“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:27 (ESV)
A few weeks ago I received a book from Grace To You called Anxious For Nothing, written by John MacArthur. I started reading it about ten days ago and thought I’d journal here about what I’m learning from this book.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m a bit of a worrywart. It’s something I’ve carried with me from childhood. There are times that the anxiousness goes away and hides for a while, but the tendency to worry always lies somewhere under the surface. I know of course that this type of behavior is something we are directly commanded not to do in Scripture – the examples of Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-7 probably being the most well known. The circumstances of my life the last half of this year have heightened the worry it seems – losing my Dad, changing jobs and continually searching for a new one, family issues – all of these have made me feel a bit unsettled. My mind has trouble shutting off at night and I’m always thinking about what’s coming up, what’s next. I’m definitely not much of a “live in the moment” person these days.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34 (ESV)
For these reasons I was especially looking forward to reading this book from John MacArthur. In the first chapter of this book, MacArthur relates a scene from Sherlock Holmes and a conversation between Holmes and Dr. Watson. Holmes asks Watson to recount how many steps there are leading from a hall to a certain room. Watson explains that he doesn’t know, even though he’s been up & down those stairs hundreds of times. Holmes responds, “You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”
MacArthur asks us to identify with Holmes or Watson in this passage, with the implication that many of us lean towards Watson. How true this is. Each worry that we come across somehow seems different than one in the past. But yet, how graciously did God provide for us the last time we worried so ? Worry, as MacArthur explains, really signifies our lack of faith. I’d also suggest it may be an example of pride as well, thinking this issue or problem is even too big for God to handle – only our worry and anxiousness can help figure this one out.
Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Sometimes I wonder how much of the old has really passed away in my case. God created us in His own image – but how much of our life before Christ is still “hardwired” in, or how much of what makes you “you” is still there and will always be ? Is the fact that we worry less than in years past an example of the progression of our sanctification ? Or is worry in any degree a sin that shows how much we fail to trust God ?
In this first chapter, MacArthur asks us to observe a little more and not just see, and reflect more on the latter part of Matthew 6. Observe the lilies and the birds and see little they lack. Stop for a moment and think about these things. In our daily hustle and bustle, this type of observation often goes right out the window. But it’s crucial to cutting worry off at the pass, and meditating on how much God loves and cares for us.
In the second chapter of his book, MacArthur turns to “avoiding anxiety through prayer”. I’ll get to that next.