Be Anxious in Nothing
- Shawn McEvoy Faith Editor
- 2005 19 Aug
Sitting around waiting to have a baby… for my wife to have a baby. It’s our second child, first girl. We know this because modern technology can show us amazing things that so few have ever gotten to experience. Then again, modern medicine is still so unspecific that I’m stuck here without any semblance of a straight story on exactly when I can expect to embrace this little girl.
Val’s doctor says Lauren is due on the 20th, Valerie’s own calculations show the 23rd, the way she’s been feeling and acting would lead me to believe the child is going to pop out post-haste, while her most recent examination pinpointed the arrival time to, oh, sometime between two days ago and the end of the month.
Just as long as it’s not the 27th. My father passed away four years ago on that date and that would just be too weird.
If I sound anxious it’s because I am. Val and her girlfriends think it makes me cute… “or neurotic; you just don’t get it!” she sighs.
Hmmm. She’s usually right about these things. Like when our son was an infant and I had the idea to get out the ice cream machine and see what I could concoct from the freshly-pumped milk in our freezer. We’re humans, after all, not cows. Exactly why, Valerie said, she refused to be treated like one.
Hmmm. So I see I can be wrong about things to do with babies and birth and other b-words. This quest to know the exact minute daddy-daughter time begins is beyond my knowledge and control. I decide that maybe being anxious is unfounded.
A quick flip through the memory verses in my brain confirms my suspicion – yep – there it is, Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Don’t be anxious… not even for this? Doesn’t pending parenthood count? Apparently not, although there does seem to be one exception: “If you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning. And you won't spend the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
Sometimes being “anxious” is just a common grammatical mistake. We actually mean eager, at least according to the College English instructor I had my senior year of high school. “Anxious” implies a state of anxiety, worry, impatience, so it’s probably not what we really mean when we say, “I’m anxious for football season to start.” We’re actually more excited, anticipatory, eager. So that kind of anxious isn’t really what Peter and Paul are getting at here.
The King James version of Philippians 4:6 uses the word “careful.” “Be careful for nothing.” Well now, given our current understanding, that sounds rather irresponsible. But the Greek root word “merimnao” used there appears 17 times in the New Testament. Its meanings include:
- To be troubled with cares
- To be anxious
- To seek to promote one’s interests
Now it starts to become clear why Paul commands us not to adopt such behavior. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus uses the term five times, translated in the NLT as “worry”:
"So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns, because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.
I gain a lot of hope from that passage – hope that I can actually make the Kingdom of God (the definition of which is another topic for another day) my primary concern. What faith, trust, and actualization to truly be able to behave like a bird or flower with concerns neither for basic needs or wants. Those worries, unchained, turn to hope that God will supply our needs, and I become free to answer a greater calling. Yes, even greater than having children if you want to be honest about it.
But just as with having children, there’s still something in it for me not to be anxious, even past trusting God to meet my needs. I find it quite fun to find the places in His Word where He basically says, “Okay, still not convinced? Tell you what I’m gonna do… not only will I feed you like a bird, adorn you like a flower, and let you deal with life on a day-to-day basis, but if you’ll truly give up control and worry here, I’ll throw in Peace, too. How’s that sound? Do we have a deal?”
Sure enough, He does that here, according to Paul. Just one verse after admonishing us not to be anxious, he says that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Anxiety become Hope become Peace. Humbled again, and I know what I need to do next.
We thought for a long time we’d name our daughter Lauren Hope McEvoy, but the more I dwelt on it, the more it sounded like a soap opera (“…next week on Lauren’s Hope, Brock tells Lauren he’s abandoning their future to pursue his lifelong dream of a human dairy farm…”). So we tried to think of other alternatives, but the only middle name that kept coming to mind (my mind) was “Bo-Boren.” Val just couldn’t get on board with that.
Then came today’s lesson here, involving “casting my cares” (1 Peter 5:7) about Lauren’s pending birth and anything else back onto God. Incidentally, I’ve always loved that fishing metaphor, given that it came from Peter, and I can picture him tossing all his worries/cares/concerns/anxiety onto God’s vast supporting ocean like they were a fishing net – a net that when he picks it up again is going to come back to him full of fish. And that’s Hope if I’ve ever heard it.
And so you shall be Lauren Hope, and HOPEfully very soon…