Updated: Sep 16, 2021
We live in a world riddled with anxiety. It comes as no surprise that 42% of a polled population in America described having some form of anxiety or depression during 2020. With a world that often feels like it is on fire, or close to it, a rise in both anxiety and depression seems par for the course. For the professing Christian, anxiousness, worry, fear, and depression are not emotions we miraculously become immune to when God's grace intercepts our lives. The reality is that we live in a broken and fallen world. Our very instinctual nature to worry and fear gives further proof to the fact that things are not as they should be. Although this is true, the story doesn't end there. Our hope lies not in our ability to control the narrative of the frantic world around us, but in someone far greater; someone that calls us to cast the troubles of this world onto Him and promises to carry the heavy burden of our sin and the sins of this world.
Peter, through divine inspiration by the Holy Spirit, gives us a gateway into what such promises of hope and care look like. In 1 Peter 5:6-7, we read, "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." A quick glance at these two verses offers little sustenance and direction for both the casting of our worries and the 'who' of whom we are casting them onto. In order to both understand further and bask in the glory of what this concept of 'casting all our anxieties' means, we need to zoom out from these two verses and look at the rest of the text, supporting passages elsewhere in the Bible, and the evidence of immense grace in our own lives.
In this text, Peter is writing to a group of Christians in what is believed to be around A.D. 62-63. These dates would have put both Peter and those receiving this letter under the reign of Nero. Nero is known to have persecuted Christians in some of the most atrocious ways. Some were torn by dogs and others burnt to death. To say that these Christians were under intense mistreatment would be a complete understatement. And yet, we find all through Peter's first letter the idea that Christians are to endure suffering for the sake of Christ. They do so, Peter instructs, by looking back to the ultimate suffering of Christ and simultaneously forward to the consummation of salvation at his second coming. Peter describes the salvation and eternal inheritance Christians have in Christ as being great mercy, living hope, imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven. (1 Peter 1:3-4).
As a result of this, Peter commands Christians to rejoice even in the midst of their immense suffering because the genuineness of their faith is more precious than gold which perishes through fire. It is more precious because it is eternal and imperishable, being sealed and secured by the finished and complete work of Christ's death and resurrection. This, Peter asserts, is what gives these Christians the ability to have a living hope as they look towards giving praise and honor with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7-8)
The rest of the book affirms similar tones of full submission to Christ in the midst of difficulty because of His great love and sacrifice for them. Additionally, Peter gives instruction on how the body of Christ, the church, should function. Both with order and wisdom, Peter expands upon what it means to shepherd a flock of believers, live as wives and husbands, and the relationship of workers and those in authority over them. This book is rich with wisdom and truth, but now with further context, I want us to zoom back into his short but powerful instruction in chapter 5.
After exhorting the elders of the churches among these Christians, Peter goes on to command all Christians to clothe themselves in humility toward one another for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) This humbling serves others, but it is primarily out of a submission to God. To humble oneself before God is not an act of casting shame or insecurity upon yourself but rather, fully giving over your futile understanding and trusting in the God who created all things, knows all things, and entered into the brokenness of the world to redeem sinners back to a loving relationship with Himself. Additionally, those who suffer can be confident in looking forward towards an eternity where humiliation on earth will be no more. For whether during this vapor of a life or on the day of Christ's return, God will exalt those that are His at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:5)
In the same breath, Peter tells these Christians that in humbling themselves before a God who will exalt them at the proper time, they are also to cast all of their anxieties on him... they are not being called to fully humble themselves before an authority that beats, tortures, and kills them like that of their earthly ruler, Nero. No, the God of the universe that we are to stand humbly before is one who wants us to cast all of our anxieties onto Him. Why would the one true God who created all things want for us to cast our anxieties onto Him? Peter offers the most comforting notion and insight on this. He tells us to cast our cares because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)
In opposition to our true enemy the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), God is full of grace, care, kindness, and love. In response to this, you may be asking or have asked before, "how do we cast our cares and why is it the true healing balm for our sinful selves to do so?" In the midst of my own personal bouts with debilitating and everyday anxiety, I have pondered the same thing. It is by looking to and knowing Him who we are to give our burdens to that my questions have continually been answered and reanswered time and again.
