Before hearing God’s call to ministry, I served as a registered nurse in a downtown emergency department. We never knew who might walk (or roll) through the double-panel sliding doors. Car accident victims, someone with strep throat, “frequent flyers” whom we began to know by name, abused children, heart attack and stroke emergencies, or broken bones from trampolines and bicycle accidents.
A common phrase attributed to emergency department nurses and physicians is that they are a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” This phrase felt accurate to me due to the wide variety of chief complaints and diagnoses we treated on a given shift.
One thing that most individuals who arrived for treatment had in common was that they did not plan to visit us. Before working in the emergency department, I never gave much thought to all of the mishaps that could happen in life.
I must admit that I tried to do everything a little more cautiously to avoid my very own visit to the emergency department as a patient instead of a nurse: Have someone hold the base of a ladder every time, stay hydrated when exercising, wear safety goggles when using a chainsaw, read instructions and follow them! Despite all the caution one might exercise, emergencies still might come upon us.
Do you ever find yourself worrying? As we get older, there seem to be more things to worry about. Concern about parents, or your kids, or your health. Do you worry about money and the economy? Do you worry about national security or world affairs?
If so, Matthew 6:25-34 is for you! Jesus begins this section of his Sermon on the Mount with the simple and straightforward command: “Do not worry about your life!”
Jesus tells his followers not to worry about physical necessities such as food, drink and clothing. He reminds us that God is the one who has given us our lives and our bodies, so God will certainly provide what we need to take care of them.
Jesus gives us two concrete examples from nature to support this: the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
Have you ever noticed how vulnerable birds are? They cannot produce food for themselves, they don’t have a plan for growing or storing food, yet God provides food for them every day.
To be clear, I don’t think Jesus is telling us to be lazy. Birds don’t simply wait for God to drop food into their beaks. They must gather food that is provided and work to find the food.
Like the birds of the air, Jesus points to the flowers of the field as evidence of God’s care for creation. Just as God provides beautiful wildflowers, God will provide for us.
Worrying doesn’t add any time to our life, but it does take time away from it. If we use our time doing something productive instead of worrying, we will actually have fewer things to worry about.
God does not promise us that we will have no problems, no challenges or no pain in our lives, but God does give us strength and hope to meet our challenges and difficulties with grace and strength.
I don’t know what you are worrying about today, but I do know that if God takes care of the birds of the air and the grass of the field, God will take care of you.
The Rev. Tamara Francis Wilden is an ordained elder in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. She serves as the director of field education at Methodist Theological School in Delaware and is president of the Delaware Ministerial Association.