Epidemic Worry

Worry is an epidemic. 1 in 5 Americans struggle deeply with anxiety. That is nearly 65 million people. And when I say struggle, I mean in a debilitating way. It will impact their ability to function at home and on the job, and it will impact their relationships in significant ways. Not only do they have difficulty dealing with others, others will not know how to respond and help them.

While there are many ways that an anxious person needs help, it is no coincidence that within the broader context of Jesus’ teaching on worry in Matthew 6:25-34, he also teaches his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus says don’t worry about things like food, drink and clothing. If we are not to worry about food, drink and clothing, what are we to do?

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus calls us to pray for “daily bread.” Coincidence? Not at all.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

We are called to pray for these things and expect God to provide them; sometimes in “miraculous” ways and often in “ordinary” ways. Either way, they are gracious gifts from the Father. As James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

So you see, Jesus tells us there is another, better way than worrying. Simply stop and acknowledge your utter dependence on God for everything and ask him to provide for your needs. Your daily bread. Bread, not dessert! Necessities, not wants.

When was the last time you found yourself actually praying for things that you tend to take for granted? Food, drink, paying the bills, good health insurance, giving to others?

When was the last time you said something like this,

“Dear Father, I do not take for granted that there will be food on the table tonight. Rather, I come to you and acknowledge that unless you provide, I will go without. I acknowledge that even the skills I have to provide for my needs come from you. Thank you. I pray not just for my own needs but for the needs of others as well. Give us today, daily bread.”

While I don’t want to oversimplify the struggle with anxiety, Jesus does call us to a life of childlike, dependent prayer.

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.