“Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matthew 6:32
In these verses, Jesus gets to the heart of the difference between running after worldly things and running after heavenly things, and he approaches it through the lens of anxiety. The meat of his argument is that we fret over basic needs, but this fretting doesn’t actually complete the worried-over tasks, and it also fails to acknowledge that the substance of our lives is bound up in something much more than these needs. Jesus instead points us to look around us: how the birds and the flowers get exactly what they need from God without having to worry.
He then moves from the lesser to the greater, pointing out that since God takes care of the most fleeting things well, he will certainly care for the ones whom he loves, who bear his image. This is the heart of his Fatherliness: he knows what we need and he is able and willing to supply.
This can go beyond food and clothing. In an economy like ours, non-agrarian, God is fully aware that we need employment to provide for ourselves. He knows we need a place to sleep, and friendship. We could rewrite 6:31-32 along the lines of, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What will my major be?’ or ‘Will I get an internship?’ or ‘How will I get a job after graduation?’ For the non-Christians seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
So much of our anxiety comes from a fear that no one is looking out for us but us; that if we don’t do all the things, we’re going to fall flat on our faces. This passage doesn’t teach that if we wait around whistling he’ll just drop food in our laps—after all, the birds hop around all day gathering their meals. But what it does teach is that our effort can come together with a trusting peace that God deeply cares about our needs—even needs we might be tempted to think of as “unspiritual.” Food, drink and clothing are as everyday as one can get, and permission us to understand that God cares about each and every one of our temporal needs!
Meditate now on your past several weeks. What has been most on your mind in this category, what have you been nervously pursuing or checking your inbox for over and over again? Is there anything that your mind has returned to again and again, turning over whether it will happen and fearfully imagining what would be true if it didn’t? All of us have these things in our lives. Take time now to pray about them and try to appropriate for yourself God’s promise that he knows about your needs and cares to help you. Ask him to give you insight and direction.
If you feel hesitant about trusting God in this way, or uncertain what it looks like, this is an excellent place to invite in the help of more experienced Christians. Ask for examples of how this has looked (and not looked) in their lives, and for advice about when worry seems to grip you. The heart of Jesus is for us to not be imprisoned by our anxiety, but to be set free into a trust relationship with him, and he has placed us in communities to help us in this; if worry has been a pattern of yours for a long time, don’t try to just “fix it” alone!