Do Not 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? …But if God also clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry…But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. –Matthew 6:25-33 (NRSV)

So there it is, the command not to worry, which concludes the sixth chapter of Matthew, following instructions for how to pray and how to fast, how to live the life of faith in faithfulness and bring honor to God. But I lately I have been doing my fair bit of worrying, letting the insecurities in the cobwebs of my brain spin their webs convincingly. I find that when I keep those worries to myself, they certainly do become corrosive and formidable- they take on a life of all their own.

So I try to take heart in Jesus’ words, to trust that if the birds of the air are fed by the Father, if the lilies of the field neither toil or spin, but grow up to be voluminous, grand flowers, and if God so clothes the humble grass of the field, will God not provide for me? But when I meditate on the whole of Matthew 6, on the words of the Lord’s prayer, on not merely the pronouncing of God’s kingdom on the earth, but the practical steps that takes (“forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors”), I see that I’ve missed a step. In moving from worry to self-loathing over the worry, and racing toward earnest trust in God, I see that one cannot force or fake peace, or trust, or hope.

Nor does God ask us to. God puts people in our lives to be used by God, and so I notice that when I talk to my husband, or to my friends, about these worries, honestly and vulnerably, God takes that intersubjective moment (I’d call it prayer!), and blesses it. I know so, because as great as my husband is at listening to my meandering thoughts and giving valuable insight, there’s something equally comforting about just voicing those worries aloud. I think when someone else agrees to “hear and hold our prayer,” they need not commit anything but an ear, and yet, there is this sensation that one’s burdens are no longer one’s own.

Now this is a far cry from the commands with which Matthew 6 begins, to give alms, pray, and fast in secret, but I believe the spirit with which we share our faith is what God is getting at. If we sound trumpets at our successes and bury our failures, then how can we expect others to forgive our debts, and how can we expect to truly know God and be known by God? But if we worry, and I think these verses are written with the realization that in our human weaknesses, we will worry, then let us not look for the kingdom of God and righteousness in ourselves, but in the compassion of our neighbor, in the prayerful silence, in which burdens are transferred, sins are pardoned, and worries dissipate. Let us not presume righteousness is really something to be muscled toward or gained, so much as it is something to absorb by way of our experience of God in one another, and our concordant desire to lend an ear to another brother or sister in his or her time of need.

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