Of all the questions Jesus asked, the question we’re focussing on today is one I find particularly difficult, which is why I wanted to include it in this series.
The problem with words, even Jesus’ words, is that the way we receive them is influenced by our own experiences and perceptions. This means that even good and well-intentioned words can be difficult to receive or sometimes even damaging.
Today we come to the question: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Luke 12:25 NLT)
As a child I struggled a lot with worry and anxiety, and especially a fear of death. I remember this verse being quoted to me a few times and I hated it. I knew it was being said out of concern, to try to get me to stop worrying, but honestly, what I really heard when this question was asked is “Your worries are stupid.”
No matter how irrational it seemed, I couldn’t stop worrying. I hated it and I wanted to stop, but the feelings were so overwhelming that logic was never going to win.
This question did nothing to ease my worries. It only made me feel that they were stupid and shameful and something I had to keep to myself because no-one wanted to hear.
So I come to this question with baggage, but I do want to press in and discover what Jesus was really saying when he spoke these words.
They come in the middle of a long speech which takes up the whole of Luke 12. He is teaching his disciples, and the overall focus of the passage is living with an eternal perspective rather than focussing on the here-and-now.
If we look at what Jesus says about worry, he certainly tells his disciples that they don’t need to worry and there is no reason for it, but he does more than that.
He points them to examples from nature, which provide evidence of God’s loving care, and he reassures them that they are far more valuable to God than the birds or the flowers.
I love that Jesus reinforces this three times. Maybe the disciples needed to hear it again and again, as I did, and still do, but Jesus is patient and reassuring. There is no sense of frustration with their worries, just a longing for them to really understand how much God cares for them.
Later in the New Testament, John writes that, “Perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18 NLT)
It is not logic or criticism or shame that defeats our worries, but grasping Jesus’ perfect love and allowing it to transform us, and it’s a process, not something instantaneous.
It is not logic or criticism or shame that defeats our worries, but grasping Jesus’ perfect love. (Click to tweet.)
In the meantime, because he cares for us, God doesn’t want us to ignore our worries or bottle them up. He wants us to bring them to him and to be honest: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
While our worries might seem irrational to other people and even to ourselves, they come from somewhere and there is a reason for them. For years, I berated myself for worrying, thinking there was something wrong with me and I needed to try harder to stop it, but then I went to counselling and realised that the feelings I had as a child were not really irrational at all.
Certainly my fear of death was not because that was likely to become a reality, but looking at the bigger picture of my life at the time it makes a lot of sense that I felt that way. Instead of burying the feelings and trying to control them, I needed to acknowledge them and process them, and Jesus allows us to do that.
He calls us to come as we are: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
He doesn’t call us to deal with our burdens ourselves before we come to him, but to come with them and, when we do, he doesn’t condemn us for carrying them. He takes them from us and gives us rest.
He doesn’t call us to deal with our burdens ourselves but to come to him, and receive his rest. (Click to tweet.)
I would love to tell you that worry and anxiety are no longer issues for me, but I’d be lying. This is not a past issue which has been completely resolved, but an ongoing journey. I have made a lot of progress but there are still times when worry grips me and sucks me into its downwards spiral.
I am learning to give myself grace though. All of us have areas where we are weak and vulnerable. This is one of mine; yours may be different, but we are all works in progress, gradually being restored into the beautiful masterpieces God created us to be.
As I learn to accept God’s perfect love more and more, the fear loosens its grip little by little. As I see feelings of anxiety not as something bad in themselves, but as indicators of where there is still healing to be done, I can come out of hiding and hand them over to God.
And it’s from that place of security in God’s love, and the knowledge that he does not condemn me for my feelings, that I am more ready to think logically, to deal with the question, and to receive the truth that if God is in charge, there really is no reason to worry.
This is part 5 of a series reflecting on questions Jesus asked. Click to read the other posts:
What Do You Want Me To Do For You?
Do You Want To Get Well?
How Much Bread Do You Have?
Who Touched My Robe?