As a consultant who works for myself, I know well the vagaries of clients and cash flows. In the seven years I’ve operated my own business, I’ve had some good stretches, and a few not-so-good stretches where I would find myself sleeplessly staring at the ceiling in my darkened bedroom wondering when and to whom I might be able to send my next invoice. I don’t want to suggest that my family or I have ever faced the type of economic strictures that the materially poor face every day—we haven’t. Still, there’s nothing like anxiety about one’s income to prompt a serious discussion with God.
I’ve had plenty of those, and I imagine they follow a similar pattern to many entreaties for God’s help: “Lord, if you will just [do something to get me out of a mess I created], I will [sincere but often empty promise].”
How many times has God heard that from me, and from billions of other people? And how many times has God, in fact, shown a path out of whatever anxiety we’ve created for ourselves. And—if we are wise enough, or lucky enough, to follow that path—how many times have we patted ourselves on the back for our own cleverness and forgotten those late night promises to God? In my case, I’m sorry to say, plenty of times.
And so, with a gentleness that belies their cheek-smacking power, Jesus’s words came from the altar just a few weeks ago: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …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.”
Little has changed in the human heart in 2,000 years, it seems. While in my case concern about food and clothing has been replaced by anxiety about where my next client might be, the pointlessness of that anxiety remains the same: “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
I don’t take this as advice to simply “don’t worry, be happy.” I do understand it to mean that the love of God is liberating, if I can get out of my own way and meet God, even just halfway. Free from anxiety about my ultimate success and my ultimate worth, I am better able to discern the path that God lays out for me.
When I remember this, I sleep much better.
Richard Wells serves on the board of directors of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, and runs a consulting firm, The Wellynn Group, that focuses on marketing and communications. He and his wife live in Bala Cynwyd, PA, along with three children and three dogs. You may contact Richard at email@example.com.