Numbers are not my favorite. I line them up, pencil it out, move things from one category to another. Every month, my heart rate unconsciously rises and the same budget conversation happens: Why am I so anxious? I remember before, when we had so much less. Why am I more high strung now, when so much more has been provided? How can I forget that the God who made me knows what I need?
We have never been hungry. My thirst is often satisfied with a drive-thru caffeinated creation, while I know there are people who walk miles and fill up buckets of water that may still be tainted with contaminants. Not only have I not experienced true lack, but I can point back to multiple times that I have seen God’s provision in my life. Yet fear and anxiety easily settle in as I forget.
I know I am not alone in my struggle to put away anxious thoughts. Over two thousand years ago Jesus spoke to a crowd of despondent, needy, sick, oppressed, broken, and hungry people and shook up the way things had always been. He called them to a new and different kind of life. A life that seeks God.
This teaching is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes and is recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7.The whole thing challenged the way that people had been living. Whether the people listening thought they knew how to follow God, or they never even considered it, everything was changed that day.
Nestled in the midst of chapter 6 is a picture I often recall when anxiety grips me as the monthly bills roll in and we decide how to use the resources at our disposal.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Matthew 6:25-27
Look at the birds. Slowing down to observe is the last thing I do when I worry. Red-bellied spring Robin’s have begun to flit about my yard gathering bits of seeds or worm. They sing in the morning as the sun comes up, and fly freely. They are beautiful, colorful, and at ease. As unworried as possible. They are transitory, not relying on any single source of nourishment. They don’t work, or worry, and yet God provides for them abundantly. I can learn a lot from slowing down to watch the birds.
But the next line is the kicker: Are you not of more value than they?
Here lies the problem. When we forget that we loved children, we start craft contingency plans to take care of ourselves.
I have seen this survival mentality play out in my home as a foster parent over the last few years. The anxious striving consistently appeared in dozens of kids in varying ways. Until they could trust that they would be safe and cared for, they worked with unrelenting determination to make sure their needs were met. The expectation: no one will help me. I must take care of myself. No matter what. How exhausting!
But their experience learning to trust, just like ours, is shaped by hundreds of conversations. More than that through thousands of silent needs met without fanfare.
“ No honey, go back to bed. We will clean up the puke”
“Would it make you feel better to keep a granola bar in case you get hungry tonight?”
“You don’t need to hide that away, we can get more.”
I am challenged to remember all the ways God has cared for me in my life. Sometimes the answer appears after much asking and praying, other times before I was even aware of the need.
I think of a grandma who welcomed me to my college dorm with a loaf of banana bread. When the car broke down but someone was there to help me. The times we just happened to get an unexpected bonus at exactly the right time.
People could say it is happenstance, but I see whispers of the abundantly good Father caring for every need of his children. Sometimes it comes through something tangible, and other times through the grace to trust Him. In either circumstance, we need not have anxiety. If you know Jesus, you are a loved child. Your Father knows what you need.
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
If we, as entirely imperfect parents, want our children’s minds to be set at ease that they will be loved, cared for, and provided for, how much more are we loved as God’s children?
As we begin to trust that we are loved and that God knows what we hunger for, we are able to live free, like the birds. Living in settled trust that displays itself as creativity, play, or satisfaction. No longer must we worry and prepare for the worst-case scenario. We are like the birds.