September 8, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 12:25-26 (NRSV)
And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?
Jesus encourages us not to worry about our lives. One reason, he explains, is that by worrying we can’t add even an hour to our span of life. (In fact, studies show that worry can actually shorten our lives.) So, worry doesn’t help us live better or longer lives. What does help is realizing that our lives are in God’s gracious hands.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Today we continue our devotional series based on Jesus’s exhortation in Luke 12:22, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” Jesus urges us not to worry. But he doesn’t leave us on our own to figure out how to avoid anxiety. Rather, he gives several reasons not to worry. In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we encountered the first reason for not worrying. We can see God’s care for birds, and that’s great, but God cares for us so much more. Because we matter to God way more than birds, we don’t have to fret about our lives.
Jesus follows his first reason with a different, practical argument. “And can any of you,” he says, “by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26). Now that’s a good, commonsense argument against worry, isn’t it? By worrying you don’t lengthen your life.
Now, one might object, “Wait a minute. Sometimes when I worry about something I’m led to act in a way that does help me.” For example, if you’re having heart palpitations, you may very well worry about them. So you go to your doctor and get it checked out. This leads to a treatment plan that helps you to get better. So, could you say that worry added to your span of life?
Not really, when you think about it. Worry didn’t help. Using your mind to decide to see a doctor helped. Choosing to act wisely helped. If you’re one who’s inclined to worry about your health, and I admit that I’m one of these people, then you know that often worry can keep you from choosing to get the help you need. Worry is constrictive and debilitating.
In fact, worry not only doesn’t add to your span of life, but it can actually shorten it. A study published in 2012 in the British Journal of Medicine found that anxiety “is associated with increased risk of mortality from several major causes.” This led CBS News to run a story with this provocative title, “Mild cases of anxiety, depression may lead to an early death.” The findings of the 2012 study were confirmed by a 2018 study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry. In a nutshell, researchers found that “anxiety disorders significantly increased mortality risk.”
So Jesus was surely right about the practical limitations of worry. Yet, the part of us that wants to guarantee our longevity, that wants to control our lives, balks at the notion that we aren’t ultimately in control. We think we’d like to be sovereign over our lives, and we can even assume that we are. But, in truth, we do not have such authority and influence. That can feel like bad news. But good news is coming in just a few verses. We get to live under the gracious sovereignty of God, and when we do, God is pleased.
Today, however, we would do well to remember the ineffectiveness of worry. It really doesn’t help. It doesn’t lengthen our lives. In fact, it can even shorten them. When we’re facing difficult circumstances, we need to act wisely as we deal with what is challenging us. But, more important even than this, we need to realize that our lives are in God’s hands. And that includes our lifespan. When we’re worried about our lives, we would do well to remember the prayer found in Psalm 31:14-16: “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.”
For you, is there a difference between worrying about something and feeling concern that leads you to action?
Do you ever get stuck in anxiety? If so, why?
What are the things in life that cause you to worry?
What helps you to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over your life?
If you are worrying about something these days, talk with a close friend or your small group about it. Be honest. And then have someone pray for you and check-in with you in a few days.
Lord Jesus, thank you for encouraging us not to worry. And thank you for giving us reasons to avoid worry.
Yes, Lord, worry doesn’t help. We can’t add to our span of life by worrying. If something in our life is causing us concern, help us to act wisely in response.
But, beyond this, help us, Lord, to trust that our lives are in your gracious hands. May we let go of worry as we acknowledge your sovereignty. May we trust you with all the things we cannot control. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: The End of Worry
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.