God’s comfort to us in our anxieties
We may use different words for it – worry, tension, dread, nerves or stress – but whatever you call it, anxiety can be a terrible thing. Anxiety is a particularly ugly type of fear of the unknown and fear of the future. During these Covid-19 days, anxiety has troubled the lives of many Christians.
Anxiety about the unknowns in life is inevitable, and it is important to remember that it is not automatically bad for us. A measure of anxiety may motivate us to focus more, study harder or put right the things we can; but it is so easy for our sense of anxiety to become unhealthy and destructive. It can mess up the way we think, how we feel and even the way our bodies work. Unresolved anxiety can strain important relationships and become a gateway to depression; but perhaps the worst thing anxiety can do to the Christian is affect the way we think about our Heavenly Father.
If you have tried to help another Christian in the grip of sustained anxiety, you will know it can be challenging. Sadly, few Christians stick with the work of caring for the anxious and often sign off with, ‘Just pray about it,’ or ‘You need to trust God more,’ or, ‘Read this book.’ If we want to care for anxious brothers and sisters we need to learn to love and persevere with them in a Christlike way. When we do that, we will see the need to help them keep a true view of God and protect them from a distorted one. So, how should our understanding of God comfort us in our anxieties?
Rethinking our fears
Jesus once asked:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matt. 10:29-33).
The challenge from Jesus here is, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ He recognises the reality of our fears. He is not saying, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ as if fear is something that Christians are not to experience. Instead, he invites us to rethink our fears and come to a place of confidence in God.
Jesus helps us by asking a question that no one can argue with: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?’ I once saw sparrows being sold in a Tunisian souk. They were kept in an old cardboard box and as people bought them the trader would take them out of the box, dispatch them and the deal was done. I don’t know what the going rate for sparrows was or what people planned to do with them, but it’s easy to agree with Jesus that you can get two sparrows for next to nothing. Sparrows are small, ordinary, common and insignificant; but Jesus uses them to point us to great comfort.
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Jesus tells us that the life of each sparrow is contained within the ‘will of your Father,’ and that we are ‘worth more than many sparrows’. If God sees and plans the life of a sparrow, how much more is this true of your life? Your life is seen and valuable to God and this is the reason Jesus says, ‘So don’t be afraid.’ This is an invitation not to let fear reign over your thoughts but instead to be confident in the goodness and love of God. Be confident that your life is known, recognised and contained in the will of God, the God who loves his children unconditionally and eternally with the love of Calvary. You are not small, ordinary, common and insignificant to God, and this should comfort you in your fears.
When your thoughts drift towards your secret, deepest and private fears, your Heavenly Father sees and understands. He knows all about you and your thoughts. This is the point Jesus makes when he says, ‘And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.’ Pull one out now if you like and take a good look at it. God saw that and knows the hair that you hold tight in your hand now by a number. He knows it individually. All of this is to comfort us in the face of our inevitable fears. As a Christian, you are not insignificant. Your Heavenly Father sees you, knows you, and you matter to him.
Jesus knows you
Jesus’ next words can sound disturbing:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
The thought of being disowned by Jesus before the ‘Father in heaven’ is frightening. We may start to think of the times when we could have spoken about him to others but kept quiet. Jesus is not speaking of the times we missed the opportunity to speak about him, but of people who completely reject him outright; those who, ‘disown me before men.’ If you are a Christian, this is not you.
Instead, our thoughts should be steered to the comfort in this verse:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.
Think about that for a moment. The Son in all his ascended glory – read Revelation 1:13-18 to get a sense of this – while seated on his throne, will speak to the Father about you. He will ‘acknowledge’ you and talk to the Father about you, he will say something like; ‘I know (put your name here if you are trusting Jesus) and they are mine.’
Your anxiety may be very troubling but it is not the only thing that is true about you. Though your life may drift away in anonymity, the Son in his glory will acknowledge you in Heaven. He will not disown you, because you matter to him and you are his. This truth gives us the foundation to face the anxious unknowns in life with confidence. God knows and understands you in your troubles and you matter to him. So, don’t be afraid.
For further help read ‘Jars of Clay’ by Catherine Haddow published by 10ofthose.com.