Radical Peace

Peace: it’s what our hearts long for yet seems just out of reach. With all that’s going on it our world today, peace seems unachievable. Political issues, war threats, financial struggles, relational difficulties, and personal problems seem to keep peace far from us. But what if that didn’t have to be the case? What if there was a solution to all our cares and worries? What if there was someone we could cast our struggles on in exchange for peace?

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Matthew 6:25

In study of this passage, I don’t think Jesus is telling us not to plan ahead for our needs in life. There is much wisdom in the bible that speaks on preperation and stability. What I believe he his speaking on is “intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations,” or anxiety.

I didn’t want to write about anxiety for multiple reasons. One, I don’t want people to think I’m throwing a “religious bandaid” at something that is a serious issue. If you have intense anxiety, please get good, godly counseling to give you tools to overcome it and even take medication or supplements if you have a hormonal imbalance causing it. Two, I don’t want to talk about anxiety as I am personally struggling with it right now. I am far from an expert on it and am simply pressing on daily with the help of Christ to do what I can to regain victory in this area my life. But, as I read into this passage, it is coming up time and time again that Jesus is dealing with the angst in our lives. As much as I would like to avoid the topic, I know this is relevant in the day in age we live and I trust God will give me the words to write.

In my personal experience with anxiety, it takes a fairly normal situation to have concen over and completely blows it out of proportion. It is normal to have concerns over food and clothes. We aren’t warned here to not think ever about what’s for dinner or a what we’ll wear. Rather, we are warned to not be consumed by this worry. When we grab ahold of worry and add fear into it, we subtract Jesus from the situation and create anxiety. This becomes an all consuming monster in our head that eats at us and stops is from having the peace and clarity to address other needs in our life.

Yet while this monster is threatening to consume us, Jesus reminds us of a radical reality: we are more than just physical beings. The devil wants you to be so wrapped up in worry and anxiety about your physical situation that you have no time to address your spiritual needs. If our attention is on our physical cravings, we won’t notice our spiritual starvation. If our focus is centered in our appearance, we won’t realize how ugly we’ve gotten on the inside. We are so much more than what our anxious minds would have us believe.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet their heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:26-27

It seems extremely practical to worry about a necessity such as food. And yet Jesus commands us not to. He could have said, “yeah don’t sweat the material stuff, but it makes sense to fear the necessities.” But he didn’t. Instead, he beckons us to peace by reminded us of our value in God’s eyes.

The disciples quit their jobs, left their families, and abandoned a level of security all to follow this Jesus guy. It made sense to worry. But instead they were deemed more valuable than sparrows and promised that God would aid them. In no way were the disciples lazy and just “hoping for the best,” similarity as one wouldn’t call a bird who searches for food idle. It just simply reflects that all our needs come from God himself. Think about it, all we need for survival, water, food, even air itself was created and given to us by God himself. He will not forsake the birds, how much less would be abandon his people, his disciples, you and me. We work, but ultimately, our every need is met by our heavenly Father.

So why lose our peace? While some angst seems so far beyond our control, I assure you, with help, you can overcome the battle in your mind. We aren’t going to get more of what we need in life by fretting over it. We can do our very best to work for what we need, but let’s leave God the rest so he can divinely work it out for our good.

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon and all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith.

Matthew 6:28-30

First, Jesus calmed our anxiety about our needs. Now, in my perception, Jesus is calming our anxiety about more fleshly dilemmas.

It’s really easy in our culture to become consumed with our appearance. Our appearance can encompass how we look, what we wear, and how we are perceived. We live in a beauty age where image is worshipped. We work so hard to be beautiful. We try this diet, do that exercise, buy this product, wear that brand. It can become all consuming trying to meet this world’s beauty standards. The lengths we reach to simply be attractive can become a detriment to our physical, mental, and spiritual health. We do whatever it takes to be measured as worthy on a scale that is continually changing.

