“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” — Matthew 6:34 (ESV)
FEAR IS A paralyzing force in this world. It feeds anxiety and breeds depression. It robs God’s children of joy and peace and leaves its victims captive to a sense of hopelessness. It steals, blinds and terrorizes.
What is more, it has permeated our culture, our community and our relationships with one another.
Fear comes to us in the form of worries about our future. We question the future of our nation, our marriages, our children’s lives, our churches and our environment.
The truth is, there are no shortage of things in which to be fearful as we peer into the dimly lit years ahead as long as our imaginations mold the possibilities.
Whether you are a student finishing up high school looking into the years of college ahead or the blue-collar worker who has invested the past 45 years of your life into a career and are now trying to figure out retirement, we torture ourselves with worst-case scenarios and the torrent of thoughts of potential failure.
I would argue that ultimately, as we look at the things we are most afraid of in this life, our greatest fear is a fear of failure. We do not want to fail or be seen as failing in our relationships, at our careers or at providing for our children.
We are terrified at the prospect of our failing health or failing abilities. We do not like failure; we avoid even the mention of it because if we fail, then we will be labeled a loser. With all of this fear, we worry about the future.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount, gives the stern command, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself, sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
I can’t tell you how many times I hear individuals say after experiencing a traumatic event, “I’m just living one day at a time.”
Why is it that it takes a traumatic experience for us to realize the value in what Christ commands? We all only live one day at a time, and I believe firmly that we could all say that each day has enough trials, hardships and malice, and that we don’t need to be borrowing trouble from the days to come.
In Psalm 90, we hear a prayer of Moses that reads, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (ESV).
In other words, “Lord, teach us to see the value of each day, live it to its potential and rejoice in knowing that it is you that has brought us to it and will carry us through it.”
Believe it or not, pastors are not impervious to fear or anxiety. Nobody is, not even Moses. We all, regardless of our vocation, are weak, helpless and at times lost, and would be forever if it were not for God’s mighty hand sustaining us.
Thanks be to God that his steadfast love never ceases, that his mercies never end but are new every morning, one day at a time. Great is his faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
My message this month is simple: Depend not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) but depend on the Lord and his mercy each day, one day at a time. Jesus tells us not to worry about what to eat or what to wear, but to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:25-33).
Run to him in his word where he is quick to sooth your anxieties with his promises (Matthew 11:28), that the trials of this life will not destroy you (Isaiah 43:2) and that those who trust in him will not faint but soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31).
If we allow ourselves to be afraid of failure, then we allow it to be our master. We fear it because we know the possibility of failure and do all we can to avoid it.
Yet we know that in this life, we will fail. I will know that I will fail. I know this because I have seen myself fail at things many times.
Therefore, we must not trust in ourselves who fail, but in the one who refused to fail at redeeming us and making us his through his blood, Christ Jesus our Lord.
He has set us free from this fear of failure. We embolden to live the life Christ has won for us. It is our duty and privilege.
Therefore, may we run this race not hindered by fear, but vitalized by the truth that our God is with us.
So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will carry you through it when it’s time.
For now, be at peace knowing the Lord has provided for you, far beyond your imagination (Psalm 46:10-11).
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]