It’s no secret that anxiety has a way of quite handily ruining your day, your week, your month, your year, and pretty much any time or length of time that it hangs around and makes itself home in our lives. It knots up in the pit of our stomachs, shortens the muscles in our necks, shallows our breathing, and clouds our already busy mind.
Worry can take a relatively normal set of circumstances and make us feel as if the sky is falling. It amplifies setbacks, small and large. It plays out horrible scenarios in our minds that never come to pass. It captivates negative thoughts and rings them like a high pitch bell repeatedly in front of our other contemplations. Sometimes it’s downright crippling.
The good news for believers in Christ is that there is a context for winning against the constant assault of anxiety. The Apostle Peter gives us this context in a couple verses. Short as they are, they present a powerful truth that serves as an immovable anchor against the winds of worry.
Just as a warning though, you may not feel like you’ve won the battle on day one or even month one. It’s important to note that sometimes our body tells us things that aren’t true. A recent example I’ve witnessed has been our three-year-old daughter. After coming back from a long weekend of travel, including 2 flights, several hours of car rides, weird sleep schedules and unusually late nights, our little one woke up from an afternoon nap acting as if the world was about to end. After making her a delicious taco, she melted in a panicky, uncontrollable cry because the outside of her tortilla had gotten a little bit dirty with refried beans. This wasn’t normal behavior for our taco-loving princess. Instead, her exhausted mind and body were telling her that everything in the world was horribly wrong, even when everything was just fine.
Often when we set out to conquer worry in our lives, we are immediately discouraged by the residual knots in our stomach, the tension in our neck and head, and the weight our body feels from worry. Let me encourage you: don’t be discouraged or feel as if you’ve failed. This is the result of a body that’s been well trained to react to thoughts and events in a way that it was never supposed to. Because of this, we often physically feel like we’re worrying about something that might not even have a base in reality. This is where it is imperative to hold tightly to truth regardless of what our body tells us. In time, our body will catch up with truth.
So what is that truth? Peter gives it plainly to us and it’s found in 1 Peter 5:6-7:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
In times past I found a lot of comfort in verse 7 alone. I loved the mental picture of actually “casting” my worries on God’s shoulders. It’s a brilliant picture and helpful as we battle worry. But in later reading, I found much more comfort in the words that surround this picture. Particularly as it relates to humility, God’s sovereign control, and what he actually thinks about me.
Humility and God’s Sovereignty
This isn’t the first time Peter has discussed humility in this letter. It has been a quality that he has called for between pastors and their sheep, servants and masters, spouses, citizens and government, and the entire church membership. It is vital for Christian living as we relate to other people.
But in this verse, Peter presents humility as a mind that we have toward God, especially in light of difficult circumstances. To provide context, Peter’s audience is no stranger to difficult times. Many of his readers were suffering significantly on account of their being Christians. As we can see from other Biblical texts, this kind of pressure can cause a person to lash out at others and to try to take matters into their own hands in a way NOT pleasing to God. Peter warns against this in 4:14 telling his readers not to needlessly suffer consequences for acting wrongly. Instead, the believer is to humble himself “under the mighty hand of God.”
What does this mean? It means that the events that swirl around you are not outside the scope of God’s control. Sometimes we think that while God may love us, he’s unable to work in the events of our lives — sort of like we’re on our own swimming in a rough river. That sort of picture is one of strife and struggle where every day is a tooth and nail fight against every current that we face. It breeds frustration and hopelessness and takes every problem and potential problem and piles it on our shoulders. An incapable God is not an easy God to submit to when we’re called to do so in a class 5 rapids.
Peter, however, reminds us that God’s hand is MIGHTY. It wields the events of our life with careful and exact skill. It is the hand that held back the waters of the Red Sea and of Jordan. It holds back things he wants to protect us from and holds our soul as we travel through the valley of the shadow of death. His hand is mighty and it saves. It exalts us when he wants it to and keeps us in safety when we need it.
We are not called to climb into the mighty hand of God or to pull it down from heaven. We are simply called to humble ourselves under it as we let God determine the course for our life. This picture is much more restful. In it, we yield rather than grasp. In this truth, we are not hurried or clawing for stability. We wait for God to bring what he sovereignly chooses to bring. Sometimes the waiting seems like an eternity. It’s not. It’s often quite a bit shorter than we realize after looking back on the struggle. Nevertheless, the wait is as long as God knows it is supposed to be. He exalts us at the right time.
What God Thinks About Me
As we humbly wait for God, Peter exalts us to “cast” our cares on God. This is the same word used as crowds cast blankets on the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem. It’s not a “casting off” of cares, but rather a “casting on” of cares. People “cast off” cares all the time. They cast them off just as they down another can of beer or play another round of blackjack. They cast them off by throwing them away before a favorite sport or hobby, by listening to loud music, or binge watching another Netflix series. The problem with this is that their cares find them again because they are never given to something or someone that can handle them.
The believer, however, is to have the habit of “casting on” God the cares he collects. Even though we are “throwing” the burden on God in a carefree fashion, we’re still doing so purposely. My family and I recently had the privilege to visit Honduras. There we were invited to go on an excursion where we interacted with monkeys. We were warned to remove anything in our pockets that we didn’t want to be stolen because these little stinkers would take anything and everything you had on you if they got the chance. In no time after arriving, the monkeys were jumping all over our heads and shoulders. As soon as one got off of you another jumped on. If they wanted to, the monkeys could have been pests to us all day. Thankfully, however, we were not the ones in charge of the monkeys. With us was a trained monkey keeper. When it was time, the whole troop was off our shoulders in an instant and in his control. In the same way, God knows how to manage our worries with skill. Our job is to habitually cast them on him.
How do we know this will work? Besides showing us God’s mighty hand, Peter reminds us that God actually cares about us. He cares about how we’re doing and how we feel. He cares whether we succeed or fail. He cares about the things that of value in our lives. He cares our hopes for our future, our children, our job, our needs, our hurts, our less-than-ideal circumstances. He cares about us enough to sacrifice His Son for us. As a believer, God has a vested interest in us.
I never have to worry about handing either of my children to my wife because I know she cares for them. I don’t need to look at her with suspect eyes wondering if she is going to do what’s best for them. I have confidence in her care and her ability to meet their needs as a mother. After handing them off and walking away, I never have a thought as to her ability and desire to take care them.
When I cast my cares on God, I never have to look back and wonder if he actually is going to take care of them — as if he doesn’t care about the things I care about or as if he doesn’t have the ability to care for them. I know that God cares about my needs and the cries of my heart and will do a far better job of handling them than I will.
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