Anxiety is real, even in believers. No matter how many times we recite Matthew 6:27, telling ourselves not to worry about tomorrow, sometimes we just can’t help it. The bad news blares at us from every available media mechanism. And, even our own spirits bear witness that we are in the last days. Things are changing fast, and the future, whether open for business or in total lockdown, is unclear. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that there is a time for everything under the sun. The answer to anxiety is understanding that it’s the providence of God that determines when those times occur. Whatever we experience will be temporary, but the God who orchestrates our lives is eternal. Right now, there are three things we can do to ease our anxiety about the future.
The Providence of God
Bible Study Tools defines the providence of God as the “divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things by God.” God is in control. We are not. Yes, we make our own choices and have to live with the consequences. But, God ultimately knows what those choices will be. He uses circumstances to achieve His desired outcome with or without our cooperation. In Job 42:2, Job says, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” For believers in Christ, this leads to one of the sweetest promises in scripture. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
God Controls Our Times
Ecclesiastes 3:1: “To everything, there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”
God has a plan. There are no accidents with God, and He is never taken by surprise. Think about the vast number of variables that had to come together for our earth to exist as we know it. There are probably an equal or even greater number of variables that will have to converge for it to end exactly the way the Bible promises it will. It’s mind-blowing, really. For all of those things to happen in God’s plan, He must involve Himself in people’s lives.
Ecclesiastes 3:2: “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted”
God chose when each one of us was born, and He will choose when we die. Likewise, there are times when the earth is ready to plant, and there are times when the earth is ready to give forth its harvest. These are just the first two pairs in a list of fourteen that show us that God is the one in control. Everything has its time. You and I were born for such a time as this, and God has numbered our days.
When we live our lives in accordance with God’s will, listening to the Holy Spirit for guidance, there is nothing to fear. Hebrews 2:15 says we have been released from the bondage of the fear of death. Philippians 1:21 says that now, “…to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Even if the circumstances of the world lead to our physical death, that is just the vehicle that conveys us to an eternity with our Lord and Savior. God controls life and death. He decides when things are able to grow and when they are ripe for the picking.
The Rest of the Pairs
Here are the rest of the pairs from Ecclesiastes 3:2-8. I put the more connotatively positive words in blue and the negative words in red. All of these pairs represent temporary times in life. Today you may weep, for example, but don’t lose heart. There will come a time when you will laugh. On the other hand, today you may experience gain. If at some point you experience loss, you shouldn’t be devastated. That just means that the time will come again for gain in the future. Every one of these items, whether positive or negative, has a part to play in God’s sovereign plan for our lives.
We Are Not In Control
“Deo volente” is Latin for “God willing.” According to James 4:15, it’s what believers are supposed to say each time we reference what we will do in the future. For one thing, life is “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). For another, there are millions of variables that come between us and the future. Even a beautiful spring day with plenty of money in your pocket and a healthy, loving family by your side can turn tragic with a car crash. On the other hand, a future that looks completely scary and depressing (if you listen to the news) can bring blessings beyond our wildest dreams in the hands of a sovereign God with a plan.
What Can We Do
1. Choose to Trust in Jesus
We must remember that God has control over our lives, and He is for us, not against us. Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.” We can’t get worried about what might happen. We can’t get frustrated when we don’t understand why things are happening the way they are. Sometimes God allows things that hurt us just to make our roots go deeper into Him.
There is an old song called Through the Fire. The lyrics go, “He never promised that the cross would not get heavy and the hill would not be hard to climb. He never offered our victories without fighting, but He said help would always come in time.” We must remember that God gives us what we need sometimes instead of what we want. There is a greater picture at stake in a tapestry with threads as innumerable as waves in the ocean. We must live our lives accordingly by following Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
2. Seek Him First
Matthew 6:31-33 says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
We must make God’s will our first priority. We must genuinely seek Him to know how to spend our time and resources. If we believe that God will one day judge the heart and deeds of man, everything we do has meaning. We must consecrate our lives to Christ. And, as His children, we must trust that He will take care of the things we need. Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” God takes care of His own.
3. Appreciate Today
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” A good friend of mine with chronic health problems recently said that she had learned the hard way to count her blessings instead of looking at her problems. The circumstances were the same either way, but she lived a lot happier life by being grateful for what she had instead of grumbling about what was wrong. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says that we should, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
After all, everything good we have in our lives comes by the hand of God. James 1:7 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” The same thing is true of worry as it is for actual problems. We can spend our time fearful and fretful over things that may or may not happen in God’s sovereign plan for our lives. Or we can appreciate the good things today and trust Him for tomorrow.
Finite Vs Infinite
Job 14:1 says that man is few of days and full of trouble. “He comes forth like a flower and fades away…” (Job 14:2a). Life is short, and the times and seasons in it are even shorter. But God is eternal. The providence of God determines the details of our lives. Nothing, good or bad, will happen to us without His approval. We should trust Him, seek Him, and appreciate the gifts He gives us.
Ecclesiastes 3:14 says, “I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.” God’s actions are permanent, effective and complete, and leave us totally secure in His sovereignty. The result should be that we fear God – and God alone. For He alone holds our future in His hands.
If you like numbered lists, try 4 Distractions for Christians We Must Beware. Or, try Balaam, Us, and the 3 Wills of God. In that one, we look at a story with a talking donkey and a mistake you and I have probably both made in our lives. Please subscribe in the upper right corner (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel. There, I read my blogs out loud and have a playlist of hymns from my church.