Saturday, January 10, 2009

Anxiety, stress, and .... "tomorrow"...

The economic woes that the U.S. are experiencing right now is certainly not a big secret. Every domestic newspaper and news channel are covering all the gritty little details and putting forth a steady stream of “doom and gloom”. Words like “depression” are worked into most conversations about the economy with relative ease. Indeed, unemployment is on the rise and, quite frankly, people are a little scared. For most Americans, the global war on terror that has captivated our attention for the bulk of the last seven years is no longer doing so. While we acknowledge its existence, it is generally viewed as a far-away thing....the economy, however, is right here – in our face – threatening to overtake us. It seems like a more ominous force and a more menacing enemy simply because of proximity. This enemy – potential joblessness, homelessness, bankruptcy, lack of job security – is right here, right now….and it’s scary.

I’ve been in the manufacturing world for most of my adult life. Part of life in American manufacturing is that you live in a cycle. So the potential for unemployment is always breathing down your neck, it seems. Those of us who have made careers out of manufacturing have been around massive layoffs, plant closings, consolidations, mergers, and sell-offs. But even with that experience, it’s never fun when you are faced with the reality of…..bad times.

As I’ve watched the news and conversed with friends I’ve made over the years who are in various positions within different manufacturing companies around the country, I’ve seen a lot of speculation, fear, and just pure uneasiness and anxiety. These are frightening times, my friends, and the reality is that they are likely to get worse before they get better. So what are we to do, as Christians? How should we react? What should our conversation with our unrepentant friends be during these times?

My thoughts keep going back to the 6th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel beginning in verse 25 and continuing through verse 34 (ESV):

"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? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Sometimes we Christians are very good at mindlessly and mechanically quoting this passage when times get tough. But while we can quote these verses, I wonder how much time we’ve spent meditating on the truths contained within them? The 34th verse is one of the greatest comments in Scripture regarding the human inclination to borrow trouble! Essentially, Christ says, “Stop worrying about what’s not even happened yet! There’s enough to deal with here and now to be worrying about what tomorrow may or may not bring!” The truth is that God makes a stark promise to us in this small passage…..”Seek me FIRST, and I’ll take care of you”. Friends, this isn’t a promise of comfort, wealth, nice clothing, and shelter….it’s a promise of being sustained by the One who knows what we need…the One who knows us better than we know ourselves….the One who has demonstrated love to us in a way that we will never fully grasp this side of Eternity.

It’s so easy to worry about creature comforts, isn’t it? During the worst of times that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, I’ve always had it pretty good. While I’ve gone without food before, I’ve never gone hungry. While I’ve been without a home before, I’ve never been without shelter. While I’ve been without money before, I’ve never had my basic needs unmet. I praise His name that I haven’t yet had to deal with truly impossibly hard times during my marriage (three-and-a-half month joblessness, notwithstanding). I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future. As trite and cute as that might sound, there is a confidence and peace in that knowledge that surpasses my vocabulary!

So Christian, don’t worry! I’m certainly not advocating that we blindly live in the moment and just plow headlong into every day like nothing bad will ever happen to us, but let’s not be….. “stressed out” about things. Remember, the One who cares for the birds and flowers will certainly take care of His own!


Jim Peet said...


Thank you for this thoughtful and encouraging article.

Folks are nervous where I work too (banking).

I posted this over at my young adult ministry blog as it will encourage them as well.

Ellis Murphree said...

Thanks for the comment, Jim. I hope this is encouraging to those you share it with.

beverley amah said...

I always find your writings insightful...;)