“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:27, ESV
Is it just me, or does it seem a little rude of Jesus to challenge my reliance on fear and anxiety? After all, there’s a great deal of comfort to be found in feeding the flames of anxiousness. Think that sounds crazy? Consider this: anxiety allows me to concentrate my thoughts and feelings solely on what’s happening in my life. When my fears and nerves are central in my life, I can shut out having to worry about the thoughts and needs of others. Fear of how I am judged affords me a satisfying sense that I’m the center of attention, and that what I say and wear matters to others. Anxiety about tomorrow takes me out of the moment of today and relieves me of having to consider that my needs and wants might just be two separate things. So just who does Jesus think He is, ripping that warm blanket of fear away from my eyes and asking me to see a different reality?
We find these words of Jesus in Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount (specifically chapter six, verses twenty-five through thirty-four). Throughout this discourse, Jesus challenges our notions and tendencies not just toward fear and anxiety, but also anger, lust, greed, judgmental behavior, and generally how we address God and our neighbor. Read chapters five, six, and seven of Matthew’s Gospel and you’ll see Jesus chipping away steadily at the cocoon of sin and selfishness in which we hide throughout our day-to-day lives. His words tear away the pain and loss we endure at the hands of sin, leaving us raw and bruised in the naked truth of our condition. Why does He do it? Why strip away so many of our understandings about the world? Jesus knows that before we can put on something new, the old must be shed. He knows that putting our faith and trust in what will serve us means abandoning what does not. The consolation of Jesus is the knowledge that ushers us through the pain of self-realization so that we can find true solace and comfort in the solution He offers through His Son. The temporary rush of believing we’re at the center of the universe pales in comparison to knowing that the true center of all things offered a truly selfless sacrifice for our lives. This is the gift of today, tomorrow, and all eternity. We need never fear losing it by straying from it because it was never merited.
The pain of letting go of fear is the pain of letting go of control. Our hope for something greater than what we fear is found in the knowledge that no amount of control we try to assert can replace the future won for us in God’s grace. Anxiety is at war with faith, and, yes, sometimes it feels as though the battles are too much to endure. The promise of Jesus is the promise that no battle or fear we face is greater than the God who stands beside us. Look to Him and the rest falls away.
“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” Psalm 91:2-3, NI