In the quiet nook of my prayer garden, grandpa’s resurrection lily stands at the center, but throughout the small plot are about a dozen varieties of lilies and a small bird feeder for the sparrows. Last week I wrote of grandpa’s resurrection lily and how the center of my garden symbolizes two of Jesus’ “I am”-statements. “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11) and “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 10:25). What I did not mention is that the wider theme of my prayer garden is Matthew 6:25-34, where worry is key word (occurring six times).
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
28 And why are you worried about clothing? Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the pagans eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NASB/mine)
As a child my dad used to always say to me: “Jill, worry for nothing, worry poor.” I do not know where this idiom came from or its precise meaning, but I knew those five words summed up a host of thoughts. “Jill, stop worrying; don’t make yourself sick with worry. Jill, worry doesn’t help the outcome to worry. The outcome will come in its time and will be manageable and probably not as bad as you are drumming it up to be.” So my childhood and teenage years went this way with some growth in the process.
As I have aged and had to depend on the Lord, especially when a poor seminary student, the Lord has continually proved himself faithful to provide for my needs, at times with the next school bill or rent payment being uncertain. Because of God’s past goodness in these areas, I tend to no longer worry about economic provisions. Still, I had a tendency to worry about my professional success. Will I do a good job teaching a particular class, will I meet a deadline, will my writing be well received? Because I’m particularly susceptible to this sin of worry, I have planted all those lilies and have the sparrow feeder as a daily reminder to reflect on Matthew 6:25-34.
With all the uncertainties of COVID-19—what it means for higher education (my profession), for the gospel and the church, and for the health of family and friends—I find that simply “considering the lilies” in my prayer garden reorients my mind. All I have to do is cast my eyes upon the garden for its radiant symbols to take effect. Here are four simple truths, I see daily.
- God cares about the believer’s life, so we should not worry (6:25-27). Because God provides for the least of his creation, he will also provide his children, including me. The little wren (Mr. Fidget), sparrows, and mourning doves all frequent my prayer garden to eat seeds, worms, and bugs—even if I forget to feed them. Since God provides for them, he will provide for me.
- God is worthy of our trust for our daily needs (6:28-32). God gives lilies beautiful adornment fit for a King even though they do not work. I have a regal lily called Solomon’s seal that grows tall and stately, even in the shade. It’s the first to sprout up each year despite its shady location. Anemone, the flower some claim is referred to here, pop up early-March and “disappear” in mid-April. These plants and others recall the truths that God provides for his creation that do not work and are fleeting. How much more will he provide for his children who are eternal! This suggests to me that God will provide for those who are unable to go to work due to COVID-19. He provides for the flowers that cannot work, and he will provide for his children who cannot work for an employer.
- God’s Kingdom work is our worthy mission (6:33). If God graciously bedecks my yard so nicely, which is a small thing for Him, then I should strive to please him. Thus, rather than laying up treasures on earth (v. 19), believers seek after God’s kingdom (v. 34). We should lay up eternal treasures in keeping with the work of God. This, it seems to me, includes the members of the church providing for the needs of others in the body in times of need, like COVID-19, as the early church practiced (Act 2:44-46; 4:32-37; 11:27-30; Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:9-11; 1 John 3:16-18).
- Life is hard, so depend on God daily (6:34). Whether life is difficult due to health, pandemics, or the evil of this age, God is where we need to turn to daily.
My security can be found in so many areas if I do not keep myself in check. That is why I have my garden. It reminds that this life is not the end. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid His life down for His sheep, He is the Resurrection and the Life, and He is one upon whom I should depend. He gave lilies and birds as reminders. May we all consider the lilies, and praise “The Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star.”
The Lily of the Valley by Charles W. Fry (1881)
I’ve found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;
He tells me every care on Him to roll.
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
He all my grief has taken, and all my sorrows borne;
In temptation He’s my strong and mighty tow’r;
I’ve all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn
From my heart and now He keeps me by His pow’r.
Though all the world forsake me, and Satan tempt me sore,
Through Jesus I shall safely reach the goal.
He’ll never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,
While I live by faith and do His blessed will;
A wall of fire about me, I’ve nothing now to fear,
From His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.
Then sweeping up to glory to see His blessed face,
Where rivers of delight shall ever roll.