Last night I started reading J. P. Moreland’s book Finding Quiet. In it, he discusses his personal battles with both depression and anxiety. This morning, the first thought that entered my brain was “be anxious for nothing.” I knew the verse was in Matthew but I could not remember where, so I grabbed my Kindle to look it up (it was Matthew 6:25-34).
Analyzing the Anxiety Scripture
26 Look at the birds of the air: They neither nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?Matthew 6:26-27
I find it interesting that this verse is only found in the gospel account written by Matthew, a former tax collector called by Jesus. I believe this verse is only in this account because Matthew knew something of anxiety. The Father knew that we would know something of it too, some of us more than others.
Here are the parts that stood out to me while reading, starting with verse 26:
Birds don’t “sow or reap or gather into barns.” Humans do. Humans have to sow seed into the ground, wait for that seed to grow, reap the harvest of that grown seed, and then gather into barns to feed the pigs and other animals that eventually are killed for meat, for substance.
The birds don’t have to do that. They simply rely on the Father.
A Matter of Trust
Is it really that simple? To simply put our faith in the Father and not be anxious? Yes and no. Humans are not birds; we are more complex than that and have more priorities than just finding food and shelter. I think God knows this, hence verse 27. I get that it is supposed to be a rhetorical question, but as someone who is intimately acquainted with anxiety, verse 27 is a hard question—a slap in the face if you will. And yet, we are not alone.
Isn’t it plausible that Jesus, while on earth, experienced anxiety? That the “High Priest” we praise who is “able to sympathize with our weaknesses,” according to the writer of Hebrews, might have, at some point, had a close encounter with anxiety? I mean, He was human so it is possible.
Picture Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before he is to be crucified. Luke records in his account that, at one point, Jesus begins to pray so earnestly that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). See? Jesus understands.
El Roi… the God who sees me
Over the past month, I have had more panic/anxiety attacks in that short time span than I have in the past six months combined. Most of them are work-related; some are PTSD-related; and some are just life-related. They suck. They make me feel out of control. Alone. And verse 27 jumps out at me: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?”
I sit here, rereading those words and I can’t help but wonder, “what am I to do with that?” Here God is telling me “don’t be anxious. If I can take care of the birds, surely I can take care of you too” and my mind starts spinning to the huge problems before me: the unhappiness and stress I feel because of my current jobs, the difficulty of teaching myself coding while working odd hours, and what the future holds. And still, El Roi says, “be anxious for nothing.”
Most of the time I have to take my days hour by hour. Meditating on these verses help me. It is good to remind myself of this—and I remind you as well—there is a God who sees me and you, and He is not unaware of our silent sufferings or our anxieties. And really? Has anyone seen a bird fall out of the sky?