This past Sunday, Todd preached on worry and what Jesus says about it—how Jesus wants us to see God’s goodness in the world and not worry because worrying is a pagan practice, not at all a Christian response to our good God. And all this reminded me of some of the best practical advice I’ve heard this year.
I have a friend who’s a missionary in a country that’s in the midst of political upheaval. That same country is an unsafe place for Christians, but he and his wife love the people of that country enough to live there anyway, sharing the hope of Jesus with everyone they can. But don’t let me paint too rosy of a picture for you—moving there and living there, particularly now that they’ve become parents, and particularly as foreigners and Christians, is scary. Their daily reality can quickly spiral into a fog of anxiety and fear. And how could it not?
But they’ve learned how to live outside their world of anxiety—and that’s where the best practical advice I’ve heard this year comes from—because they’ve learned that the key to combatting anxiety is thankfulness. They got the idea from Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts (which I’ve heard is a great read) to make lists of what they have to be thankful for. They’ve learned that making a running, unique list of all the things they have to be thankful for is the most powerful way of convincing themselves of God’s goodness and His continual care for them. They actually make a list. They write out a different thing every day, a tiny thing or a huge thing, whatever it is, a different thing every day. And they thank God for it.
It’s that simple. But it’s changed their lives, so that they no longer live in fear and worry.
What they’re doing is reminding themselves that their entire life is in His hands. They remind themselves that He is the Father of lights who is the source of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). They remind themselves that He cares for them, and therefore, they can “cast all their anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 5:7). They know these verses. They’ve always known them. But now they really know these verses. They’ve memorized them, yes. But now they’ve tasted them. They’ve taken the knowledge of God and actually lived it. They “indeed have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:3).
And all this brings me back to Jesus’ main challenge to us in this past weekend’s sermon text. He commanded us not to worry (Matthew 6:25, 34), but He broke that down into two much simpler commands: look and consider. Look at the birds (6:26). Consider the lilies (6:28). Open your eyes. Make a list. Keep a tab of all the things around you where you can be thankful. Keep a record of all the things in this world that happen just right, all because of God’s goodness.
The sun rises. Grass grows. Gravity continues to hold us to the ground. Electricity continues to flow because the laws of physics persist. Birds sing and flowers show beauty. My eyes continue working. All because God cares for us.
I need to worry less. I want to worry less. I think I’ll try opening my eyes.