[I am extremely pleased to have Keri Wyatt Kent guest posting here today, bringing us this essay on worry and slowing down and relying on God. For those who have been following my updates on my Dad’s recovery, you know how much I needed to read this myself.]
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,will Henot much more clotheyou, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:25-30, NKJV.)
I don’t know about you, but this year, this crazy election year, I’ve been slammed by worry. It’s kind of hit me out of left field, as I’m not normally a worrier. I tend to deal with stress by just working harder, taking control, if truth be told.
But this year, I find myself feeling nervous. I feel afraid—not of refugees who might be terrorists, or that the wrong judges will end up on the Supreme Court. Rather, I’m worried about people who might elect one person over another out of their fear. And it hits me—I’m scared of other people acting (and voting) based on fear. I’m just as afraid as they are—but I’m afraid of their fear.
I worry about the future of our country, the escalating violence, hatred, racism, vitriol. I think—what is happening? Where is God in this mess? A lot of people claim God is on their side—which can’t be true because their sides are so different. I live in Chicago, where the violence in certain neighborhoods has escalated dramatically this summer.
Into this fray strolls Jesus. “Do not worry,” he says. I imagine him smiling, full of gentle concern. Now, I’m not actually worried about food, clothing or shelter. No matter who gets elected, I think I’ll still have a roof over my head, clothes to wear and food on the table. That privilege and provision is one we all take for granted, and shouldn’t. It’s no small thing. Yet, I assume, because Jesus names those needs, that his original audience might have been poor, might have lived at a subsistence level. Or, he just used those examples, because it’s true that worry gets us nowhere, no matter what it is we worry about.
And it does all come down to survival, right? We’re afraid of how the election might impact us financially—our taxes, our way of life. Will we have enough? Will we survive? Of course we care about political issues as well, especially those we’ve selected as important to us.
Worry seems to be pervasive these days. Maybe it’s just human nature to worry—I mean, 2000 years ago Jesus had to say to folks, “don’t worry.”
Our worry, though it’s not typically about having enough to eat, gets exacerbated by the pace of our lives. When we’re upset and worried, but also in a hurry, it feels more overwhelming. We can’t stop worrying unless we first slow down.
Jesus knew this. Because if you tell someone “don’t worry” and stop there—they’re just going to worry. You tell someone don’t think about something, they’re going to think about that very thing.
So Jesus offers us a spiritual practice to combat worry. “Look at the birds,” he says. “Consider the lilies of the field.”
In order to look at, to really look at, birds—you have to slow down. You have to put down your phone. You have to shut the laptop, and walk outside, under the canopy of the sky, which by the way, hasn’t yet fallen. You have to look up, at the clouds or into the branches of a tree. That blue and green—the sky and the trees—they’re calming.
God made them that way, and designed your eyes and soul so that looking at blue and green calms you. Just looking at a green tree and a blue sky will slow your heart rate, reassure you. Try it. Walk outside, now, today, before winter sneaks up on us. Take time to look, to notice.
To “consider” flowers or grass of the fields, again, we have to get outside. And what does consider mean but to really think about, to meditate on, to reflect?
Go outside. Look at flowers. Say the words of Jesus out loud as you look at them: “consider the lilies, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as finely as these.” Seeing the birds and flowers, reflecting on their existence, will lead us to meditate on God’s provision, and beauty. God provides, and God is beautiful.
God values you, far more than birds or flowers. God will care for you, and has made beauty in this world, if only we will stop and look for it. If only we will stop hurrying, we’ll probably do a lot less worrying.
Keri Wyatt Kent recently appeared on the radio with Anita Lustrea and Melinda Schmidt where they all talked on the same subject as this post. Keri also writes and speaks on slowing down to listen to God, and occasionally tries to follow her own advice. She and her husband Scot have two children and live in Chicago.