We are six months into living with the corona virus. Over the summer, with bright sun and access to open air, we felt a little more secure to get out and about, and more hopeful about life.
We are at the end of August moving forward into autumn and the beginning of the school year. Concerns, anxieties and full blown fears about the virus are beginning to surface This is understandable because, even after 6 months, we know very little about the nature and long term workings of this virus. So anxieties rise in our minds and hearts concerning the safety of our loved ones and ourselves.
Jesus Speaks About and To Anxiety
Many people define anxiety as worry; fear; or a preoccupation with the difficulties and problems of life. Such a definition has truth to it, but when we look at the definition of anxiety we can get a deeper understanding of the term and the process.
Jesus understood the process of anxiety and addressed it. In Matthew 6:25 to 33, Jesus uses the term anxious 4 times.
Here are the statements about anxiety that Jesus made.
- 25 – Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious (merimnate) 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?
- 27 –And which of you by being anxious (merimnon) can add a single hour to his span of life?
- 28 – And why are you anxious (merimnate) about clothing? 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.
- 31 – Therefore do not be anxious (merimnesete), saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
What is Anxiety?
“Merimnao” is the Greek word used in these passages. It is translated anxious or worried.
There is a deeper understanding associated with the term “merimnao”. It comes from a root that means: to be fractured or fragmented; to be divided into parts; to be drawn into opposite directions at the same time; to be distracted.
Anxiety fragments our thinking and distracts us from a more clear focus. It impacts the way we think, reason, perceive and interact with our situation, people and God.
In the spiritual realm, anxiety pulls us between faith and distrust. It distorts and distracts us from trusting God and focusing our thoughts and activity on what God would have us do and be.
I believe Jesus was emphasizing the word “merimnao” and its meaning to conclude with a play on words to provide a solution. Jesus re-directs the anxious fragmenting thoughts by directing our focus on kingdom truths. Jesus uses a word that pulls fragmented thoughts together, he says, “Seek” (v. 33).
Seeking requires determined, continual focus and looking for. “Seeking” pulls our thoughts and actions together and unites them to one focus, rather than for them to be pulling in opposite directions or scattered and fragmented into many ways.
Anxiety Close Up
An example of anxiety is seen in a follower of Jesus named Martha. We read this in Luke 10.
Jesus is visiting with his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. He is teaching and speaking with them and others, sort of like a neighborhood Bible study, without the Bible but with the “living Word of God.” Martha is anxious about her hospitality mainly meal preparations.
Her mind is fragmented, distracted and pulled in different directions that she misses the main focus of her hospitality which is to relate with Jesus. Her anxiety affects her thinking about her sister, her words, and her time with Jesus.
We don’t know the back story of Martha’s thinking, but my guess is that she wanted to hear and learn from Jesus too, but she became overly focused on serving a meal. She became focused on the details of the work of the meal rather than the joy of being with Jesus.
Her anxiety arose from the conflict of the seemingly opposing goals. She gave into the one and allowed it to fragment her thinking, distract her focus and pour out of her heart.
Jesus helps Martha to refocus. In verse 41 Jesus says, ““Martha, Martha,” the Lord replied, “you are worried (merimnao) and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion”
Jesus tells Martha, “Mary has chosen the better portion.” We can choose to be fragmented by anxiety by allowing the anxious thoughts free reign.
Martha could have chosen what would bring her closer to our Lord. Giving free reign to thoughts of resentment, anger, and jealousy did not bring her closer to God or to her sister.
Getting It Together
I cannot give you 5 steps to prevent anxiety in your life at this time. I do believe Jesus’ words point us in the direction of controlling our scattered thoughts of fear and “what ifs” and focusing on truths about God.
Throughout this time of uncertainty and upheaval, I have tried to focus on God’s faithfulness, his goodness, his sovereignty, and his proven love.
Pulling together my thoughts of fear and doubt by focusing on truths about God has helped me move forward in my relationship with God and others during this time.
In Psalm 86, the psalmist understands that a key to his relationship with God is pulling together his fragmented thoughts, emotions, and desires. I believe the psalmist understands he is unable to do this without the help of God, hence his prayer in verse 11.
- “Teach me Your way, O LORD, that I may walk in Your truth;
unite my heart to fear Your Name.”
In the Hebrew word “unite” we come full circle to what Jesus said about anxiety.
Anxiety fragments, distracts and scatters us. “Unite” means to join, to bring together all our parts and scattered pieces to be focused on God.
So when all else fails and anxiety pulls our emotions, thoughts and actions in all different ways, we can pray: “God, unite my heart to fear Your Name.”