Peter's idea of casting all our anxieties onto Him [God] who cares for us is not one he, in human wisdom, created. As a follower of Christ, while he walked the earth, Peter was present to Jesus's Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus spent some time teaching on anxiety and what followers of Him are to do with it. In this part of the sermon he says, "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 continues on to say, "your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (food, drink, clothes). But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:32-33)
Anxiousness, here, is equated with worry about things like food, drink, and clothing. For God cares even for the birds and lilies. So, how much more will He care for His own. To be anxious is to not trust in the perfect, holy, and all-knowing God who promises that He will give us all we need. Jesus, God in the flesh, commands us not to be anxious. This might be something we should listen to, but how? What are we to do as we aim to trust that Jesus's words are true? We seek first the kingdom of God in all things, but we do so by communing in a personal relationship with God. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:5-7 to not be anxious about anything, "but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
We see here that it is both God that carries the burdens through Christ and God who guards our hearts and minds against such anxieties and worries of the world. He guards it against the devil who prowls around looking for someone to destroy with these worries in our mind. How much more should these truths beckon us to draw near to Him in our times of distress? In times of anxiety and fear, we aren't left to try and "white knuckle" our way through it. We are called, instead, to cast our anxiety onto God through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, knowing that He has promised through His Son to care for, guard, and comfort our weary hearts.
This care is seen most perfectly through the depths of love with which He displayed by sending His willing Son to bear our ultimate burden we could not pay of sin. For Christ became sin although He knew it not so that we might become the very righteousness of God. (2 Corinthianis 5:21) This isn't a righteousness we earn or are given by worrying and controlling things of this world. This is the righteousness of Jesus that is imputed onto those who place their faith in Him. Jesus, the one who while He took on human flesh and walked this broken earth, commanded us to not be anxious. He commanded it not as an empty adjuration but with perfect knowledge of just how far He would go to show us that we can trust Him. Through dying the death we deserve and bearing the wrath of God the Father, Christ bore our sins and thereby tore the curtain between us and God; a curtain that allows us to commune with God through prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving in our times of anxiety.
Paul spends chapter 8 of Romans making an argument for the fact that opposition from unbelievers and Satan will never succeed against those that are God's. At the end of this unfolding assertion, Paul reminds our weary hearts that against any anxiety, trial, or opposition Satan or this world throws our way, we are to stand confident in Him who saved us. "For if God is for us (as seen through Christ's death and resurrection), who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32) And even when in your anxiety you don't have words to say, you can find deep, real comfort in the truth that He who bore your sins on the cross, is now seated at the right hand of God interceding for us. He is interceding because He cares for and loves us. We, like those Peter was writing to, can find joy in suffering by looking back to the ultimate suffering of Christ and simultaneously forward to the consummation of salvation at his second coming. Remember, our salvation and eternal inheritance we have in Christ is a great mercy, a living hope, imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven. (1 Peter 1:3-4).
For our very purpose on this earth is not to store up treasures, to control all scenarios and outcomes, or to have life lacking in anxiety. Our purpose is in being found in Christ and bearing witness to the gift of grace we have been given in Him; It is to be the very hands and feet of Christ, proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, and making disciples of this earth... inviting them into the eternal kingdom that doesn't perish and where the humiliations and anxieties of this world will be no longer. In doing this we bear fruit that gives witness to the new lives we have in Christ; new lives that give us strength and a desire to cast all our anxieties onto Him.
Find deep comfort, my friends, in being able to cast your anxieties onto God because of what Christ has done for you. For by God's great compassion, He has tread His children's iniquities underfoot; He has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Praise Him and find refuge in trusting in His promises.
"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act." (Psalm 37:5)
"Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." (Psalm 55:22)