Anxiety: is it ok to plan for the future?

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Last Sunday we looked at Matthew 6:24 – 34 in our sermon in the mount series. This is a blog that addresses some follow up issues. You can listen to the sermon HERE, or subscribe in iTunes.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus addresses some of the most persistent sins we face, all the while driving us to grace and showing us how to be salt and light. Sunday we looked at what Jesus had to say on anxiety. I won’t rehash the sermon here (see the links above), but there are a few things I want to address throughout the week. The first issue has to do with planning. The last thing Jesus tells us about anxiety has to do with tomorrow.

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

Here Jesus is trying to get us to see that God gives us grace for today. Jesus wants us to live in today and not worry about what grace we’ll need tomorrow–the idea is that when tomorrow becomes today I’ll again have grace for today. In my Sunday night small group we got a great question about planning from this verse. Jesus want’s us to live in the now, not worrying about what will come tomorrow. So, does that mean I shouldn’t plan for tomorrow?

The simple answer to that question is no. There is nothing wrong with considering what the future might hold and planning accordingly. There are plenty of scriptures that tell us to consider the future. Everything from consider the cost of following Jesus to considering the ant (both of which require thinking about what tomorrow holds). So, how can I consider and plan for tomorrow and still live in today’s grace and not be anxious? I think a hint to the answer can be found in the first illustration Jesus gives on anxiety: look at the birds. It’s true that birds neither sow or reap, but it’s also true that birds plan for the future. Every year birds make nests. They’re planning for a future family. They work and toil to make provisions for tomorrow. And yet, just as with food, they are taken care of. As far as we can tell birds are not anxious about how things will turn out each spring–whether God will fill the nest. They labor for tomorrow and, just as with their food, our heavenly Father takes care of their needs. You can almost see a quiet confidence in the way birds prepare for the future. And I think that’s the key to our preparation. There is no need for us to let our minds race down every conceivable path in our planning for tomorrow. When we plan, we use the good sense God has given us to consider what is likely to come to pass, what we are likely to need, and if necessary we make preparations beforehand. But that’s where it can end for us. When tomorrow becomes today, God, in his good providence and care, will give grace and lovingly take care of you. Sometimes you have to consider tomorrow. Sometimes you have to build your nest beforehand. And when you do, work hard and build a good nest to the glory of God. But leave the filling of the nest to God.

 

Tomorrows post is, Anxiety: will God always meet my needs?

 

5 Responses to "Anxiety: is it ok to plan for the future?"
  1. Even though my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is rooted in anxiety, I cannot fold it into these Scriptures edgewise. Please share if the Sermon on the Mount offers any relief from this demon. It’s driving me up a tree.
    Bruce

    • Thanks for the question Bruce. OCD, like most of our struggles is something we love and hate at the same time. From the spiritual & mental perspective OCD is about control (there is a physical side to our anxiety that I’ll address in a few days). Even in simple matters, washing hands, checking locks, stepping on–or off–cracks in the road, all OCD behaviors stem from control. And we love control because it gives us initial comfort and a sense of authority. That’s why we love & hate something like OCD / all anxiety. We do like being in control, but we seriously dislike the side effects. One of the first steps in battling OCD is to realize we are not in control. Maybe something like this: intentionally try to stop controlling things. Pick something you compulsively do and work on not being in control of that thing. And keep telling yourself that you can stop controlling that thing because God loves you enough, and cares for you enough, to take be in control and work things out in their best possible way (that’s the connection to Jesus’ teaching in Mt. 6). If God knows what you need and is willing & able to take care of you, then you can start laying down your control and let him bear the burden.

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