The Tenth Leper

Theology Made Practical

Anxiety: The First Step Out

“‘Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!’”
Luke 12:24

This is a great example of a verse that’s very well-known to me and very rarely practiced.  It’s part of one of the most cliche sections of Scripture (along with its parallel in Matthew 6:25-34) that people turn to when they’re anxious about God providing for their needs.  Jesus’ point is that you shouldn’t worry about God not providing because he provides for the birds, too.  To be honest, in my weaker moments (read: most of the time), this doesn’t really comfort me. At all.  In stressful times, I think the birds have it good.  I know Jesus is telling me something here that should comfort me, but so often it just doesn’t, and then I feel like some bottom-of-the-barrel Christian who is unable to be comforted by Jesus Christ.  What’s wrong with me??

So as is my habit of late in reading very familiar passages of Scripture, I slowed down as I read it. And something hit me about it.  Jesus’ logic is simple: God provides for the birds who, frankly, are just birds.  The God of the universe likes birds.  BIRDS.  And if he provides for said birds, he will certainly provide for you, a human being, because you are more valuable to him than birds.  After all, only mankind was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and part of our responsibility as image-bearers of the Almighty God is to exercise dominion over all his creatures (Genesis 1:28) which includes, that’s right, BIRDS.

Jesus’ logic essentially boils down to an issue of worth and value.  What hit me about this passage was that in order for me to benefit from it, I have to accept the kind of value that he says I have in God’s eyes.  I think what’s hardened my heart so often in the past about this passage is that I don’t see myself as valuable to God.  A negative view of self leads to anxiety, because if you don’t believe you’re valuable to God, you won’t believe he’ll take care of you.  Simple as that.  To the Christian I say: God chose you before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless before him.  He predestined you to be an adopted children of his, and his purpose all along has been to glorify himself in doing so.  You are his workmanship (Ephesians 1:4-5, 2:10).  God, to whom all things belong (Psalm 24:1), chose you to be his special possession among all his created things (1 Peter 2:9-10).  You’re valuable to him.  And if you’re valuable to God, it’s safe to say that you are valuable.

A lot of believers, myself included, have a really hard time accepting this sense of worth that Scripture says we have.  But it’s true, and in my experience sometimes you just need to defy all your negative feelings about yourself and cling to what you know in your head is true (“I’m valuable to God”).  I say “I’m not that important.”  Jesus says “You were worth dying for.”  As I remind myself of this truth, slowly but very surely feelings will follow.  God’s Word can only bless and comfort you on its own terms.  Jesus’ illustration in this passage can only produce its intended effect (comfort, freedom from worry/anxiety) if you accept its premise that you are valuable in God’s eyes.

I know there’s a lot of Christians who need to know that they are valued by their Father, and it is increasingly becoming my burden to remind them of that.  As we see in this passage, grasping the value God puts on his children is the way out of anxiety and worry, and if you say you never struggle with anxiety and worry, let me know and I’ll write a special entry just for you about how grasping God’s approval of you is the way out of being a lying liar.  We’re all starving to know we are loved.  Look no further than the cross.

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Anxiety: The First Step Out

  1. Great post Scott.

    “A negative view of self leads to anxiety, because if you don’t believe you’re valuable to God, you won’t believe he’ll take care of you.”
    -So true. When we don’t see ourselves as the wonderfully formed beings He created us to be, we always find faults in ourselves. This ultimately causes us to discredit God’s love for us, and the amount of joy He has when He looks at His creation.
    I love this: I say “I’m not that important.” Jesus says “You were worth dying for.” -It’s so true, and so often we forget this. Thanks for the reminder! Have a good one.

    -Hannah Shelburne

  2. -Nas on said:

    “let me know and I’ll write a special entry just for you about how grasping God’s approval of you is the way out of being a lying liar.”

    Ha-ha! I like the cut of your jib.

    Also, having come from a place of self-loathing, I was awakened to the fact that my self-loathing was simply self-worship. That is, hating who I wasn’t instead of who I was, in Christ. “To live is Christ, to die is gain,” makes so much more sense when I understand that finding worth in The Worthy eliminates my need to self-loathe or self-love, and allows me to be loved by God and to love Him, and therefore others, rightly.

  3. Ha! We’re learning about birds this week in my (1st grade) class! And we’ve talked about this passage many times throughout the year, it seems to keep coming back up. I love this. Apparently I’ve substituted all my theological discussions with adults to ones with 6 and 7 year olds while living in Temple. Wouldn’t have thought it but the amount of clarity and fruit produced by the two seems to be equal… but can I just say, those nights at y’alls creepy old house talking about Romans were awesome.

  4. This is so great. Over the years this concept of being able to love myself and receive love has been really pressing. I once read that if we are incapable of receiving love, then we are incapable of receiving God because God is love. It’s so true. If we go through life feeling worthless and unlovable, then we can never know the peace and joy that God has to offer.

    In Sex God Rob Bell says, “Our understanding of how God sees us will shape everything about how we live. What we do comes out of who we believe we are.” I’m not a fan of Rob Bell (which is how I arrived at your blog), but I think he got that point right. If we don’t see our value, if we don’t truly believe that God values us more than the birds, then our lives will be characterized by anxiety and despair. How would we live if we really believed that what we say we believe is really real?

    Thanks for taking the time to write all this stuff up; it’s been encouraging. :)

  5. you made the word “birds” sound just the right level of ridiculous, to show how silly our worries are. I laughed.

  6. Peterson on said:

    I’m glad you happened to decide to do a review Rob Bell’s book, so that I would happen to find your blog on the first page of Google. I find this entry very refreshing!

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