The viral conversation #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike is still going. It arose from fears due to a delayed response to a text message. “If you’re a human being living in 2017 and you’re not anxious, there’s something wrong with you”, says the originator Sarah Fader. We live in an age of anxiety. Every generation has its anxieties, but we have taken it to a new level. Generalised anxiety disorder (something different from depression) is common. Some say it is at epidemic level. The psychologist Jean Twenge observes that the average anxiety level of a Western teenager today is at a level that would have denoted a clinical anxiety disorder in the 1950s. A culture of self-obsession has not helped. But anxiety is neither to be trivialised nor valorised. It is very real in different levels and degrees and some situations require medical help. Yet it is also in part a spiritual issue. Self-help, mind tricks and “mindfulness” cannot treat it: these only mask the symptoms. The Bible has much to say about anxiety that is vital.
It is easy to repeat verses like 1 Peter 5:7 without insight into what it is to cast our cares and anxieties on the Lord. Alexander Nisbet has some helpful counsel on what this means. In general, he says, it teaches that believers should faith commit everything to the Lord in faith. They should commit their need to be sustained in fulfilling their duty, the outcome of their actions and their anxiety about these to the Lord. The Lord’s loving providence does not permit Him to neglect them, or any of their concerns. There is no anxiety He cannot bear for us and therefore no anxiety that we must hold onto and keep to ourselves.
1. Believers Are Subject to Anxiety
The Lord’s children are subject to much sinful anxiety in following their duty. This is apparent when they are hindered from their duty. This happens when they look more to their own weakness and the difficulties in the way of duty than to the sufficiency promised by the One that calls them to the duty (Exodus 3:11). It also evident when they are discouraged in their duty and filled with apprehension about probable hazards in the way of duty (Isaiah 51:12-13). The Spirit of the Lord wants to make them aware of this sin, since He finds it necessary to exhort them thus to cast all our care on Him.
2. Anxiety is Sinful When it Makes Us Unable to Do Our Duty to God
It is most commendable when Christians are concerned about discharging their duty aright and avoiding anything that may provoke the Lord in their way of going about it. This must stir them up to great diligence and making use of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 7:11). They may be concerned about the way they go about their duty or its success and outcome. Yet if such concern distracts their heart in duty and incapacitates them for it, it is sinful. It is to be shaken off by all that would discharge their duty acceptably. This is why the apostle directs us here to cast all our care on Him.
3. Prayer Frees Us from Anxiety
Prayer is the way to be liberated from anxiety and heart-dividing anxieties which indispose us for duty. Through prayer, we must commit to the Lord the success and outcome of our duty together with our being able to fulfil it (Philippians 4:6). We must commit them to Him by faith (Proverbs 16:3). This is how the Spirit of the Lord directs us to be free from sinful anxiety: to cast all our care on Him.
4. No Matter How Small, All Anxiety Must Be Cast on the Lord
The Lord allows His children to cast all their anxieties on Him. They may be about their souls and matters of highest concern or about their bodies and lesser matters. It does not matter how small the thing is about which their heart becomes anxious: He allows them to commit it to Him. He knows that a very small matter is ready to occasion much vexation of spirit to His own (Jonah 4:8). This is why He directs them to cast all their care on Him.
5. We Are Commanded to Cast Our Anxiety on the Lord
Believers have the privilege of unburdening themselves of their distrustful heart-dividing anxieties by casting them over on the Lord. Not only this, it is also the very great desire of our God that we should not sink under the insupportable burden of our own needless cares and fears. It is His authoritative command that we put these off ourselves and on Him. His people may not disobey this unless they wish to incur His displeasure and destroy themselves. This has the force of a command “Casting all your care upon him”.
6. Trusting God Relieves Anxiety about Outcomes
We cannot discharge any duty aright so long as we do not trust the Lord in our managing of it and for its outcome and success. We cannot do our duty aright while the heart is distracted with unbelieving anxiety about this. Trusting God with these is the best way to make speed in every duty. Having exhorted in previous verses in relation to duties toward their overseers, one another, and to God, Peter now introduces something to help attain all these. It is something without which none of them could be attained: cast all your care on the Lord.
7. Pride Holds onto Anxiety; Humility Casts It on the Lord
Unbelieving anxiety makes Christians break themselves with the burden of these anxieties which God requires us to cast on Himself. This is one of the greatest signs of pride there is in the world. Trusting God with the weight of these in following our duty is a prime evidence of true humility. This is a special way for the Lord’s people to prove themselves to be humbled under God’s mighty hand and without this they cannot but declare their pride. The way the words are constructed and their connection with the previous version imply this: “Humble yourselves…Casting all your care upon him” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
8. The Lord Cares for Your Wellbeing as Much as You Do
The Lord is altogether free from things such as anxiety and sorrow that are in us (Numbers 23:19). Yet those of His people that cast their care on Him will find no less proof of His love (keeping them from danger as far as necessary and providing everything they need) than if He were as careful for their wellbeing as they can be for themselves. Considering this should liberate their hearts from their distrustful anxieties. His care is asserted as a reason to enforce the direction to cast all their care on Him.
9. Keeping Anxiety to Ourselves Is Distrust of God’s Fatherly Providence
The Lord’s people must not take the weight of their concerns on themselves. They must not have their hearts distracted with anxiety about managing duties and their outcome. So long as they do this they do not believe the fatherly providence of God watching over them for their good. Such faith could not but banish their anxieties. This is implied in connecting God’s fatherly care as a reason for the direction to cast all our care on Him.