The Jesus Response to Worry

Worry gives a small thing a big shadow. -Swedish Proverb

Worry is also like a wolf, and if you don’t hunt it down it’ll cause havoc. Sure, there’ll be more wolves, but they’re just wolves. You can always outsmart them. And, with patience, even find peace amidst their distant howls.

Worries need not control you, for you can be at peace if you adapt to the Jesus response to worry.

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? -Matthew 6:25-27

Response 1: Take Your Blinders Off

Worry tends to limit our attention to a narrow width of experience, and for a time we lose our ability to gain helpful insights. Race horses are fitted with blinders to keep them on track. Without the necessary equipment, the horses and jockeys would collide horrifically with one another. No one would be able to finish the race. Blinders are ideal when conditions call for narrow sprints forward, but worrying isn’t a sprint. Worry initiates our natural tendencies of fight and flight, which in turn narrows our thoughts on that which seems to be causing the worry. Jesus teaches us an alternative response, one in which we are to think more generally and consider other beings, like birds, who are surprisingly cared for by our Heavenly Father. And since we place beings like birds lower in importance than people, and concede that God cares for each bird, we are able to gain insight on our worry. It’s shadow dissipates and shrinks in stature. Take your binders off and look around.

Response 2: Enjoy Your New Future

Jesus asks, “can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” When you worry, you tend to live in the future as a what-if. What if your husband doesn't like the new recipe? What if your daughter doesn’t make any new friends her first year of college? What if she makes new friends but they’re of poor character? Imagination can cast shadows where there are none to be had, and throw a blanket of darkness over you head in the sunniest of situations. Jesus’s question is meant to challenge your brooding imaginations that cannot add moments to your life but merely robs you of time and energy. Understanding the ineffectiveness of worry empowers you to drop the default position and adopt a hopeful, God given future. Enjoy it.

Response 3: Keep The Focus To Keep Consistent

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” -Matthew 6:31-33

It’s not good enough to be aware of your worries - you must also adjust your focus. Like someone climbing out of a long stay in a dark cave at midday, you need to be patient with yourself as you adjust to living in the light. Living righteously, that is, living in right relationship with God and others (and yourself) takes effort that is probably beyond your current capacity. Coming out of the darkness of worry and into the light of God’s confidence allows you to see, but your eyes need to grow accustomed to the brightness of His goodness. So you turn your gaze downward and shield yourself from His radiance. You might even hide behind trees and rocks to give your eyes a break; which is to say, giving up your propensity to worry is partially painful because you’ve habituated yourself to worry, and there’s comfort in your habits. Seek His Kingdom by consistently turning over small worries. As you see God’s faithfulness fulfilled in small ways, you’ll grow in confidence and be able to give over bigger worries. Your eyes will grow accustomed to the light, and the shadowy darkness of worry will grow smaller and smaller till you notice it only in passing. Keep your focus on Him and you'll keep consistent.

Worries need not control you, for you can be at peace if you adapt to the Jesus response to worry.