During our most pressing seasons, we need to hear more than “Don’t Worry.”
This post was adapted from a message given by Jeff Friess,
a preacher at Grandview Christian Assembly
Let me walk you through the dates of a crisis moment I went through recently. On January 16th, 2016, my mom notified me that my dad had been diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. It had spread to his lung, and also to his brain. After a brief fight of a few months, my dad passed away on May 4th, 2016 at 65 years of age. Now fast forward about a year to April 28th, 2017. On that day I was boarding an airplane for Florida to meet the man my mom was going to marry—Jim. And now the final date—May 27th, 2017, when my Mom married her new husband. In fact, my brother and I have grown to love and respect Jim and have tremendous gratitude for how he loves her.
But I have to admit that when I first found out my mom was going to remarry, it wasn’t an easy thing to go through.
My brother and I had been fortunate enough to have parents who stayed together, and so I was used to my mom being with one man—my dad—for over forty-five years of my life. When I heard about her remarriage though, it produced a lot of anxiety in me, and a few sleepless nights. I remember talking to mom about what would happen to her house, and what about money, and other what-if scenarios, which she patiently answered.
On my flight down to meet Jim, I sat next to a Christian woman who asked me why I was going to Florida. That’s when I vomited my anxiety on her. In turn, she kindly shared a simple teaching with me—something you’d probably hear in kids church. She said, “Jeff, don’t forget God’s ways are not your ways, and his thoughts are not your thoughts. And don’t forget God has a plan for your mom’s life, he had a plan for your dad, and he’s also got a plan for your life.” It was such a simple teaching, almost cliched, but it turned my focus back to Christ and his kingdom. My anxiety and worry just melted away.
It’s important to remember that there will always be a crisis of the moment. Something urgent will always try to eclipse the kingdom of God and sap our spiritual energy. During the Y2K scare, I had a roommate who truly thought the world was going to end. He actually went out and bought five years’ worth of salami. Then there was 911. Then the dot-com bust, where real estate values imploded. Then the 2016 election. Recently there was the murder of George Floyd, and now the current continuing crisis of the moment is covid-19.
People say there’s two things in life always guaranteed: death and taxes. I want to add a third: Crises. After Covid, you know what’s going to happen? Another crisis. Depending on how we look at it, that moment could either be a spiritual springboard or something that shipwrecks our Christian condition. We must keep our spiritual focus during these times of relative isolation. Life distancing has not proven productive for our society as a whole. Alcoholism is up, as well as pornography use, domestic violence, and anxiety in general about the future.
If we’re honest, at some time during this crisis, worry has probably replaced our focus on Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Interestingly, you would think one group of disciples would have no problem with anxiety—those who walked with Jesus, and saw His miracles. Yet in Luke 12:22, Jesus says to them, “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.”
He challenged them by asking, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (v. 25). At that time, and in our current time, we sometimes feel that worrying will somehow help us live longer. But verse 26 says, “If then you are not able to do such a small thing as that, why then are you anxious about all the rest?” He then tells them in verse 29, not to worry.
The Greek word for worry here suggests a ship in deep water, tossed about by waves and winds. The ship is rocking and the waves are coming over the sides, and you’re wondering whether the thing is going to sink. During Covid-19, the anxieties have sprouted into all kinds of areas–When will this end? Could I catch it and die from it? Am I going to lose my job? How is this going to affect my family? What will the future look like?
Jesus says to this, Do not worry, then adds in verse 31, “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Instead of anxiety, of worry, and fear, seek His Kingdom. The opposite of fear is not just being unafraid, but to seek. It is a proactive measure. You see, the first casualty of fear is our focus on the kingdom. And later, when the distraction becomes our new normal, it morphs into many other bad habits.
Yes, sometimes seeking can be uncomfortable. As we seek Christ through our Bible reading or prayer or fellowship with one another, it might lead us into a direction we don’t like. We have no idea what the Lord could speak to us or how he can lead us. So in verse 32, Jesus says, “Fear not little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Fear falls into two categories. One is legitimate, that is, a God-created emotion that warns us of clear and present danger. But the one the Lord warns about is synonymous with anxiety—”what if’s,” and “Yeah, buts” that never seem to end.
He promises your seeking will not be a waste of time, because the Father’s pleasure is to give the kingdom to us—the rewards, the glory, the present kingdom which is always ready to burst forth, not to mention the coming aspect of it. He’s waiting there, excited, happy, to give the kingdom to His seekers.
Three weeks into Covid I felt like a miniature apostle Paul, reading the Bible and Christian books. But after that third week, the isolation started to get to me. A certain amount of anxiety set in about my job, the jobs of the people in the church, and my kids. It began to cause me to lose my focus and get a bit spiritually lazy.
Eventually I had to restore my focus by getting back to reading my Bible. Someone in the church inspired me to read through the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation, which I hadn’t done in a while. In addition, I searched the Scriptures, wondering what the Apostle Paul would do during a pandemic, and I ended up in some extended thoughts that I reflected upon and prayed through for days. One of them was a verse in 2 Timothy that says, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (1:7).
On another day I read both of the Timothy’s and found a lot about teaching. That inspired me, and now I’m looking at all the verses related to teaching. I also signed up for our Pastor’s Digging Deeper Bible series https://grandviewchristianassembly.org/classes/
No, none of this was a silver bullet, but it helped stimulate a spiritual appetite in me.
Another thing I did to restore spiritual focus was to go on a cleanse. This wasn’t a cleanse for the body, but for the soul. I’m on my 9th week of a news media detox, which means I avoid ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, plus Google, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s not that I’m against truth, or even news, but the delivery mechanism of the whole thing. I found the experience of media gorging unhealthy, because it always either worried me, or angered me.
I keep up to date on coronavirus news by going to www.Ohio.Coronavirus.gov. They have all kinds of dashboards and charts, without a middleman adding a lot of emotional spin. it is facts minus agenda.
I’m not suggesting you swear off media forever. Maybe you could try it for seven days, especially if you’re used to having television news running in the background all day. If you’re more of a mobile news person, trying turning off the news alerts on your phone.
What will you do instead?