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!’”
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.