Fresh out of business school, the young man answered a want ad for an accountant. Now he was being interviewed by a very nervous man who ran a small business that he had started himself. “I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said. “But mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.” “Excuse me?” the accountant said. “I worry about a lot of things,” the man said. “But I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.” “I see,” the accountant said. “And how much does the job pay?”
“I’ll start you at eighty thousand.” “Eighty thousand dollars!” the accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford a sum like that?” “That,” the owner said, “is your first worry.”
Have you ever been in any type of high intensity, very competitive sporting event? Let me tell you what happens: You get really nervous, jittery with nerves acting faster or with less control. Your vision shrinks to a smaller circle of sight because your brain is telling you to stay as focused as possible on the threat. Your heart rate speeds up because of the adrenaline racing through your body so you can react faster and either fight or take flight. Your stomach if you can feel it feels twisted and turned upside down.
You know what? That’s how anxiety also feels. Heart rate increases, nerves take over, but the big one is the vision. When we’re anxious and worried, we don’t see well anymore. We see the one thing that’s making us anxious and worried, and only it. And it gets bigger and bigger.
When you’re anxious, you aren’t seeing things the right way. You’re not looking at reality anymore. You’re looking at a false impression, a skewed perception, very limited truth. Anxiety disables us. It causes us to have a disability. You’re now disabled from seeing how you always see things, how you really believe life works.
What is anxiety’s ultimate consequence to those who live by faith, the one that causes the most damage to us who believe God works for good? It’s this: Anxiety disables faith, which is the capacity to see how God operates in our lives and world. Anxiety blinds us spiritually, limiting our field of vision to ourselves alone and the problems or crises we face. Too much worry and anxiety has a symptom, the sense of isolation and aloneness we feel that cuts us off from others and God.
Don’t let anxiety and worries overwhelm you. The Lord is working things out for you. Keep putting your trust in God’s heart for you. Remember how many times you’ve been directed to the better outcome than you believed could happen.
Now of course worry is part of life. Of course, we’re supposed to be concerned and anxious about our kids taking a train into West Palm Beach to their middle school for the first time. That makes sense. It doesn’t take away our faith. It doesn’t reduce our vision to seeing and believing God is the one who is working at all times for good. We’re supposed to understand dangers and keep our eyes open to concerns.
But too often, folks can imagine the worst in any situation. It’s a personal gift, but a gift like the Trojan horse was a gift. Let it in and it invades your life. You know what’s funny—actually not so funny—is that we do this as a way of keeping control on things. We use worry and anxiety as helpful tools to increase our sense of protection.
The truth is we can’t control life to find the happiness we seek. Life is way too big, and it changes too much. The more we try to use anxiety and worry to keep the world in our control, the smaller and more isolated the world becomes—until we’re really not in the actual world. It’s more like a bubble.
It would be nice if God would agree to fit into our cocoon we’ve built for ourselves, but that’s not how it works. God loves you but you’ve got to come out to play in God’s world. God loves you but you’ve been the one shutting out the Lord’s grace, call, and will. God loves you and gave Christ to show this, but Christ didn’t die just for you but for all and this world is God’s world, not mine or yours. It’s time to get bigger. Go big with a big God.
In our scripture, Jesus gave his listeners visual clues meant to enlarge their vision and grow their faith. He was basically telling them and us to open our eyes, look around, stop looking at only yourselves. Look at the birds of the air. and flowers and the world around you.
Now I’m going to have to go out on a limb here a bit, but Jesus said that because it worked for him. This wasn’t just a theory he wanted to test on the people that day. It’s not like he read about looking out at nature in a book somewhere. He didn’t study psychology or therapy. He lived what he taught and taught what he lived. The real Jesus needed real ways of combatting anxiety, worry, stress, doubts, and fears himself. If you believe he never felt
this way, then your Jesus wasn’t real; he was a ghost or a spirit, which of course he wasn’t.
Apparently, Jesus knew quite a bit about such stuff because he gave some incredibly helpful insight and advise. First, he said get outside and open your eyes. Open your heart and mind and arms to the breadth and beauty of this incredible creation and the amazing power of God’s will. Our joy increases when we increase our vision of who God is and what part we can play in God’s world.
Second, he said when we don’t see how taken care of simple birds are, then we don’t see how taken care of and loved we are. Worry unfortunately has the power to diminish our sense of worth, Jesus made clear.
Third, Jesus knew that worry was useless. Nobody can add a single hour to her or his life by worrying, he said. It’s a thief, not a friend.
His fourth point challenges us to have a better faith. Faith is supposed to mean letting go of worry or anxiety that a lot of others have. Now of course that doesn’t mean if you have high anxiety or even an anxiety disorder your faith is weak. Nobody should make that connection. People struggle with mental health issues legitimately outside of their faith life. We ought to acknowledge that completely.
But let’s be clear, Jesus says others are too anxious and live too much from a lack of faith that shows up in how much they care about how they look and how much they have and whether they can eat fine food and drink fabulous drinks. Those who love God and want to know Christ shouldn’t live like this. We’ve got something else to live for. We see Christ as the one to live for. We know God has greater rewards for us than human approval. We believe in giving glory to God and not ourselves. We trust that God knows the way to peace and strength.
But we’re still not there yet! Why? Why not?!
You know, sometimes it’s time to decide. When our choices and directions don’t align with God’s and our Christian faith, it’s time to decide. Choose. Make it happen. You’ve known long enough to take hold of a deeper faith, to walk a better way, to connect more fully with your God. Stop procrastinating and falsely telling yourself everything’s alright or it’s someone else’s fault or there’s nothing different I can do. Come to the Lord.
Let go of your anxieties and worries. Give them over in prayer and faith. Find and accept and know the fount of forgiveness that is Christ Jesus. All the forgiveness you need for yourself and the forgiveness you need to
extend well up and overflow from him and that cross and in his love and by his grace. You don’t need to walk another step in the same old way. You just need to let the walls come down and the prayer go up and the Lord to wash over you and your life and your worries and regrets and your doubts. Let go of all the past that hinders you and your ability to love, and find the depth of God’s love for you. Surrender the hardness in your heart and your anger toward others, and accept the washing away of any sorrow and sadness that have surrounded you too long.
I want to make sure we understand each other. Your walk with the Lord will absolutely help you with worries and anxiety. But your walk may also include finding help from people such as counselors or therapists. We’ve been given amazing people in our lives and God has opened doors to wonderful knowledge about how healing happens. Sometimes it comes directly to us; other times, we must turn to others to help us in our journey.
In my first marriage, things were really hard. I was overwhelmed with issues and feelings and confusion. I needed help. I went to a therapist. What do I remember about this? I remember several things. I remember a room that was a little dark. I remember him sitting and leaning back in a high-backed chair across from me. I remember him writing most of the time I talked. I remember him talking very little. And, I remember me crying, a lot, every time I went. You know what, my guess is he was doodling on that note pad, once I got going. I didn’t think so at the time but I’m just fine with it. What I needed was a place and person that would take my tears and let them speak or just let them out. Did it help? You better believe it did.
Help comes in many shapes and sizes. But find your help. Spend some money if you need to so that you can make a break through and be happier and get more healing.
God always provides. This is what Jesus believed, taught, and lived. There’s enough for you. Don’t be anxious. Stop so many worries. The Lord is watching over those for whom you worry. God is working things out for them, especially if they give the Lord enough of themselves to work with. God is still working for good for you and me. Keep the faith in God’s strength and goodness.
Can the church say Amen?