Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (NIV)
Fear is the path to the dark side. –Yoda
There has always been uncertainty. But I must admit that today there seems so much more uncertainty on the loose. We have the war on the Ukraine, energy prices spiking, social unrest, pandemic and healthcare challenges, a mental health crisis and I’ll throw in a spiritual crisis as well.
Churches are challenged in a way they have never been challenged before. On the one hand, there is so much brokenness in the world that finding a place to minister the gospel of Christ is easy. But Christians are people too, and they face the same issues as everyone else and many are overwhelmed with all this uncertainty, they need help as well.
With that said, I’d like to point out a few things about uncertainty and the worry it brings to help us in the days to come.
First, there is no shortage of things to worry over in this life.
We learn to worry as children. We worried about our toys. Is someone going to break them? What if I lose them? We worried over our friends. When would I see them? Would any of them come to my birthday party? In school, who am I going to sit with at lunch?
We are established into worry in our youth. We worry about our clothes. Are they the right brand and style? We worry about dating. Who would go out with me? We worried about grades in school. Am I going to pass algebra? I can’t even spell algebra.
We are entrenched in worry in adulthood. Am I going to graduate college? Can I support myself? Who am I going to marry? What about children? Am I going to ever be able to retire? Is my health going to hold out?
Second, worry is a disproportionate level of concern based on an inappropriate measure of fear.
In most cases it is a preoccupation with things we cannot change. What if the war in Ukraine becomes a WWIII? What if I have a car accident? What if I get sick? What if a meteor hits the earth? There is nothing you or I can do about it.
Certainly, we can be cautious and perhaps we should. We should drive our cars circumspectly. We should eat healthy and exercise regularly. We do what we can do and leave the rest to God. That means turning our worry over to God in prayer.
Third, worry is built on a false narrative: If I worry enough about something happening, it won’t.
Maybe this isn’t you, but I imagine you know someone who thinks this way. They are worried that no one is worried over something that no one can do anything about. They cannot relax one bit until someone else is worried simply because someone must be.
I had a landlord who lived in the same townhouse building as Karen and me. One day I went for a run early in the morning and saw that his car had been broken into. I knocked on the door of his townhouse to tell him. His first reaction was, “I knew that was going to happen!” The guy lived in fear of the next bad thing.
Wow! I’m getting all anxious just writing this stuff down. We need some balance here. In Matthew 6, which is part of the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is encouraging us not to waste our valuable time and energy preoccupied with the uncertainty of material things in this world. He goes on to say:
“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25–34, CSB)
Fourth, worry takes over when we are on the throne of our lives.
Jesus names the basic things that cause us worry: food, clothing and tomorrow. But he wants us to remember that our Father in heaven already knows what we need and will meet our needs. He is telling us that God is not only in charge, but that God is responsible for our lives. After all, we are part of the family of God!
Fifth, we cease to worry when we seek God’s kingdom first.
What this means is that we make God’s kingdom and his priorities first in our lives. It means we continually look to God and what he is doing in our day-to-day life. When we face adversities, we can meet them not with anxiety but with faith that God will see us through.
Seeking God’s kingdom first doesn’t mean we don’t do other good things. We just do them in proper order. There is a proper time, means, and moderation. Much of our problem with uncertainty is that we worry about the things that we cannot change and that eclipses getting involved in the things that we can change.
Last, when we focus on God’s kingdom and His righteousness first, we can experience God with us in the present moment.
After all, isn’t God’s presence the only thing that can bring certainty to us in a day of so much uncertainty? It was God’s presence that Moses could not do without. Moses was charged with leading Israel into the Promised Land, but the nation had sinned. The LORD told Moses that he would not go with them but would send an angel ahead to make the way. Moses said that if the LORD would not go with them, he would not go. Moses knew with certainty that peace would never be found in riches, intelligence, success, or might. However, it would be found in the presence of God.
I urge you today to seek the presence of the LORD in your life. It can only be found in Jesus Christ. Christ made a way for us to live in his presence both now and for eternity. Salvation is more than a home in heaven, it is heaven having a home in you.