"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, 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 clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, while he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:27-30, 33
Nothing can suffocate like anxiety. Even though Jesus tells his followers to not be anxious, good, faithful Christians battle anxiety. Are these Christians being disobedient? Is their faith weak? The answer to both these questions is a resounding "NO". Anxiety is a natural part of life. When we encounter unknown situations with unknown realities, we will have feelings of caution and concern converge within the soul and create a tension that can be incredibly intense and frightening to an individual. We all handle anxiety differently. But we should all hear the words of Christ about anxiety the same. We ought to trust God.
One enemy to the people of faith is forgetfulness. How many times in the Scriptures do we see God's people forget his grace and mercy for their lives. From the Garden of Eden to the Exodus wilderness to the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the remote island of Patmos, Holy Scripture tells us of how life will throw so much at us that we will forget the still small voice of the Spirit of God. We must not forget the promise of God to us in Jesus Christ: "I will never leave nor forsake you."
Allow me to pull the curtain back on my life for a moment. I am no stranger to anxiety. It is a reality for my life. I don't understand it. I cannot control it. The only thing I know is that when anxiety strikes, it hits hard. Some may think less of a pastor because he or she has anxiety, but friends, know that more pastors have to fight against anxiety than you realize. My battle with anxiety began over a decade ago when a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. I had family members diagnosed with cancer before, but when my friend was diagnosed, something about that was different. I had a hard time understanding why this friend and his family had to endure this disease. For perhaps the first time in my life, I had to deal with the tough questions of suffering in the world. And the only thing I knew to do was look to Jesus in prayer, worship, and faith. This led me to Matthew 6 and our Savior's words about being anxious.
He talks about birds and flowers. He calls our attention to beauty and splendor of God's creation. Jesus reminds us that God takes care of animals and flowers with such great attention that we should take note and rejoice. Even though there are storms and dangers to the natural world, God still nurtures. He grows. He clothes. He blesses. This is our God. He is so intimately involved in his creation that neither storm nor fury can separate us from him. How often do we forget this?
This leads me to consider the flowers that are so carefully placed upon the chancel each week. These flowers remind us each and every week that whatever may befall us, we can trust God to be faithful in all seasons of our lives. When we celebrate, God celebrates with us. When we mourn, God mourns with us. When we are anxious, God comforts us with his presence. Just as he provides everything for the flowers of the field, God provides for us in our time of need. He knows exactly how to care for us.
May we be reminded of this great promise. Romans 8 tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. So let us cast our cares and anxieties upon Jesus and rejoice, even when we have lost control and cannot understand what's happening in the world. Amen.