There is a connection between consumerism and anxiety. It should be no surprise that as we increase in consumerism (go obtain stuff) and materialism (obtaining stuff will bring fulfillment) that our anxiety goes up. Often we find our life is this delicate balancing act of obtaining more things (possessions, wealth) all while protecting the things we have already obtained. At best this leaves us with two main fears; There wont be enough and I am going to lose what I have. We think that if we increase what we have we can squelch our fears of scarcity. However, much to our dismay, the fear we lost with scarcity is compensated with our increased fear of losing it all. Round and round we go as our anxiety moves up and to the right.
This problem is not new, Jesus when teaching the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) he deals with this connection. He warns people about the danger of storing up things on earth, it has the potential of mastering you. Then he states:
“Therefore I tell you, 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?” Matthew 6:25
He then goes on to say, you are important to God, He knows what you need, and He will provide for you. So what are you worried about? If only it were that easy. If only the solution to our anxiety was our awareness of it and our need to stop. Most of the time we are well aware that our anxiety is a problem in need of a solution and then we get anxious about our anxiety. What Jesus does is clarify the line between the provision and the Provider, a line we often blur.
In the Exodus story God has the Israelites go out everyday to collect mana to eat, but only enough for the day. There is a reason why God has the Israelites while in the wilderness go out everyday to collect the mana daily. God wants to show Himself to be their daily provider, by providing for them daily. He knows that we are a people who love to horde and stockpile. Then when we do our trust shifts from trusting in the Provider to trusting in the provisions. We then find our security in our provisions as we become suspicious of the Provider. Our relationship with the provisions deepens while our relationship with the Provider becomes increasingly shallow. Then ultimately this leads us down a road where we worship the provisions instead of the Provider.
If I am being honest, what I really want is the provision for tomorrow, today. However it’s not what God promises us. We pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread” when we really mean “Give me this month, my monthly bread, give me this retirement, my nice 401k”. We want security and comfort while God is trying to teach us to trust Him and deepen intimacy. Ironically enough, the fact that God has proved Himself as provider today frees my mind to be anxious about tomorrow. I have often wondered what the next meal will be, but have never wondered if the next meal will ever come. This has skewed my perception of God the Provider. It has allowed me to look at a fridge full of food and think “There’s nothing to eat.” God has always provided in a timely fashion. You would think that day after day, year after year, of the same experience that my soul would find the peace it so longs for.
I often feel like an Israelite in the 39th year asking “Yeah, but how do we KNOW the mana will be there tomorrow?” God has already shown you He is a provider in the past, He will show you today, and may your soul find peace that He will provide tomorrow. May your lack of provision not drive you into the despair of your anxiety but into the care of your Provider.