“Do not worry”
The word worry appears six times in Matthew 6:25-34. Apparently Jesus knows that worry is something we struggle with and that we need to hear what He has to say on this subject.
Our English word worry comes from the old German word wurgen which became the English word wyrgan which meant to “strangle” or “to choke” or “to harass by tearing or biting—especially tearing or biting at the throat.” Indeed, worry is the kind of anxiousness over something that strangles the life out of us, that chokes the energy from us, that harasses us by tearing or biting at our peace and well-being.
Rosalind Ryan explains,
“When you worry, your body responds to your anxiety the same way it would react to physical danger…. [Y]our brain releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. They trigger a range of physical reactions that will equip your body for action.
“Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes heavier and you may sweat more. You may also become pale as the blood moves away from the skin towards the muscles to help them prepare for the ‘fight or flight’ situation your worry has created.
“The ‘fight or flight’ response is your body’s instinctive reaction to danger. Unconsciously your body prepares itself to either run away from danger or becomes very alert in order to fight predators….
“Because your body has tensed ready to respond to the threat you are feeling, this muscle tension can turn into aches and pains causing headaches, back pain, weak legs and trembling. This tension can also affect your digestive system triggering bouts of constipation or diarrhea.
“You may also become more prone to infections. It is widely accepted that stress and anxiety can lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to picking up colds or more serious illnesses. With excessive worry, our immune systems have little time to recover so you become even more tired and lethargic.”
Corrie ten Boom sums it up, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.”
What does Jesus tell us in these verses to help us with our worries?
He tells us two key things:
#1: He stresses that we need to know how much we matter to God.
In his book What’s So Amazing about Grace Philip Yancey writes,
“Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?
“Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, ‘You must be very close to God.’ The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, ‘Yes, He’s very fond of me.’” (p. 69)
When we truly come to know how “much more valuable” (Matthew 6:26) we are in the heart of God, we will worry less, for we will be able to rest more securely in the confidence of God’s love for us.
#2: Jesus calls us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”
The Greek verb here, zeteite (seek), implies being absorbed in the search for something. It implies a persevering and strenuous effort to obtain that for which you are searching.
The more our attention and energy become absorbed in searching for the things of God and the ways of God and the person of God, the less we will worry about other things in life.