Hope for the anxious heart
Each new day brings with it some intense emotions. If you’re like me your days seem to eb and flow. At times I ask myself, “am I okay?” But I am reminded that many in scripture had these same ebs and flows. Think about David; the trials and betrayal yet God kept him safe and secure. In light of David’s experiences mine seem insignificant, yet I am reminded all throughout scripture that God cares for even the smallest of his creatures. This truth encourages me in the deepest depths of my anxiety. Anxiety is something you don’t feel until it happens-descriptive, I know. It is somewhat like the frog in the frying pan that doesn’t realize the temperature rising until it’s too late. Anxiety however isn’t something to brush under the rug of life, it is to be resolved with the comforting truths of scripture culminating in the finished work of Christ.
The incarnation of Jesus brought hope to anxious hearts in that God became a man in Christ Jesus. He dwelt among them and was tempted in every way. He did not seek any special treatment, rather he was fully God and fully man—as the Christmas hymn goes, “pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel”. The incarnation however was not only understood through the New Testament, it was prophesied from of old, and to those who did not see this day anxiously awaited the coming Immanuel. Most notably, the coming of the Messiah was prophesied by Isaiah saying, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14b). Though the incarnation was promised, the promised one would not dwell among them for some 700 years from this writing.
Jesus addresses the disciples experience of anxiety. That is one of the biggest blessings for the believer. Jesus—being God— cares about the experiences of his people. This fact alone should provide your heart with tender comfort this holiday season, and throughout your life. Yet how did he express care to his disciples and how does he express care to us today? For this we will look to the Gospel of Matthew.
Jesus points them to the miniscule to emphasize his mercy in providing for his image bearers. (Matthew 6:25-26)
When approaching the disciples’ anxiety over food and clothing, Jesus points them to the birds of the air. They live among the branches, find food in the insects of the fields, yet Jesus reminds them that even their provision comes from the sweet hand of the sovereign God (6:26). Believer, this season of anxiety is one that God promises to meet your every need, and in his sweet provision, he will sustain you. Remind yourself of the gospel; that Christ, in his sacrificial death and powerful resurrection and ascension has provided you with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). For more than the promises of the birds.
Anxiety robs you of your time and God’s glory. (Matthew 6:27)
Jesus continues to discuss their anxiety by again bringing up their clothing. But before he does he reminds them of the practical uselessness of anxiety. It cannot add moments to your life, rather, it takes away joy from the experiences that God intends to use for your joy and his glory. Paul in his letter to the Philippian church encourages them to not be anxious but that in all circumstances they, and in turn, we might turn to God in prayer and supplication make your petitions known to God (Philip. 4:6).
When I am most anxious it is because I try and take control. I come from a long line of control “freaks” yet this mindset is a stark contrast to God’s intention. Our provision does not, nor will it ever come from, the sweat of our own brow, or by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, rather it comes from the sweet hand of a sovereign God; by his Son’s bloody brow and nail pierced hands. That is the gospel.
God is good and he knows our needs. (Matthew 6:28-32)
It seems like the disciples were awfully concerned with clothing. Yet, in light of Jesus’ command in Luke 2:3-5 of take only what is on your back, no extra tunic, no bread, no bag it makes sense that they might become anxious. Still, Jesus reminds them of the provision of the adornment of the lilies in comparison to the adornment of King Solomon (the most adorned and wealthy king of all history), saying the lilies are more arrayed in splendor.
Jesus is pointing to the goodness of God in his provision for his people. The lilies are of lesser value than of his image bearers, they just need to be reminded of this fact, much like we need reminding of God’s goodness to us throughout the years. Think through a time this year where God has been good to you. If it causes you to exclaim anything may it be “God is good!” James tells us of God’s goodness saying, that God gives good gifts, it’s in his character (Ja. 1:17).
Jesus caps of this section with a remarkable statement. “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matt. 6:32). The truth of the matter is that God is a BIG God. He is all present and all knowing. He is sovereignly in control over all things. It is this God that Jesus reminds the disciples of. This should comfort your soul believer; God knows your needs and provides them currently and will provide them in the future.
Look to God and his Kingdom (Matthew 6:33-34)
In the face of anxiety Christ points his disciples to the Kingdom of God. This no doubt emphasizes the inaugurated kingdom wrought by the incarnation but leaves them anticipating the future consummation of the kingdom where sin and shame, tears and terrors, cancer and concern will meet their end and Christ will rule and reign and all knees will bow to him. This, believer, should encourage you with great joy. As the angel of the Lord proclaimed to Mary, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk. 2:10). The news of Immanuel is great news for all people! So do not be anxious, Christ reminds them (Matt. 6:34) for the day will be anxious for itself.
Look to Christ the perfecter of our faith. (Heb. 12:2)
Cast your cares on him (Jesus) because he cares for you (1 Pt. 5:7)
Christ was tempted as we are, yet he was without sin. (Heb. 4:15)