DEALING WITH FEAR AND ANXIETY (PART 3)

FEAR

3

CASTING YOUR CARES ON GOD

The apostle Peter was a worrier. He worried about drowning when he was walking on water, even though Jesus was right there with him (Matt. 14:29–31). He worried about what was going to happen to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, so he pulled out his sword and tried to take on a battalion of Roman soldiers (John 18:2–3, 10). Nevertheless, although Peter had ongoing trouble with anxiety, he learned how to deal with it. He passed this lesson on to us:

“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5–7)

Only from humility comes the ability to truly hand over all our cares to God.

Develop a Humble Attitude

Humility toward Others

Humility is the attitude that you are not too good to serve others and that you are not too great to handle tasks that seem below you. Humble people today get mocked and trampled on. The world calls them wimps and instead exalts the proud. Although it was no different in Peter’s day, he called us to be different.

In instructing us to put on the garment of a slave and serve others, Peter might have been thinking about his Lord. Recall the incident recorded in John 13, where Jesus “got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (vv. 4–5).

Since none of the disciples volunteered to take on this servant role, Jesus took on the task Himself, leaving us all with an example of humble service. We clothe ourselves with humility toward one another when we meet each other’s needs without regarding any task as being beneath us. Don’t wait for someone else to step in and do the dirty work.

Humility toward God

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5; see also Prov. 3:34 NIV). That verse provides keen motivation for displaying humility. We will be blessed if we are humble and chastised if we are not. As we will soon see, one of those blessings is the ability to deal with anxiety.

God hates pride. According to Proverbs 6:16, “There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him.” What is first on the list? “Haughty eyes” (v. 17), a visual depiction of pride. A few chapters later, wisdom personified declares, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate” (8:13).

God has a strong reason for hating pride so much because it is the sin that led to the fall of humanity. Pride is what prompted Lucifer to say in his heart:

“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isa. 14:13–14)

God’s grace is reserved for the humble.

God concluded His message to Isaiah by saying, “To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2). He blesses the humble, and He opposes the proud. Peter’s advice is, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). After all, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). The key is never to contest God’s wisdom but instead to accept humbly whatever God brings into your life as coming from His hand. The humble person realizes that God is in charge, always accomplishing His sovereign purposes.

Let’s look at a specific example from the book of Job. In the midst of terrible suffering, Job tragically compounded his anguish by doing what he should have learned never to do: He contested God’s wisdom, expressly resenting what the mighty hand of God had brought him. Take time to sense the raw human emotion seething under the words of his lament:

I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me. You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm. I know you will bring me down to death.” (Job 30:20–23 NIV)

Here the mighty hand of God is not the hand of deliverance but of testing, acting like the refiner’s fire to make Job’s faith come out like gold. Contrary to Job’s gloomy expectations, that’s exactly what happened. Once God had humbled him, Job confessed, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3, 5–6 NIV). Job was saying, “God, now I see You like never before! I have learned that my perceptions are seriously limited, but now I know I can trust You implicitly.”

Never view the mighty hand of God in your life as a slap in the face; instead, see it as grounds for hope. Realize He has only good intentions toward you as His child, and therefore, expect to see good results from your present circumstances. Such an attitude leaves no steam for worry to operate on.

Peter said when you humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, “He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). What’s the proper time? His time, not our time. When will it be? When He has accomplished His purpose. Now that might seem a little vague, but there’s no cause for concern: God has perfect timing. Indeed, our salvation depended on His perfect timing. Paul specified that the hope of eternal life was “at the proper time manifested” through Jesus Christ (Titus 1:2–3). Trusting in God’s timing is no light or peripheral matter to the Christian faith.

At the proper time God will exalt us. Paul used a Greek term that speaks of lifting us out of our present trouble. God promises to lift you out. How are we to conduct ourselves until the promised time of deliverance? Peter said, “Humble yourselves … casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).

Learn to Trust

Humility requires strong confidence in a caring God. I can’t humble myself under God’s pressure if I don’t think He cares. You cast your anxiety on Him when you’re able to say, however haltingly, “Lord, it’s difficult.… I’m having trouble handling this trial, but I’m giving You the whole deal because I know You care for me.” Take all your anxiety—all the discontent, discouragement, despair, questioning, pain, and suffering that you’re going through—and toss it all onto God. Trade it in for trust in God, who really cares about you.

Hannah is a great illustration of someone who did just that. She didn’t have any children, which was a significant trial for a Jewish woman in ancient times. The book of 1 Samuel tells us what she did about her problem:

“She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. And she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life.…” Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli [the priest] was watching her mouth. As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman; for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.” Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (1 Sam. 1:10–18)

Her circumstances hadn’t changed, but she changed when she cast her care on the Lord. Soon thereafter, God blessed her with a son, Samuel, who grew to be a great man of God. God also gave her three other sons and two daughters. Hannah is proof: When you remain humble under the mighty hand of God, giving Him all your anxiety on His loving care, He will exalt you in due time.

Always remember Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Now that doesn’t mean we won’t feel shaky at times. Think how Hannah felt when the priest accused her of being drunk. Sometimes when we’re bearing burdens that in themselves seem too great to bear, people treat us insensitively and heap more burdens on us. But, like Hannah, we can be gracious about it and find relief through prayer to the God who does care.

What will that attitude of trust look like when dealing with fear and anxiety?

As mentioned, Peter wrote: “Casting all of your care upon Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Then, make your plans and go ahead and do whatever God holds you responsible for doing. Fill your mind with concern for the other persons toward whom you are expressing love and how you will do so, in whatever you are doing.