In this season of anxiousness, with people getting sick, relationships struggling, and many hurting financially, God invites us to lay our burdens down. He sees the weight of the anxiety we carry, he sees the troublesome weight of our burdens. Jesus calls us to come to him in prayer and set aside our anxiety by laying those burdens down and entrusting them to our Heavenly Father.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25).
When we focus on a problem, it seems like it grows too big; God stops looking like he is almighty and capable of caring for us. Sometimes I find myself focused on my worries. I remember a year in which my husband went through six eye surgeries and I felt like worry was too often my closest companion. I needed to be reminded to take those worries and turn them into prayers. You see, worry looks a lot like prayer, but God is not in it. We spend a lot of time rolling it around in our heads, but we are talking only to ourselves. It is like meditating on the problem rather than the God of solutions.
Jesus, in his sermon from the mount, offers six imperatives to shift our focus. We can think of imperatives as commands; these are the things you MUST do. Three of the commands in our text are the same phrase: "do not be anxious." Stop worrying. By saying it three times in the text, you get the idea that Jesus means what he is saying. He did not choose a softer form of a speech saying, “Being anxious is not the best idea” or “Think about trying something else instead of worrying.” Rather, Jesus commands it three times. It is like a parent saying "cut it out," "stop doing that!", "didn’t you hear me, I said quit it!" Now, if Jesus gave only those three imperatives, his listeners may have felt scolded, but nestled in between the orders not to worry are three other imperatives on how to lay our burdens down.
The first of these unique imperatives in Matthew 6 is the command "look." Jesus calls the people to look to the care of their Heavenly Father. Jesus wants the people to look at how God is providing for all of his creation. God makes sure that there is food for the most insignificant of the birds.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? (Matthew 6:26-28).
Look to the Father who provides for our every need. Consider his great love for you. The Father loves you so much that he sent his one and only son to restore your relationship with him.
Our next unique imperative in Matthew 6 is the word "consider." Consider the care that God gives to every portion of his creation. Consider how much God cares for you. Consider that you matter even more than the flowers of the field. Consider how God is caring for you. God’s compassion for you is visible in a million little ways, but you are never going to see those things until you pause to look and consider.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (Matthew 6:28-32).
Jesus says, as long as you are busy chasing after the things of this world, you will never see all of the ways that your Heavenly Father is caring for your needs. Consider the care we experience in the midst of great struggles. God comforts and weeps with us, God sends us people and resources into our lives to help us along. God blesses us with life and breath and each new day. So consider how God is at work in your struggle.
Our third unique imperative in Matthew 6 is the verb "seek." Seek God. Seek his righteousness. Seek his kingdom. Seek his purposes. Seek his justice. Seek these things first. Don’t let following God become an afterthought. Decide to follow God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, because when you reorder your priorities your problems will seem less significant. As we get to know our almighty God who loves us a Father, our troubles carry less power. Pay attention to the things that you are seeking. Are they things that are honoring to God?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:33-34).
And seek God as your passion. Do not let other things crowd out God as the priority in your life. Let your faith leak out into everything that you do. Those who are truly seeking God don’t keep it a secret from the world. But rather love for God spills over into the rest of our life. And as verse 33 tells us, all these other things will fall into place. Not always in a way we would have chosen, but God’s provision is sure.
Worry is something that is unnecessary for those who have a Heavenly Father. Why worry when we can pray. Jesus reminds us that we have focused on the wrong things and he desires that we reorder the priorities. Jesus guides us to shift our focus. As we reorient our lives through prayer, the priorities of heaven become more important and our eyes are opened to God's provision.
An old catechism frames God's role and provision by asking, "What do you believe when you say, 'I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth'?"
The answer is this:
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.
I trust him so much that I do not doubt that he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world. He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father. -Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 26
So why does it matter that we believe in God as the creator of heaven and earth? It matters because the one who created this world still cares about it and is working for the good of all those he created. The one who created this cosmos has wisdom far beyond our own and we need to trust in his providence.
So what does it mean to trust that God is almighty? It means that we have confidence that God has the power to change lives and manage the difficulties that we face. It means that we have to stop fretting the details and turn them over to God in prayer. We need to stop carrying our weight of worry.
If we actually believe in the care of our Heavenly Father we can lay down our burdens. Our lives look different depending on who is in-charge. So beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, do you believe enough to let God take control of your life?
You have a God who is your Almighty Father and he out of nothing spoke the very heavens and earth into being. When we stop to look, consider, and seek, we can hear God’s call to us saying “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Turn to your Heavenly Father and lay your burdens down. In the words of the African-American spiritual "Life is better, so much better, since I laid my burdens down."
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster