Worry and the Birds

“Oooo, ooo…buh…buh!” my one year old excitedly verbalizes as he tries to get my attention. He is pointing directly at the bird he notices out in the yard, and he wants to make sure I notice it, too. “Yes, there’s a birdie out there,” I say, acknowledging his excitement.

Our days, lately, have been all about the bird watching. He spends much of his day on his own little perch by our patio door watching for the birds, and he is sure to let me know if he sees anything. As soon as we walk out the door to get in the car, his eyes scan the sky for the possibility of birds flying above. He’s always on the lookout, it seems.

His excitement and pointing have forced me to slow down and actually look at the birds. There is the pair of cardinals who grace our neighborhood with beautiful songs, the robins who seem to always be on the hunt for worms, and the turtledoves who alternate between sitting on our porch railing and perching in the tree just out the front door. Watching the birds has been fascinating and reminds me of what Jesus teaches about birds and fear.

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)

Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

In all honesty, sometimes I read these passages and the feelings of failure hit me. I am worrying again. Jesus commands me to not worry or be afraid. I’m not following his commands. Other times I read right past the compassion Jesus likely had when he was teaching His followers about God’s care. He wasn’t commanding his followers to not worry because he wanted them to fail or because He wanted to create some arbitrary rule that would be impossible to follow. Rather, He tells them to not worry because He wanted them to believe they were valuable and worthy of God’s provision. The very hairs of our head are numbered and known! Worrying would not change who God is then or now. Jesus was pointing out the birds of the air to shift the gaze of his followers to the Father –reminding us of who has ordained all of our days and provides for all of our needs (Psalm 139:16).

God graciously included instructions for His people to look at the birds of the air (and the lilies of the field if you continue reading in Matthew 6) as a tangible reminder of his provision and care. I don’t have to scan the sky for long before I notice a bird flying overhead. How often have I read the words “Do not worry” and mindlessly filled in the rest of the sentence—“look at the birds of the air” without actually stopping to consider the birds of the air or what this verse is trying to teach? What if each time I saw a bird, I reminded myself of God’s care for me.

Yet, my heart is prone to worry. Prone to wander. Prone to be overwhelmed.

In my head, I know that I am of more value than the birds of the air, but my heart struggles to believe and hold onto that truth.

In part, worrying is a trust problem. The future may be unknown and leave us feeling scared and trying to manage our own lives. When the heart is consumed with worry, a person is often trying to control or predict an outcome. Worry often blinds us to seeing God’s hand of provision. It consumes our thoughts and makes us forget about all of the promises God spells out in Scripture.

If you continue to read in Matthew 6, I think it gives the answer for what to do when thoughts of worry consume our minds. Verses 33-34 say, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The birds out the window serve as a reminder to turn our eyes to the Kingdom. Return to the promises laid out in Scripture. Raise your gaze from the things of this life to the goodness of God. And like the words of the old hymn say, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

So while I spend this next season of life in the bird watching phase, my prayer is that the Lord continues to press this reminder of his generous care of and compassion towards me into my heart. Look at the birds, friend. May the bird watching lead us to a deeper trust of God’s promise to provide and remind us to lift our eyes to Him when worry distracts and anxiety threatens to consume. Allow your heart to believe the words of Matthew 6 and Luke 12. You are of more value than the birds, and your Father cares for you. There is no need for worry.

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