“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 is a favourite verse often quoted as an antidote to stress and worry. It is a timeless reminder to Christians to pray with utter dependence on our loving Father, no matter what our circumstances. The idea of casting is to literally throw our cares on the Lord, and to leave them with him, instead of trying to carry, control or retrieve them ourselves. But if we return this text to its rightful place in Peter’s letter, we see that this chapter is about shepherding God’s people through intense persecution. Peter’s main instruction to these suffering believers is to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand. It was only with this attitude of childlike trust that they could genuinely cast all their cares upon the Lord, knowing that he cared for them.
Let’s read this passage with humility and ask the Lord to show us what to do with our own anxious thoughts:
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 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. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:5-11).
A common condition and a timeless remedy
Peter’s original readers faced a set of uncontrollables that we can hardly imagine. They feared losing their homes, livelihoods, communities and lives at the whim of those who opposed their faith. Scattered as foreigners, they lived under constant threat for themselves and their loved ones. The threats were real, not imagined. In contrast, we worry about things that may never happen, past regrets that we cannot change, perceptions that aren’t true, and health and material issues that are, ironically, made worse by our worrying. Only a fraction of our concerns are in fact real and serious problems. But, Christians in every context have this in common with Peter’s original readers: All our daily cares can quickly morph into anxieties that choke us. The only antidote is a constant, childlike trust in God’s loving providence.
“Do not be anxious” was the timeless and unequivocal command of Jesus too (Matt 6:25-34). Peter’s instruction in 1 Peter 5:6-7 is like entrusting a loved one to a skilled surgeon, allowing a pilot to fly your plane or handing over your precious backpack to a sherpa to carry it safely to the top of a mountain. But of course, all these analogies break down because no human being is sovereign over every detail of the universe. No person is perfectly good, strong or wise, and there is no one on earth who cares for us as our Father does. Only the Lord Jesus could die in our place to become the Rock on whom we rest all our burdens. The cross is the ultimate proof that our lives matter to God.
In this text, Peter not only alludes to the common condition and the timeless remedy of anxiety, but also to a common source.
Wiser than God?
Our culture would be horrified to draw a connection between anxiety and pride, but Peter isn’t. He contrasts God’s attitude towards the proud and humble in the same breath as his instruction to cast our cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:5-7). Before we dismiss this as overly simplistic or harsh, let’s think through some of the outcomes of humility and pride in our own lives. I can personally vouch for the ones on pride:
Pride tells us we must depend on ourselves and meet our own needs. Pride believes the lie that we can control our lives and convince God to give us what we want. Pride thinks we know what’s best. Pride is entitled, and insists on our comfort, certainty and reputation. In pride, we boast of tomorrow’s gains (James 4:13-15).
In contrast, when we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, we willingly place ourselves under His providence. We remember that hardship is a normal part of Christ’s call to die to self, shared by all His followers in every generation (1 Peter 5:9; Luke 14:27; 33; Luke 9:23-24). We trust that our ultimate exaltation will come when the Lord Jesus, our Chief Shepherd returns (1 Peter 5:4;10). We know we can’t help ourselves, so we welcome God’s mighty hand as the helping hand of a parent or shepherd, not an oppressor. We believe that God will keep his promises in His good time, not ours (1 Peter 5:6).
A little while
Trusting God’s promises requires humility. History tells us that some of Peter’s readers would be strengthened and delivered by God’s grace in their lifetimes, but many would only be released from suffering in their deaths. The promise that God would exalt them in due time was not a guarantee of rescue from their troubles. Yet, Peter dares to say that in comparison with eternity, their suffering would last only “a little while” (1 Peter 5:10).
If Peter called these persecuted Christians to have an eternal perspective and childlike trust in the God of all grace, is this not our antidote to anxiety too?
Of course, none of us has perfect faith. Nor did Peter, or his readers. At best, we cry out to Jesus like the bewildered dad of the demon-possessed boy, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). The important thing is to cast our cares on Christ anyway. The alternative is to be choked by them little by little.
Choked by cares
Peter implicitly warns us that anxiety is a dangerous state in which to live, as it leaves us in a self-focussed, vulnerable place where we are easy prey for Satan’s attacks (1 Peter 5:8). We cannot be watchful, resist the devil and remain firm and fruitful in our faith while choked by worry (1 Peter 5:9; Mark 4:19). That’s why we need to cast off each day’s burdens on the Lord. As George MacDonald puts it, “No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to today’s burden that the weight is more than a man can bear. Never load yourself so.”
If the stakes are this high, it’s worth asking God each day to unmask our anxious thoughts, so that we can actively cast them on Him in prayer.
This passage is one of my favourites, because I have a tendency to worry about many things. It’s one thing for me to know intellectually that God is sovereign and that he cares for me, but it’s quite another thing to actually get on my knees and lay out my cares, one by one, before the Lord in prayer. “Casting all our cares” is a deliberate, no-holds-barred action that is often difficult and the last thing we feel like doing. It’s easier and more natural to fret than to pray! But the wonderful effect of this kind of casting is the peace that follows it. It’s a peace that transcends rational understanding– a heart assurance that God is in control and cares for us. When we make a daily habit of casting all our cares, big and small, on the Lord, prayer will become more instinctive and our concerns will be stopped in their tracks before they grow into full-fledged worry.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isa 26:3).
Father, you say that we must not be anxious for anything, but rather pray with thanksgiving and offer our requests to you. So, we thank you that you care for us and know each of our concerns. Thank you that you are always good, powerful and faithful– our constant provider, counsellor and refuge. Thank you that your purposes are always good–to make us wiser, deeper and more Christ-like. Jesus, thank you that you are our Chief Shepherd. We want to trust you utterly, but our faith often wavers through fear and pride. By your Spirit and your Word, unmask our anxious thoughts and false lenses through which we see our lives. Forgive us for doubting you and for thinking we are wiser than you. Today we humble ourselves under your mighty hand and cast our cares on you, because you care for us. To you be the dominion forever and ever, Amen.
Listen to Oceans (Where feet may fail), by Shane and Shane.