Dallas Willard on anxiety

Dallas Willard, who died in 2013.
Dallas Willard, who died in 2013.

This Sunday I’ll be preaching the second of three sermons related to stewardship. My text will be Matthew 6:19-34.

I’ll be preaching as much to myself as to anyone else—as always. I am greedy enough about money. But another “earthly treasure” to which I am often enslaved is what Dallas Willard, in his masterpiece on the Sermon on the Mount, The Divine Conspiracy, calls “delusions of respectability”: I desperately want people to approve of me, to esteem me, to hold me in high regard.

So the following words from Willard challenge me, but they also fill me with hope: I know for sure he’s describing how life should be, and in my better moments I’m at least taking baby steps in the direction of living this way. I am learning from my experience that invisible, spiritual treasure, “beyond any risk or threat,” is really there:

Jesus now concludes this section of his discourse (Matt. 6:19-34) with another touch of humor “you have no need to be anxious about what will happen tomorrow,” he says. “You can do your worrying about tomorrow tomorrow. Each day contains just enough problems to last to the end of that day (6:34).

Soberly, when our trust is in things that are absolutely beyond any risk or threat, and we have learned from good sources, including our own experience, that those things are there, anxiety is just groundless and pointless. It occurs only as a hangover of bad habits established when we were trusting things—like human approval and wealth—that were certain to let us down. Now our strategy should be one of resolute rejection of worry, while we concentrate on the future in hope and with prayer and on the past with thanksgiving.

Paul, once again, got it: “Don’t be anxious about anything,” he says, “but in every situation, with prayer and supplications, with thanksgiving, let God know what you want. And the peace which God himself has will, beyond anything we can intellectually grasp, stand guard over your hearts and minds, which are within the reality of Jesus the Anointed” (Phil. 4:6-7).

We will find all this so much easier, of course, once we have been freed from our old dependency upon the opinions of others and upon our “treasure” of material goods.[†]

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (New York: HarperOne, 1997), 212-3.

2 thoughts on “Dallas Willard on anxiety”

Leave a Reply