And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:27 ESV).
I HAVE A confession to make.
I spent the entire morning thinking, rehearsing, predicting and fearfully anticipating the potential future.
I must admit, it was distracting. I lost focus of what I was doing, who I was with, even how the warmth of the sun felt on my shoulders.
It was if I was absent from the present. The truth of the matter is, I was.
More than that, the saddest part of wringing my hands in anxiety over the unknown was that it robbed me of time with my children, wife and friends.
As a pastor I have sat with many people as they wrestle with the “what if” scenarios they run through their minds, the thoughts that keep them up or wake them in the morning, as if it were a persistent injury constantly nagging at their body.
When we are young, our imaginations are full of adventure, creative games and playful art. More than we would like, as we grow older, somewhere along the line our imaginations shift from being tools of play and become liabilities to our mental health.
I read a study the other day that cited that adults have 60,000 to 80,000 independent thoughts a day.
Another study that I read reported that 46 percent of the thoughts we become immersed in during the day have nothing to do with what we physically are doing at the time.
That means we have a lot of random, unrelated, independent thoughts that often take us through mental exercises that remove us from the present, from spending time with our spouses, children, family and even our work.
As you can imagine, the subjects of most of those independent thoughts have been proven to be about financial well-being as well as physical well-being.
Well, lucky for us that we are in the middle of a global pandemic with an economy that is facing unprecedented challenges worldwide.
Not only that, but we see around our communities and our country the outcrying of pain and loss of so many through abuses of power, as well as the tragic examples of individuals seizing this opportunity to destroy through looting instead of working toward healing.
How are we going to get through all of this?
What is our “new normal” going to look like?
It is as if we are standing with the elders around the Throne of the Lamb crying out, “how long, Oh Lord!?” (Revelation 6:10).
The Sermon on the Mount has long since been one of my favorite parts of Scripture.
Smack dab in the middle of it is this beautiful discourse on anxiety.
Our Lord knows us better than we think.
He tells us to look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
He takes our attention off the 30,000 to 40,000 random thoughts of “what if” and focuses us on the present.
As if He were a member of the Coast Guard pulling us out of the sea, drowning in our own imagined misery.
He reminds us of one simple fact to live by and stirs us away from the “what ifs” of life.
You have a Father in Heaven. He loves you and created you. He knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139).
He brought you into existence, not to torture you or just so you can fret and worry. No, it was because of his steadfast fatherly love of you (Psalm 136).
It is because He loved you from the foundations of the world and desired you to be with Him throughout all eternity (Ephesians 1).
He saw His creation, and, in His heart, He knew it would be imperfect without you in it.
More than that, He did not want you for some 80 or 100 years, but for all eternity.
That is why He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to redeem you with His blood (Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
To think, that when we were lost, still separated from knowing and having a relationship with God, He became flesh to bring us from darkness into His light that we may receive forgiveness and eternal life (Romans 5:6-11).
Think of it, He gave us what we needed before we knew we needed it, and it was nothing less than His own precious life in exchange for ours (John 3:14-17).
If God was so loving to not hesitate in giving you this immeasurable treasure, how can we doubt that He would get us through whatever trial we are currently facing, even a pandemic, economic hardship or civil unrest.
In the office of one of my friends hangs a sign that reads, “Don’t believe everything you think.” How true!
We can dream up some pretty creative alternatives for our future, but none of those futures are certain. There is only one future that is certain and one that we long for, to see our Redeemer face to face (Job 19).
That future is not one that has its origin in the minds of humans (2 Peter 1:16) or uncertain, but is our future.
To think that this will all pass! What a joy!
Moreover, the One who has given you all this as your sure possession out of His love for you, why would we think He would not be attentive to other needs as well (Matthew 6:31)?
This is not to say that He will miraculously erase COVID-19.
However, He will use the created hands and minds of His gifted children to produce treatments.
He might not snap His finger and correct the global markets. But He will still cause the sun to rise and the rain to fall, giving life to harvests, time for the business owner, and opportunity after opportunity.
He might not take away individuals’ free choice to disobey His law and inflict pain on others, but He will continue to use the authorities in our lives to serve and protect His creation.
He will come again to judge and make all things new where peace will be experienced by all. In His court, justice delayed is not justice denied.
Not everything is in our time, but thanks be to God it is in His time, just as our life is in His hands who’s steadfast love endures forever.
So, give up some of your anxiety by not believing everything you think and fear.
Seize back your present reality. Hold on to the one thing that is true — His love for you, and how He will never leave nor forsake you.
To God be all the Glory!
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Lovejoy is pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]