Out of the corner of my eye, I became aware of a flock of black birds flitting outside our back windows. A large number of birds flew together searching for food. It’s winter. Cold. Rather barren. And in the midst of these realities, God provides food for the birds in the form of small fruit on our tree. This makes me think of Jesus’ words:
“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? 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?” ~Matthew 6:25-27
Jesus encourages us to not be anxious. This kind of “do not be anxious” forms in us because of our relationship with God. It is a way of being that grows in us as we know Him and His character. He is Love. We can trust Him because He is available, cares, and is able to provide for us. As we know God’s nature and care, our anxiety can decrease.
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:4-7
Since I was a teen, I have thought many times about the part of this passage that’s not in bold. I meditated on not being anxious, praying, being thankful – things I could try to do. I wanted the kind of peace Jesus gives! A few years ago, the first five words of the verse stood out to me: “The Lord is at hand.” This phrase makes such a difference to me! God is with me, and the rest is a response to Him rather than a list of things to do.
Our natural response when we’re stressed is to focus on our stresses. We pray about our stress, try to remember to give thanks, and attempt to control our emotions. But our stress is often still the focus!
Instead, we can receive peace by responding to who God is. We can focus on who God is and that He’s with us. As we do this, our heart responds to God and can more easily receive His peace. As we do this, trust grows in us.
In one stressful season of my life the phrase, “The Lord is at hand,” became a breath prayer I prayed throughout my day. It sounded like, “You are at hand, Lord,” or “You are near,” or “You hold my hand.” I held onto this promise. My stress did not magically go away, but God gave me a kind peace and strength to get through this season with Him.
Like the birds, in the midst of cold and wintry circumstances we can trust God to meet our needs. He cares for us ever so much more than He does for them. When you see a bird, consider how God cares for them and remember His even greater care for you! Connect with God in that moment!
What are you anxious about? How have you responded by focusing on the stress?
Instead, how will you focus on knowing God? How will this make a difference?
Kathryn Featherstone is a certified Christian Life Coach by the Board of Christian Life Coaches. She is trained by Gallup for coaching with CliftonStrengths assessment and resources. She’d like to encourage you in your journey; simply write her a note on her Contact page!