I am a worrier. Sometimes I don’t even mean to worry, but anxiety creeps up on me and I spend an entire day wrestling with it. The verse that always comes to mind and seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues regarding anxiety is 1st 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.” It would be very easy to take these verses to say, “All you have to do is cast your anxiety on God because he cares for you” and leave it at that. However, there is so much more to it.
It is erroneous to ignore the “therefore” in verse six. As we used to say in youth group: What is the “therefore” there for? The term always points back at what has been said leading up to the sentence it has been used in and puts what is being said into the context. Whatever comes after a “therefore” is a conclusion, so it is only right to look above and find the argument. The preceding verses look like this:
“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.”
By looking at verse five, the preceding verses suddenly take on more meaning. Peter, who is writing this letter to the “churches in dispersion,” is not just telling them that God cares about them and wants to help them with the anxiety. He is telling them that part of being humble means that they are willing to give up their worries and concerns. God wants us to relinquish control out of a place of humility and acceptance that we cannot do it on our own and that He will carry us further than we can carry ourselves.
To let go of anxiety is to be humble and admit that we are limited in what we can control.
This must have been especially meaningful to Peter’s audience at the time. They were being persecuted and mocked. Their neighbors talked behind their backs, their homes were probably vandalized, and the “church in dispersion” was living a life in fear because the Roman government did not approve of their faith. They were struggling, they were anxious, and yet even in the midst of persecution they were told to roll with it and to let God handle it.
They were asked to give up their anxieties because they had no control over them anyway.
So when I’m facing down a day like today, riddled with anxiety and worry, I take a deep breath and remember that I cannot control everything. It is ridiculous and arrogant to believe that I can. Some things are out of my control and instead of worrying myself sick over them, I need to admit that I can only control myself and my actions and give everything else up to God.
It is easier said than done, but isn’t that generally how it goes?