An important lesson of the Christian life is that the heart of the battle is a fight not between abstract commands (do this! don’t do that!) but rather arguments. Unbelief does not just offer dictates; it offers reasons why we don’t need to trust the Lord. And to counter that, gospel-flavored belief argues with our unbelief. In other words, it provides reasons for why trusting the Lord is always the good and wise things to do.
Here are some notes on how this might work with the temptation to fret and worry and be anxious and unsettled, rather than acting in joyful, confident, restful faith. I’ve included the argument of unbelief, a Scripture passage, and some observations on how the argument works.
1. Anxiety is worth it because God is too far away to hear my needs.
Philippians 4:5-6: ”The Lord is at hand; [therefore] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
- The truth: “The Lord is at hand”
- What is prohibited as a result: “do not be anxious about anything”
- The alternative that is prescribed as a result: “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God [i.e., the Lord who is near to hear and to help].”
2. Anxiety is worth it because God does not care for me and I need to get myself out of this humiliating stage of life.
1 Peter 5:6-7: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
- The truth: God cares for me.
- The command: I am to humble myself.
- How? By casting all of my anxieties on him.
- A corollary: Carrying rather than casting my anxieties is an expression of pride.
3. Anxiety is worth it because if my problems aren’t solved I could die.
Matthew 6:25: “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?”
- You still have eternal life even if you have no food
- You will still have a resurrection body even if you are physically deprived.
- Even if your struggle ends in death you will not have lost the most important things; therefore, don’t spend your time being anxious about lesser things.
4. Anxiety is worth it because I have no practical evidence in the world that God values me or will take care of me.
Matthew 6:26, 28-30: “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 why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
- God values the birds and the grass, which he richly provides for and adorns.
- God values me much more than the birds and the grass.
- Therefore, as an argument from the lesser to the greater, obviously he will be even more invested in providing for all of my needs.
5. Anxiety is worth it because of how much it helps my life.
Matthew 6:27: ”Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” [Answer: no one.]
- The truth: Anxiety can’t add a single hour to my life.
- Presupposition: I shouldn’t spend my time on pointless activities that have no benefits.
- Result: I shouldn’t be anxious.
6. Anxiety is worth it because no one else is going to look out for my needs.
Matthew 6:31, 33: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For . . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
- The truth: God knows I have needs for food, drink, clothing
- The implication: When God knows a need and he loves the needy he is glad to be the supplier of the need.
- The result: My focus can be on God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, knowing that my needs will be taken care of.
7. Anxiety is worth it; after all, everyone does it and it seems to work for them.
Matthew 6:31-32: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things. . . .”
- The truth: Unbelievers are anxious about how their needs are going to be met.
- Presupposition: Christians are not to act like unbelievers.
- Result: We should not be anxious like the world is anxious.
8. Anxiety is worth it because so many troubles are coming to me in the future if I don’t worry about them now.
Matthew 6:34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
- Tomorrow is going to do just fine without your help, but thanks anyway.