When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I struggle every day with fear of the future. I can get macro-stressed, about the environment and the economy and ISIS and our nation’s lack of leadership. I can also go “micro;” I worry about my sons’ eating habits (after all their daddy did have colon cancer), the women they will someday marry (wherever she is, is she being parented well?), their messy rooms (will their roommates hate them?) and their individual personality quirks (is there some deep character flaw that I am failing to correct that will doom him to an unhappy life…?). I am a little superstitious about worry, as if worrying is the work I have to do in order to keep bad things from happening. I desperately want to control what the future holds, to plan for all contingencies and surprises, but I just don’t have that kind of power.
[I even worried that this post was too simple, too obvious, and then if I fail to interest you or equip you with some fresh perspective on Truth with a capital T, that you won’t like the post and quit reading the blog and then what? But I decided I really need God’s help to conquer my fears, and wondered maybe some of you felt the same way.]
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Jesus offers that fresh perspective. Fear is the product of unbelief, which is flawed thinking. Jesus urges us to re-learn how we think about God’s ability and willingness to care for us and for our loved ones. Changing my mindset requires conscious choice and repeated effort. I decide to see the world through the lens of Scriptural truth rather than the lens of anxious striving. The poet finds evidence of God’s lovingkindness in nature, which is exactly where Jesus gets His metaphor. He invites us to “come into the peace of wild things:”
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet our heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like on of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith? (v. 26-30)
Wendell Berry echoes Jesus in his poem. The birds of the air and the lilies of the field do not “tax their lives with forethought of grief” like I do. As the branches of the vine do nothing but abide (remain, live) in His supply in order to produce fruit (John 15), I never have to go it on my own in search of purpose or provision. I do not have to worry that He will hold back what I need, nor do I have to be concerned He will fail my family or my friends.
Of course, animals don’t have the capacity or the reasons to worry like people do. Your cat doesn’t have to worry about how to pay for college. But the point of the verse is not to adopt the limited perspective of an animal (or plant!), it’s to see God’s abundant resources for His creation. If He hand-feeds the redbirds in my back yard, then I certainly do not need to fear “what my life and my children’s lives may be.”
…I come into the presence of still water
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.
“The Peace of Wild Things” by Christian author, poet, activist and farmer Wendell Berry
I do not need to fear where Jesus will take me me, because I already know where we are going: He leads me beside the still waters. I do not have to worry my children won’t have what they need, because they have a good Shepherd Who sees that they want for nothing. There is no way I can stay anxious if I will just lie down in His green pastures and allow Him to restore my soul. No matter what dark valleys I pass through, I can walk in freedom from fear because my God will never leave me. In fact, quite the opposite! I anticipate with joy what God has in store for me, for all of us: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)
Please, God, help me not to worry. If You give such attention to the appearance of wildflowers, most of which are never seen, I know You will take care of me. I want to be less preoccupied with getting, so I can respond to Your giving. I know You, and I know how You work. You know what I need, and that is to seek Your kingdom and Your righteousness first. If I focus on You, then You will handle everything that concerns me, including my tomorrow. Besides, each day has enough trouble of its own, so I don’t need to worry about the future. Matthew 6: 31-34 NKJV, MSG
Father, I thank you that I can do all things, including being the person You made me to be, through Christ who strengthens me. I praise You, knowing that You shall meet all my needs, as well as the needs of the people I love, according to Your riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13, 19
Thank You, Jesus, that You left Your peace with us, that You give Your peace to us. You do not give the peace that the world has to offer. Resting in Your peace, my heart need neither be troubled nor afraid. John 14:27
Thank You Father, that You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
Father, keep me in Your perfect peace. Train my mind to stay firmly fixed on You. Help me trust You forever, for in You is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4
Father, help me be anxious for nothing, not even for those I love so much. Remind me that in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, I can make my requests known to You. Then Your peace which passes all understanding will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. Phil 4: 6-7
I will lift my eyes to the hills-/ Where does my help come from?/ My help comes from You, O Lord,/ Maker of heaven and earth./ You will not allow my foot to be moved,/ You, Who keep me, will not slumber,/ Thank You, Father, that You can keep all who love You/ Because You will never sleep./ You watch over me Yourself./ You stand beside me as my protector./…You keep me from all harm/ And watch over my life./ You watch over me as I come and go/ Both now and forever. Help me trust that You watch and protect my family and my friends with that same particular, personal care. Amen. Psalm 121