25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?"
Today’s passage may feel radical at first, utterly against simple common sense. That must have been even more of a challenge for Jesus' first hearers. “Jesus' audience would have been ordinary peasant people who had to worry about their next meal all the time, yet Jesus tells them not to worry about anything. He asks them instead to view the world with new eyes, in order to see all around them evidence of God’s care and provision."*
Lord Jesus, you modeled a life of peace and trust. Help me to keep learning how to live a life in which my energy can focus on your purposes rather than my fears. Amen.
* Eugene Eung-Chun Park and Joel B. Green, study note on Matthew 6:25-34 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 17 NT.
Anxiety. Fear. Worry. Stress. When I heard this was the next sermon series topic, I realized I could relate closely. Recently, I had an experience with overwhelming fear and anxiety on our family summer trip to Colorado. Colorado is one of my very favorite places. Our family goes on vacation there nearly every other summer. We love to hike and as our children grow, we get a little more adventurous on each trip. My husband, Matt, hiked to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park a few years ago with his brother and father and he’s wanted to take us on this hike ever since. The biggest issue? The last few hundred feet is a scramble straight up a steep rock face.
Now I love to hike. I like to think for being 40-something, I’m in pretty good shape. And I’m not afraid of some scrambling on a hike. But the way he described this one scared me, for my own safety and that of my daughters.
You know how people say not to “google” your symptoms when you’re sick because you’ll end up self-diagnosing something terrible? I think that is sound advice for searching for images and information about the rock face on the hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. Here is one photo I found:
It looks like a death trap, right? I read it was one of the most difficult hikes you can do without climbing equipment. Climbing equipment? We AREN’T rock climbers, and don’t have equipment or know how to use it if we did have it. I gave myself a big dose of anxiety and fear with that bit of research.
But we set off early one morning for our 10 plus mile round trip hike. It is beautiful—strenuous and challenging, but some beautiful sights along the way. Then the rock face came into view. Below it there was a snow field we would have to climb—not ideal, but doable. But the rock face my husband remembered was dry. This rock face had water coming down it like a small waterfall. It was called Timberline Falls, in fact (something I didn’t know ahead of time). Not only would we have to climb it, but we’d have fewer choices of where to climb because of the water. And the ledges we’d be climbing were barely large enough for one foot, and were wet. (My heart is pounding now just recalling this story).
Remember when Pastor Adam talked about Exposure Therapy in last weekend’s sermon? Facing your fears? I was about to get a big dose of Exposure Therapy. Everything inside me said this was a bad idea. And talk about imagination’s effect! What if I’m not strong enough? What if my foot slips? What if I hit my head when I fall? What if one of the girls slips? And my favorite: they’ll have to rescue me by helicopter! We took a deep breath and got after it, one step at a time. My husband, Matt, went first. We followed one by one, following the exact path. We made it to the top—and wow! Was it worth it! Take a look at the view. And the giant smile on my husband’s face. He was exhilarated and proud of us.
Not me. We looked at the view, had a picnic lunch and walked around the lake. And all I could think about was the fact we had to go back DOWN. I’m not kidding. I was close to a full-blown panic attack. I looked strong on the outside for the sake of my girls, but I couldn’t enjoy our time.
So I started praying. For close to an hour I was in constant prayer, recalling Scriptures which had gotten me through other times of anxiety and fear in my life:
God, Hold us in the palm of your hand. Keep us safe. Help us to make good decisions (despite the terrible decision to climb up here). Guide us.
I’m not sure how successful I was at the time, but when Pastor Adam said last weekend: "How about if you turn your imagination to believing that God is actually by your side... holding you close... and he won't let you go," it really struck a chord with me. I’d love to be able to tell you that I felt a strange peace come over me, sensed God with me and knew it would all be OK. That really didn’t happen. But what did happen is, I truly left it in His hands. When I looked into my husband’s eyes he was calm, confident, and incredibly patient with me. And that was enough.
He took our youngest daughter down first, with him going first and directing every step. Then he climbed back up and did the same for our older daughter. Then he climbed back up and helped me down each step of the way. When I panicked at one point, he just stopped and gave me the grace to take a moment to collect myself. And he got me down. Here I am with the girls just after we descended the falls. Can you see the relief? And exhaustion?
But it was worth it. Because I also have this picture from another hike on the trip.
Climbing mountains gives me sense of accomplishment and exhilaration. It bonds us together as a family, working together to accomplish something so difficult. And the incredible opportunity to see God’s creation from this vantage point is priceless. It’s amazing to know this is a view only a small fraction of people has ever seen or will see. But calming my fear through constant prayer and placing my trust in Him is perhaps the most valuable lesson for me to take from this journey.
I’m excited to see where our next adventure takes us!
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