I was reading a book on the principles of leadership that told me that every good leader should “plan for panic.”
I immediately started panicking about my lack of planning.
Whereas I understand the basic idea of thinking through what might just happen in this case or in that case (what they call “contingency planning”), the concept of “planning for panic” seems a bit alarmist, to say the least.
Is the writer right?
But it is a very common way of approaching life. One picks up the daily newspaper and is immediately confronted with at least a dozen perfectly argued reasons to panic. It’s the stock in trade of the Media to give us something to worry about.
It’s not that there is a malign evil force twisting the puppet strings of the Media to create anxiety, (though if you believed that, I’d find it hard to disagree), but, more prosaically, it’s simply the case that bad news sells.
If there were ninety-nine happily married couples and one couple parading their unhappiness in a messy divorce, guess which would claim media attention. The 1% would dominate conversation and the 99% would remain silent.No news there.
But, of course, this is world-without-God that we’re talking about.
Once you decide for God, living a life of God worship, it follows that you start to think differently about everything.
In Matthew 6, Jesus describes this different perspective as it relates to food, fashion and body-image. It’s as if he’s reading the table of contents in every magazine on the shop shelves!
And the word he says is, “Don’t panic.” Don’t even plan to panic. You’re different. Here’s the passage:
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen colour and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? “
There’s a powerful summons here. It’s a call to trust God, and to believe that your heavenly Father is indeed your Father, that He’s got your back and can be depended on when anything happens that might induce a mild dose of panic.
Once you really get it, that God exists and loves you, that He actively parents you, then you just start to simmer down a bit. You start to exchange your panic for a bit of peace.
“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
I can truthfully say that this has been the experience of my life. It is quite a wrench,at first, to give up the preoccupation with getting, but the awareness of God’s giving increases come each new day. And each day your faith in the God who provides increases.
I love that old hymn line, “All I have need, thy hand has provided.” All. All of it.
Let’s pray the last part of Matthew 6 as we go into a new day, watching for God’s lead, listening for His voice, and relaxing in His care.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.