Yet, there is a beauty we don’t have to labor for. Solomon was a grand, welthy king with a prestigious reputation in the Old Testament, yet we are clothed more richly than he. God sees you as more beautiful than the mostly lovely wild flower not because of something fleeting that can be burned like clothes or even our physical bodies. No, we are beautiful because we are clothed in his glory, his forgiveness, his blood. We have an intrinsic splendor that is not wrapped in something as finite as the shell that holds our souls. As disciples, we are made new by Christ who lives in us. That is an irrefutable beauty that does not sway with cultural norms or physical attraction. You are beautiful, not because of something you’re wearing or a diet you tried; you are beautiful because of Christ in you and you can simply rest in that.

To fear for our needs or wants to be met is to not fully trust God. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but that is what Jesus means when he calls us, “you of little faith.” I understand how real anxiety is. And I understand it isn’t something anyone wants to battle. But I encourage you, put your faith in God, breathe slowly and deeply, and get the peace you need. You can overcome this.

So do not worry, saying, “what shall we eat?” or, “what shall we drink?” or, “what shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:31-33

I’ve said it before, but the essence of the Sermon on the Mount is to live higher, more radical, than those around us. While the world is worried about their needs and wants, we can stand on an unshakable peace. As disciples, we surrender our will and our needs to our leader who is Jesus. He knows each of our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. We must have faith that he will meet them. While God doesn’t always work exactly when and how we think he needs to, we should trust that he will work exactly as he knows is best. Jeremiah 29:10-14 speaks on how when the Israelites were in a dark place, God still had a good plan for them. Even in the shadows of life, we are beckoned to peace.

I am fully aware, just as Jesus clearly was, that saying, “don’t worry!” when battling anxiety is of little help. That’s why Jesus gave us something else to fix our attention on. He said, “but seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness.” (Emphasis mine.) We are to set our gaze upon eternity, our heavenly Father, and growing to be more like him. We are to train ourselves to look up instead of around. When Peter walked on water to Jesus, he was fine as long as he kept looking to Christ. But as soon as he focused on the storm around him, he sank. We are just the same as Peter. The needs and wants of our life will be met and cannot disturb us if our attention is on God. The King James Study bible says this about the verse: “when our priority is spiritual, God will take care of the material, for where God guides, he provides.” Focusing on the storms of life around us lead to a focus on chaos and anxiety. Intentionally seeking God will bring us to peace.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

“What if” is a phrase that can eat you alive if you allow it. “What if we get into another war?” “What if I don’t find a new house?” “What if I get fired from my job?” “What if my spouse leaves me?” I have lived with monsters in my head that sound like these and similar questions. They give me plenty to do worrying over the future, but they don’t solve anything. Instead, the “what ifs” in our lives gnaw at our minds breaking down our peace.

I don’t want you to mistake this blog post as a “name it and claim it” type of christianity. We see clearly in the persecuted church and in the lives of suffering Christians around us that just because we believe in God not all things go perfectly. Occasionally, war happens. Some people are Christian and homeless. Jobs can be lost. Sadly, divorce does happen in the church.

Yet, we hold on to hope and cast our cares on the one who holds the world in his hands. I once heard it said, “everything that can be shaken, will be shaken so that what can’t be shaken, will remain.” God knows our needs and I am convinced he will meet them because of his deep care for us, yet I also know that sometimes we are stripped of certain things we think we need to reassure the ground on which we are standing is solid. This will grow our faith. But growth happens in periods of brokenness. If you are feeling broken, don’t worry that God has abandoned you. Rest that he is growing you.

So even though things don’t always align perfectly to the plans we make, we need not be anxious. Some of our “what ifs” are perfectly reasonable, but some are irrational scenarios we make up. Fretting over the possibilities of tomorrow squanders today. In our anxious brokenness, let us trust God is bigger, his plan is better, and his ways are higher than any worry we could conjure up. As we conquer today, remember, he has already conquered tomorrow. We aren’t alone in this fight. He is with us and leading us from angst to peace.

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