Over the past weeks and months, I have been praying earnestly for you—asking the Lord to guide you, and provide for all your many needs. While in the midst of seeking His face, I felt impressed to offer you the one thing I know you need: encouragement. Yet somehow, “Hang in there, it’s going to be okay,” and “Don’t worry, you’ll get through this,” and “Have faith—all things are possible with God” just don’t seem to suffice. Instead, I feel compelled to be somewhat more substantive in my exhortation, and bring you a heartening, yet challenging word.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if we members of the Body are as concerned with worldly things as those who are of the world. We’re rocked by an unexpected turn of events; we worry about our health, wealth and happiness. Some of us feed that anxiety by obsessively following the daily news; some of us put our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is going along just fine. But what most of us often forget—or only acknowledge intellectually without action based in faith—is that what is happening around us really doesn’t matter… what matters is whether or not we are living for Yeshua. Whether we are being forcefully evicted from our homes, or rushing our deathly ill child to the hospital, or buying a morsel of food with the very last dollar in our pocket, we have a choice. Do we become caught up in the moment and react out of fear, or do we face reality with a conviction of spirit and a heart fortified toward God?
The Master Yeshua showed us the way to face the trials of life: the more that we are hated, the more we need to love; the more that is stolen from us, the more we need to give. We shouldn’t be afraid and hide until the storm is over, because it may never pass. We can’t hold on for dear life to what we already have, because it too may be taken away. Difficult times will come, they will endure and sometimes even get worse, but worrying will accomplish nothing. Being like Messiah is not about making the best of a bad situation, but about enduring suffering and pain with faith, hope and trust.
As you read the following, I want to encourage you to open your heart and allow yourself to be challenged. Step outside yourself for a while and try to see your situation as God sees it. I’m not trying to minimize your problems—they’re real, and they’re causing you distress. What I am encouraging you to do is make Adonai larger in your eyes, and your anxiety will fade in comparison. Put your trust in the Only One who can save you, and, surely, you will be saved. It may not always be in the way that we expect, but we must have faith in the One who knows best what we need.
Many of us are anxious about the future… when times are hard, where do we turn for our comfort and salvation?
There’s always something to worry about. Sometimes the source of our anxiety is of global proportions—like an imminent terrorist attack on U.S. soil, or a new world-wide virus that scientists have never seen before. Other times, it is closer to home—like the looming failure of a troubled marriage, or the sudden diagnosis of a serious disease. With just a little imagination, we can conjure up all kinds of scenarios in which life as we know it is hurtling toward its end. But what if our reality is actually not far from the misfortune we fear? How should we react? Our natural inclination is to hide ourselves away and hoard whatever we have, trusting our fear response to protect us from the storm.
But is this how the Master would have us weather difficult times?
For a while now, one particularly ominous threat hanging over our collective heads has been the state of our economy. Everyone has been affected in some way by this downturn—or at least knows someone who has. We all have the foreclosed homes in our neighborhoods, we’ve all been surprised to notice that another local business has closed, and we’ve all wondered if our elected officials truly have our best interests at heart. But while we’re assigning blame and lamenting about all of our problems, we often fail to even consider pointing a finger of fault toward ourselves. Of course, some of us find ourselves in situations completely beyond our control; but how much is our own anxiety adding to our troubled circumstances? How much have we brought on ourselves by misplacing our hope and trust?
The words of the Master Yeshua ought to shake us from our cocoons. Perhaps you have heard them before.
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it came to pass in the sowing, some [seed]… fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no fruit…. These are they who hear the word, but the anxieties of this age, and the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires concerning other things, entered in, choked the word, and it became unfruitful.” Mark 4:3-4,7,18-19 YLT
“Yes, yes,” we say, “I’m not supposed to be afraid. I get it—I shouldn’t let the anxieties of life choke out the word that has been implanted in me.” But it’s much, much more than that.
The thorns of life that suffocate us and keep us from yielding fruit for God are not just “the anxieties of this age.” Especially in our luxurious land flowing with indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and conditioned air, consider how “the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires concerning other things” can enter in and choke out the word in us. Have we grown so accustomed to our modern lifestyles that “wants” are no longer discernable from “needs”? Indeed, it is “through anxieties, and wealth, and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14) that we become barren, unable to produce good fruit.
We mistakenly perceive that we are in financial distress because our 401(k)s are drying up, or we are considering siphoning money from our children’s college funds. We believe we are plummeting toward poverty because we have to think twice about eating out, or getting a latte every day on our way to work. This is “the deceitfulness of wealth”: being so accustomed to an easy, comfortable lifestyle that we lose sight of what is truly essential. Surely, some of us are in dire straits, and we ought not to make light of the plight of those in desperate need. But most of us merely have a warped sense of what it means to endure “difficult times.” If we have health in our bodies, and food on our plates, what more do we truly need?
Indeed, the Master says,
“…he who is storing up [treasure] for himself… is not rich toward God.” And [Yeshua] said to his disciples, “Because of this, to you I say, be not anxious for your life—what you will eat; nor for the body—what you will wear; [because] life is more than nourishment and the body [more] than clothing. Consider the ravens, that they neither sow nor reap—[they have] neither barn nor storehouse—yet God nourishes them. How much better are we than the birds? And who of you, being anxious, is able to add to his age one [hour]? If, then, you are not able [to do] such a little [thing], why are you anxious for the rest… you of little faith? And you—seek not what you will eat, or what you will drink, and be not in suspense, for all these things do the nations of the world seek after, yet your Father has known that you have need of these [things]. But seek the reign of God, and all these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, because your Father delighted to give you the reign. Sell your belongings and give money [to those in need]. Make for yourselves moneybags that [do] not become old—an unfailing treasure in the heavens where thief does not come near, nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” –Luke 12:21-34 YLT
Be rich toward God—not yourself. Life is more than nourishment. Your Father knows what you need. All these things will be added to you. Fear not.
If our treasure is stored up in the stock market—or a savings account, or the foresight and intellect of our government, or even our ability to provide for ourselves—that is where our heart will be. There we will look for our comfort and salvation, yet ultimately find none. A better storehouse in which to deposit our wealth is available, and its return on investment is inestimable.
Freedom from anxiety comes from the understanding that since we own nothing, we have nothing to lose. The only thing left to give up is ourselves—to others, and to the One who will always love and care for us.
Surely, it is the greatest price to pay… which only the poorest of us can afford.
… for I have learned in [whatever situation] in which I am—to be content. …in everything and in all things I have been initiated, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. For all things I have strength, in Messiah’s strengthening me… –Philippians 4:11-13 YLT