faith during his university years. Tim now lives in Malaysia and serves as the Ministry Director of Equip Gospel Ministries and as a Pastor at St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral, KL. Tim is married to Siew Mun and they have three children. Tim loves Malaysian food, the hot tropical weather, and is learning to speak BM and Mandarin! But most of all he loves Jesus, and is passionate about seeing people from all nations and all stages of life come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour and joyfully live for his glory.
入行后，我一直享受过着这样的 ‘基督徒兼律师’ 的生活。不过，我的牧者和教会成员，时不时都会问我：“你有教导圣经的恩赐，何不考虑全职福音事工？”对于他们这样的邀请，我都是断然拒绝的（有时甚至觉得烦人）。我心想：“我在职场和教会中，都在为神服事，为什么要放弃法律呢？法律和福音，我一直都能鱼与熊掌地兼得啊… "
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