Radical Dependence in the Face of Worry

While I was having lunch with a friend who is also single, we began to talk about the difficulty of remaining in Silicon Valley because of rising rents, gas prices, health insurance, car repair and those unannounced financial issues that arise every now and then.

I mentioned an article I read in CNN Business that said many tech companies in San Francisco were having difficulty-hiring janitors because most of them can’t afford to live within a 1-2 hour commute of their workplaces. The article reported, “The skyrocketing costs show no signs of slowing.” Gulp!

We both had seen this coming for a while. Faced with these issues about finances and my future I’ve developed a low-grade anxiety that doesn’t seem to stop simmering. As I commune with God, I wonder, “Do you want me to stay, enter into a different living situation or are there new fields to sow into far from this place?”

As part of a monthly challenge at our church to be more intentional about our relationship with Jesus, I committed to reading a chapter of Matthew a day to more deeply connect with God. Jesus words from a passage I read in Matthew 6 ring in my ears as I consider my future, “Do not worry about your life…”

Jesus unpacks the futility of worry and tells us not to worry about what we will eat; what we will drink, or what we will wear. He then tells us to look at the birds of the air and how our heavenly Father feeds them. He follows that with two great questions, “Are you not of more value than they?”And, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

I believe that most of the time, worry reveals what we worship. If we worry about finances, we may worship financial security, if we worry about reputation, we may worship status. If we worry about not having control in all situations, we may worship control.

When Jesus uses the word the Bible translates as worry he uses the Greek verb merimnao and he uses it six times in this passage and interestingly that word can be translated in a positive sense as caring about something in a good way. But in this passage the words negative usage is employed and it means, quote, “internal disturbance at the emotional and psychological level that disrupts life,” another way of translating the word could be “an anxious endeavor to serve one’s needs.”

Jesus tells us how to deal with worry. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). He is telling us that if we live out the words of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) we are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. In doing so, worry will not be an issue for us.

When our treasure is in God, when our eyes are clear, so to speak, and we make the decision to serve the true Master rather than money, what is there to worry about? When Jesus says, “All these things will be added to you,” it’s not a promise of basic provision but an assurance that we can become a type of person that is free from worry. We can become a person that values the things that can’t be taken away because our treasure is found in God.

Jesus ends this passage with these words, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Let me remind you, he once told his disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The whole context for this passage is we’re going to have trouble but don’t worry. So what’s the point? Worry won’t stop trouble it’s about what we treasure; what we care for.

Dallas Willard says it so well, “People who are ignorant of God live to eat and drink, and dress…for such things the ‘gentiles’ seek,” and their lives are filled with corresponding anxiety, anger and depression about how they will look and how they will fare. By contrast, those who understand Jesus and his Father know that provision has been made for them. Their confidence has been confirmed by their experience. Though they work, they do not worry about things “on earth.” Instead, they are always seeking ‘first the kingdom.’ That is they place top priority on identifying and involving themselves on what God is doing.”

My other commitment to being “intentional” was to tune out from media the last two hours of the evening. Turning off all the lights in my apartment and attempting to hear God’s still, small voice, God reminded me of His character. He reminded me of His relentless mercy and unlimited grace towards me during these times of listening. Trusting in God’s character and loving-kindness towards me began to loosen worry’s grip on me. This union revealed to me His love that at times I’ve struggled to fathom especially when worry comes knocking at my door. God was proving Himself to be enough for me in this season of my life.

To continue to live somewhat worry free will require of me a “radical dependence” on God in this season of possible transition. I believe the words from Matthew 6 give us a blueprint for a radical lifestyle of trusting God for the ordinary things of life while devoting ourselves towards the Kingdom mission. In choosing to live out these words, God becomes more real in our lives and we learn to trust in God’s profound affection for us.

When Jesus says, “Do not worry,” it’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. This only comes as we deepen our union with God and are assured that we are His beloved.