“Cast your burdens on Jesus for he cares for you … Higher higher higher higher higher …” is often easier sang than done. The Apostle Peter reminds that Jesus loves us and invites us to cast our burdens, our worries, our anxiety on him. Why? We were never made to worry.
In the garden, Adam and Eve hadn’t a care in the world. all they had to focus on was being obedient to God and enjoying creation through care and cultivation. That is what we wee designed for – obedience and enjoyment. Unfortunately, like Adam and Eve, we have traded in obedience and enjoyment for worry. We worry about everything. Just about each and every one of us can readily identify what we waste our time worrying about.
Our worries can probably be grouped into categories like the bare necessities, the future, and evil. There is one little word that summarizes all of this … LIFE. Perhaps that is why Jesus begins where he does,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. 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 can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
“Do not worry about your life.” What a tough command. We’re not even allowed to worry about something as significant as our own life. The psalmist reminds us that ultimately it is a waste of energy to worry about the finality of our life, “Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” (139:16) Death is a certainty for everyone so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you are going to die. And, if the psalmist is right and God does know how many days you have, you don’t even have to worry about whey of are going to die because that’s taken care of as well.
For those who are worried about what kind of rewards they will have toward the end of their lives – a good retirement plan, nice toys, the right piece of property and so on – the ever skeptical and cynical Qhohelet, the author of Ecclesiastes, reminds us, “So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.”
The Prophet Jeremiah said it well when he described the life of one who is worry free,
“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Drought can mean death for a tree. Yet, in the year of drought those who trust in the LORD are not anxious. This is what it means to not worry about one’s life.
So, how do we cast our burdens on Jesus? How do we resist the temptation to worry about our life? The answer, Jesus said, is, “But seek first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The best way I know to do this is found in the Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgiven those who have sinned against us. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
Seeking the kingdom of God begins with hallowing God’s name. In other words, exclaim why God is holy and worth of praise. What has God done that is revealed in Scripture? What is God doing that is revealed in Scripture? What has God done in your life? How about in the lives of those you know and love? Praise him for. Worshiping has a way of mysteriously moving worry to the side.
Next, seeking the kingdom of God involves asking for God’s will to be done right here and now. That means we must be willing to be obedient. We peer into heaven to see how things are and then we go about striving to be that way. Obeying has a way of mysteriously moving worry to the side.
Next, seeking the kingdom of God involves dealing with today’s needs. We learn to ask for daily bread and to be content with daily bread. We also learn how to ask for others as the words, “Give us …” imply. Asking has a way of mysteriously moving worry to the side.
Next, seeking the kingdom of God involves forgiving and asking for forgiveness. This means we will have to be willing to practice confession with one another, be willing to go to a brother or sister we know has something against us, and be willing to go to a brother or sister that we have something against. We must be ready for the hard work of forgiveness. Forgiving has a way of mysteriously moving worry to the side.
Finally, seeking the kingdom of God involves following. We follow Jesus out of our darkness and into his glorious light. Each of us can identify at least some of our own sin tendencies, some of those areas where we are prone to wander away from Jesus and into the nasty habit of doing harm. It is in these moments that we must remember what the Apostle Paul told the believers in Corinth,
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (! Corinthians 10:13)
Jesus invites us in this prayer to ask the Father to lead us out of temptation, to show us the way out. When we are tempted to worry the Father will show us the way out. Following has a way of mysteriously moving worry to the side.
E. Stanley Jones, a Methodist missionary to India and graduate of my alma mater Asbury University, wrote these words,
I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath–these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely–these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non- worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.
Father, help us to cease our worrying and cast all our cares upon Jesus. Teach us to live by faith and not by fear. In our moment of worry show us the way out as we worship, obey, ask, forgive and follow. In Jesus’ name we ask these things. Amen.