We can be a frenzied, anxious bunch – even in the Church though Jesus clearly commands us not to be anxious for anything, but instead to trust our heavenly Father to provide for our needs. (see Matthew 6:25-34) It’s so “normal” to get worked up over things, we can be tempted to think it isn’t possible to live this life genuinely worry-free. In fact, it probably wasn’t so much a command as…maybe a suggestion. After all, Jesus knows we’re weak, frail people. Surely he knows it’s not possible for us to live completely without anxiety. Right?
Well, God doesn’t pretend we won’t be anxious, but he does give us both insight into the true root of anxiety as well as instruction regarding what to do with it when it surfaces in our lives. Pay particular attention to the context in these perhaps very familiar verses, and see if any “big ideas” jump out at you:
“…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 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. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:5b-11)
The Apostle Peter is writing to a group of Christian believers in the early church who have been scattered because of murderous persecution. If anyone was understandably anxious, it was these people, forced to leave their homes, separated from each other and loved ones, and fearing for their lives.
Throughout this letter, Peter is giving the people of God a much needed reminder of God’s love, the undying hope they have in Christ Jesus, a clear declaration of their identity because of the grace of God, and many practical instructions about how to live – both with each other, and as they find themselves surrounded by unbelievers.
Here, in chapter 5, after instructing them to follow Christ’s example in suffering, Peter tells them to clothe themselves in humility, to humble themselves, trusting God’s power and authority, AND his timing. And he tells them to cast all their anxieties on him. Why? Because God cares for them. The basis of their confidence, the motivation for them to surrender all their anxieties to God is his LOVE for his people!
If we are in Christ, WE are his people, and we have been loved by God with an everlasting love! This same exhoration is for us – our Father wants us to be free from worry, and to trust his faithful care.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials….” (1 Pet. 1:3-6)
Peter goes on to command them and us to be sober-minded, to be watchful, to resist our spiritual enemy! How? By being firm in our faith. That’s all well and good – but there are a lot of so-called “faiths,” and besides, faith in and of itself isn’t some kind of magic wand you can wave and *poof* all our anxieties disappear! Ah, but “faith” isn’t an end in and of itself – faith is the means by which we lay hold of something else. It is the OBJECT of our faith that is either trustworthy or not.
When we are anxious, or filled with worry, at the root we are placing our faith in ourselves. This is a subtle form of pride, a clinging to self-sufficiency, a feeling like there is no one else I can trust more than I can trust me. But in truth, we know we fail ourselves, perhaps moreso than we even consciously acknowledge! This is why anxiety is such a snare! And our good Father wants us to be set free from our self-sufficiency.
The ultimate remedy for anxiety is faith in the God of all grace, who will, himself, restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us!
“…You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot….manifest in the last times for the sake of you, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Pet. 1:18-21)
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8-9)
The remedy for anxiety is faith in God’s good grace, believing and confident in his unfailing LOVE, a fruitful faith that takes God at his word, fixes its hope on his promises which are all yes and amen in Jesus, and walks humbly and obediently according to his good instruction. The faith-filled heart both yields to and is guarded by our heavenly Father, and we can truly “throw off” all our cares and anxieties to him, because he cares for us!
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men; the Lord is near. Do 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 minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)