Below is an excerpt taken from Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace by Paul Tautges.
Anxiety Distracts Us
“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?” (Matt. 6:25)
Anxiety is so much a part of our lives that it’s natural for us to talk about it frequently. However, defining it, and understanding how it works, sometimes seems like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. Anxiety is an emotion—but it’s more than a feeling. It often includes a physical reaction—but it’s more than that, too. So what is anxiety, exactly?
The writers of the New Testament employ two different, but related, words to refer to the experience that we call anxiety. They combine the noun merimna, which is usually translated “care,” with the verb merizo, which means to draw in different directions or distract. To be anxious, then, means to have a distracting care—to have our minds and hearts torn between two worlds. We see this in Jesus’s warning about thorns choking out the Word of God, which is intended to produce faith. He identifies these thorns as “the cares of the world” (Mark 4:19) or “the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14). Anxious cares are typically tied to our earthly lives and are most often temporal, not eternal.
These distracting cares divide our mental energy and cloud our spiritual vision; they keep us focused on the here-and-now instead of on the future-promised-but-not-yet. They form cataracts over our spiritual eyes and hinder us from keeping heavenly things in clear focus or from keeping diligent watch for the Lord’s return (see Luke 21:34).
Anxiety diverts us from what is most important. It causes our eyes to see only what is before us at that very moment. Our worries exert great effort to keep our vision fixed on the horizontal (the things of the world) instead of on the vertical (the things of God).
In today’s passage, Jesus commands us not to be anxious about our food or drink or clothing. He then immediately directs us to “look” somewhere else (Matt. 6:26). By looking at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, we shift our focus to the heavenly Father who promises to provide even better care for us than he does for them.
Instead of allowing our minds to be distracted by the troubles of today, Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). As we renew our minds and discipline our hearts to keep eternal matters as our central priority, we learn to rest in God, who has promised to meet all our needs. Therefore, even when our personal responsibilities require a certain amount of our attention, we can always look to the Lord with confidence rather than being fearful.
In the 31-Day Devotionals for Life series, biblical counselors and Bible teachers guide you through specific situations or struggles, applying God’s Word to your life in practical ways day after day. Deepak Reju is the series editor.
- Addictive Habits: Changing for Good, by David R. Dunham
- After an Affair: Pursuing Restoration, by Michael Scott Gembola
- Anger: Calming Your Heart, by Robert D. Jones
- Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace, by Paul Tautges
- Assurance: Resting in God’s Salvation, by William P. Smith
- Chronic Illness: Walking by Faith by Esther Smith (COMING May 2020)
- Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness, by Megan Hill
- Doubt: Trusting God’s Promises, by Elyse Fitzpatrick
- Engagement: Preparing for Marriage by Mike McKinley (COMING May 2020)
- Fearing Others: Putting God First, by Zach Schlegel
- Grief: Walking with Jesus, by Bob Kellemen
- Marriage Conflict: Talking as Teammates by Steve Hoppe (COMING May 2020)
- Money: Seeking God’s Wisdom, by Jim Newheiser
- Pornography: Fighting for Purity, by Deepak Reju