Jesus encourages us in the Sermon on the Mount not to worry. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25) He goes on to mention how the birds don’t worry about food and the flowers don’t worry about clothes because God takes care of them. If God will take care of them, won’t God also take care of us, Jesus says. It’s an argument that makes sense.
Realistically, many of us don’t worry about food or clothing. We typically have closets full of clothes and while the panty may not always be overflowing, there is food to eat. We worry instead about other things. How will we pay for the car repair when the transmission goes out? What are we going to do about the mountain of medical bills? Are we giving our children the life experiences that they need to thrive as they grow and become adults? These are real worries that often control our energy and focus.
In many ways, we often worry about the unknown. We are fearful of what we do not know. When our teenage child doesn’t arrive home at the expected time and they won’t answer their cell phone we become fearful and our minds start racing to the worst possible scenarios. We are fearful because we don’t know where they are. Once they arrive home or they return the call, our fear subsides. We may still be angry, but we are no longer fearful. We become fearful when the doctor’s office calls to inform us we need to come in for followup blood work. We are fearful because we don’t know what is wrong. Once we get results, even if they are bad, our fear subsides because it is no longer an unknown.
One of the biggest unknowns that we worry about, or that we fear, is tomorrow. We never know what tomorrow will hold. While we think we know what we are doing tomorrow, any number of variables could change the outcome. We don’t worry about the past because the past is set, but we worry about the future because we don’t know what will happen. We fear the unknown reality of the future, and at times we allow that fear of an uncertain future to control our thoughts and actions. Yet Jesus says, do not worry about the future. How?
It’s interesting how many times in scripture the Bible says do not fear or do not be afraid. Those two phrases alone occur over one hundred times. When taking into account the multiple ways to convey the thought of not fearing, some people believe there are as many as 365 references to avoiding fear, one for everyday of the year. Consider just the life of Jesus. When the angel visits Mary to tell her she will become pregnant he tells her do not be afraid, and when that same angel visits Joseph and tells him to take Mary as his wife he says, do not be afraid. When Jesus begins to call the disciples and make them fishers of men he tells them do not be afraid. When Jesus sits in the upper room with his disciples before his death he tells them, do not be afraid. When the women approach the tomb on Easter morning the angel says, do not be afraid. As Jesus ascends into Heaven forty days after the resurrection he says, do not be afraid. When John sees the vision of the future in revelation and confronts the risen Christ he is told, do not be afraid. Jesus is constantly reminding the disciples there is no need to fear when God is present. God can change any uncertain circumstances.
We must remember, however, that God is not just the God of the present and the past, God is also the God of the future. God is already present in our future reality dealing with the uncertainty that we are worried about. The Bible says that Yahweh is the God who is, who was, and who is to come. God is already in the future bringing a solution to the very problem that is causing us to worry. God is already making a difference, handling our future fear in a better way than we could ever do on our own. There is no reason to fear an uncertain future because God is already there.
So do not worry about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear. Don’t even worry about future medical bills or job transfers. These may be legitimate concerns, but there is no need to worry and there is no need to fear. God is already present in our future. Draw peace and strength from God’s presence, and do not fear.