Anxiety: Spin & Toil

I have never been one to keep an official Bucket List. I’m not sure if it’s because I thought it too cliché, a passing fad, or just plain cheesy. I mean no offense to anyone who has a Bucket List, has seen the movie “Bucket List”, or has a Pinterest page titled, Bucket List. I’ve simply always been of the persuasion life should be lived to its fullest in every possible opportunity. There is no need to set-aside special events, occasions, or locations. Don’t be limited to a list which might dilute your serendipity. Grab life by the horns and enjoy the ride wherever it might take you!

It is true that a bucket list-mentality can have a negative impact on your life – dramatically impacting your relationship with God. Again, not lambasting bucket lists, but instead asking you to consider how focusing on what you want or on the things you hope to achieve can exhaust a person, physically, mentally, emotionally. Living with a bucket list-mentality can robe you of peace and rest.

Stress can be understood as worrying about what has happened. Anxiety, on the other hand, is worrying about what may or may not happen. Whenever you spend your time daydreaming or fixating on what you have yet to accomplish, you will fuel anxiety. Jesus teaches on this concept in Matthew 6. He says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious 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.”

The word Jesus uses in this passage for “anxious” is merimnao (merim-nah-o). The idea communicates “why do you care so much for these things?” Jesus specifically asks the questions about clothing, but I do not think it a stretch that He is asking us to consider the external and material. Jesus’s point being, these things that ultimately do not matter. The illustration He uses is a literally beautiful one – the lilies of the field. “Consider […] how they grow: they neither toil nor spin.” Have you ever felt that way before? Toiling and spinning? Chasing the proverbial carrot in life can leave a person feeling that way. Failing to remember the goodness of God and He daily provisions, can cause a person to feel that way.

Consider the concept of toiling. Webster defines it as, “long strenuous fatiguing labor.” The original Greek, however, is the definition to grow weary. This is the same word Jesus would later use in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Have you been there? Your mind toiling, weary, so fatigued – ironically – you cannot sleep? Maybe you are there now. What is the solution? Seek first the Kingdom. Drown out Satan’s lies, turn down the volume of your own pursuits by knowing the promises of God. Replace doubt about the future with trust in the Father. Take Jesus’s words to heart. Whisper them to yourself daily. Meditate on them day and night.

One of the most memorable comments I’ve ever heard another pastor say is, “I’m the kind of tired a vacation cannot fix.” Yikes. Our culture has a way of putting men and women on a pedestal who work themselves to the bone, always toiling, always spinning. Jesus invites us to consider a new way to grow. He invites us to a life which seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Is there anything worse than being dizzy? During nearly every Memphis Redbirds baseball game there would be a contest between two fans to see who can run the fastest after spinning around with their head on the end of a bat. It was funny to us in the crowd but feeling dizzy is usually anything but. James articulates the spiritual, mental, and emotional concept of running dizzy when he writes, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Imagine having one eye on the priorities of the Kingdom and the other eye on the priorities of self. It would be impossible to run the race set before you without perpetually tripping and falling. Anxiety fuels that spin, faster and faster and faster.

So if you find yourself in the throes of anxiety, stop to consider the ways in which you are toiling and spinning. Are you weary worrying about all the things you cannot control? Are you exhausted from spinning around all the non-Kingdom things you hope to achieve? Seek first the Kingdom of God by giving Jesus the preeminence and clinging to the promises of God.