You don’t need to worry about anything.
Scripture is unambiguous on this point. Worry should never be part of the life of someone who follows Jesus. This seems so incomprehensible, however – and we see so few people living worry-free lives – that it’s tempting to conclude the Bible is asking for the impossible.
Philosopher and author Dallas Willard was once asked what he thought was the most revealing mark or measure of spiritual growth. Was it acing a theology exam? Or speaking in tongues? Or achieving a perfect church attendance record?
Willard suggested that the best evidence of growing closer to Christ is feeling less irritated than we used to feel – less anxious and worried about circumstances.
At the heart of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: “‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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 can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? … Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” … But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-33, selected verses).
Paul the apostle adds, “Do not worry about anything…” (Philippians 4:6).
Some Christians get angry when they’re challenged not to worry. In a fallen world, after all, there seem to be more than a few things worth worrying about. Isn’t it true that worrying about something or someone demonstrates that we care?
Actually, for all too many of us, worry is a desperate attempt to stay in control.
Since we’re not at all certain that God is going to take care of us, we need to invest our emotional energy in “imagining what might happen” and “preparing for the worst.” Anxiousness can become our identity. Our worries can give us something to talk about – something to elicit attention and concern when others ask how we’re doing. But this is not a sign of spiritual maturity. This is not some kind of proof that we care.
It’s important to note that Jesus and Paul are not commanding us to banish our anxious feelings, as if we could do such a thing with a snap of our fingers. Feelings cannot be commanded. But behaviors and attitudes can.
Jesus doesn’t say, for instance, “You need to have happier feelings about everybody who has it in for you…starting now.” But he does give us a plan of action that starts right now. We should pray for our enemies and actively seek ways to bless them. Slowly but surely, our feelings begin to align with our choices.
In the same regard, Paul says, “Don’t be worried about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). In other words, take action: Present your needs to God. And express your thanks. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). Worry begins to lose its grip on our lives when we realize that we live every moment of every day under the canopy of God’s unbroken care, and that the good story that God has planned for the universe is going to come true.
Which means that absolutely nothing is going to happen to our kids or our grandkids or the neighbors or our X-rays or our saving accounts or Ukraine or the world’s tectonic plates unless it goes through God’s hands first.
That’s why we don’t need to worry about anything.
Peter has something important to contribute as well: “Cast all your cares on him [God], because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).
The verb “cast” is interesting. It has two primary meanings: to throw, and to throw away.
In the first case, we cast a shadow, cast a glance, or cast a fishing line. We put something out there. Having thrown a fishing line, we reel it back in, check the bait, and cast it back into the water.
In the second case, we throw something away with no expectation of retrieving it. We cast off all restraint. Snakes cast their skins. An apple tree casts its fruit to the ground – apples that can never “go back” onto those branches.
Which sense of “cast” is Peter using? Surely it’s the second one. When we cast all our cares, we refuse to reel them back in, as if to say that God doesn’t really understand our issues, or probably can’t handle them, so we had better stay in control by worrying.
Instead, we let go. We cast our cares (and note the wonderful words that follow) onhim. And we leave them there.
Why? “Because he cares for you.”
Which means we now have a two-word description of what it means to be a lifelong learner of Jesus:
You don’t need to worry about anything.