What if you never had to worry again? For many of us, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves. But over and over again, God tells us to stop being so anxious and trust Him. Joyce Meyer once said that the Bible says “Fear not” 365 times – one for every day of the week. While that sounds awesome and many of us need daily reminders to not be afraid or anxious, any dingo with a Bible concordance can look it up and find that it is closer to half of that. The point is not a magical number of “fear nots” like 365 or 777 or 13 for those of us with varying degrees of OCD, but that God would emphasize this point so much.
Back when the Bible was being written, there was no bold print or underlining or ALL CAPS or exclamation points!!!!!!!!!! to emphasize a word or phrase. The only way one could indicate the importance of a word or idea and truly emphasize it was to repeat it over and over again. So God emphasizes the importance of not being afraid by saying “Do not be afraid” or “Do not be anxious” over 170 times!
Many of us don’t take Him up on the offer. We treat Him like any other friend who gives us good advice and come up with a plethora of excuses. It’s too simple. Life is more complicated than that. I can’t just let go of my worries; I have to do something about them. If I stop worrying about worrying, I will worry about NOT worrying!
The Apostle Peter wrote about worrying. He said, “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. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
So many times we want something from God like He is a Heavenly pez dispenser. If I say the right word when I pray or do enough good things, He will give me peace and power and money and everything I could ever hope for or even imagine.
It doesn’t work that way. You have to give something away in order to receive something better.
Thankfully, what we give away isn’t worth keeping anyway. If we want peace and freedom from worry, we must give up our need for control and humble ourselves. Peter knew from experience what he was talking about. He was humbled before he learned how to stop worrying. One day Jesus told His disciples that He was praying for them though He knew they would all run away after He was crucified. Peter arrogantly proclaimed, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” (Matthew 26:33 NRS) That is pretty cocky! There is somehing to be said for loyalty, but Peter was not being loyal; he was telling Jesus that He was wrong and he didn’t need His help or prayers. Jesus was not fooled. He told Peter that before the night was over he would deny even knowing Him three times. Jesus was basically telling Peter, “You might want to hold off on those sweet, sweet figs you’re stuffing your face with because you’ve got a big piece of humble pie coming for breakfast.” Or something like that.
We can either humble ourselves or be humbled. Which one is easier? Humbling yourself just means acknowledging that you are not the one in control. If you haven’t noticed yet, you never have any control anyway. You never took control away from God and He never gave it to you. When we worry we are trying to solve problems that only God can solve. How does worrying about money help put more money in your pocket? Or how does worrying about your health make you healthier? If anything, worry actually makes you sick! If you can just admit that you are not in control, it will help you become free from worry.
Just admitting that you are not in control is only part of it. God is not calling us to be submissive to everyone and think that anyone else would be better at controlling our lives than God. Peter says we must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. This is not to show us that God could annihilate us with one fell swoop of His giant God hand, but to remind us just how powerful God is – big enough to take care of all of our problems and every one else’s as well. He is all-powerful God Almighty. That is mighty comforting to me.
There is a popular thought that since Peter had been a fisherman, casting has to do with throwing your fishing line out. This would be the opposite of Peter’s intention. Peter is not encouraging us to throw out our lines. When you fish, you are hoping to bring back your line with more than you cast away. Ideally, you will trade a little worm for a big fish. Unfortunately for most of us, what we would bring back would not be anything good; we’d more likely even lose the worm and get nothing but sludge.
We are not to cast our cares in the hopes of reeling them back in again. How do we cast our cares? There is a small word in the original language that follows “casting.” The Greek word is epi, which means “upon” or “away.” So combining the two, we get “to throw upon, place upon.” Luke 19:35 is the only other verse in the Bible where these two words are together. Two of Jesus’ disciples take their cloaks and cast them upon the donkey. That is a vivid picture of what we are to do with our worries: throw them upon the Beast of burden. He bears the weight of our burdens if we first cast our worries on Him rather than trying to bear the weight of the world on our shoulders. The Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the NT defines “casting upon” as “to cause responsibility for something to be upon someone, to put responsibility on, to make responsible for.” If we trust in God, we give him the responsibility to take care of us. When we cast our cares upon Him, we literally “put upon him all responsibility for your cares’ or ‘make him responsible for all your worries.'” He cares enough to take care of you.
The place a word falls in the sentence is very important in the Greek. Unlike English, Greek sentences are not required to have a subject then a verb then a direct object and so on and so forth. In a Greek sentence, any noun or verb can be first and first word is the most important word in the sentence. So even more important than “casting” or where we cast our cares, the first and most important word in verse 7 is all. God knows we like to get caught up in the details like where to throw our worries or how to cast them or how often. The most important thing to remember is we should cast “all” of our worries away. The Greek word for all means ALL. Not what is least important or what you are willing to give up. We must give up all.
Some things are easy to give up and cast aside. You have probably forgotten a hundred things today that you might have cared about at the time, but now it doesn’t seem to matter. Maybe it took you 15 minutes to choose your socks this morning, but now they rest on the floor where even your dog doesn’t even care to sniff with feigned interest. The cares Peter is referring to include the big as well as the small. The word means burden, worry, to be drawn in different directions, or a distraction. (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the NT) Instead of focusing on Jesus or the important things of life, we are often distracted and our minds are pulled in different directions.
When Jesus told Peter to come out and join him as He walked on the water, Peter obeyed, but almost immediately began to sink as he focused on everything except Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)
When we look at our problems and focus our minds on trying to solve them on our own, we will inevitably become afraid and start to worry. We will experience “a feeling of apprehension or distress in view of possible danger or misfortune” (Louw-Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the NT). That is anxiety. That is not trusting fully in God. And that is a sin because He has commanded us so often to not be afraid and not be anxious.
God doesn’t leave us drowning in our worries. He tells us to give Him our cares because He cares for you. This can be taken a few ways according to various dictionaries and translations. I believe the ambiguity was intentional because all three are true.
1. God cares ABOUT you. He thinks about you all the time. Psalm 139:17-18 says, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.”
2. God cares CONCERNING you. Like any good father, he is concerned about you and considers everything in the light of how it might affect you concerning your welfare and needs. That doesn’t mean we will always be happy or all our needs will be met immediately, but we can be confident that all things will work out for our good in the end. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
3. God cares FOR you. He is not against you. He is for you. He works for our behalf and in our favor so we can stop trying so hard in our finite strength and wisdom. We can never care for ourselves as well as He cares for us.
So stop worrying. Humble yourself and let Him have control and all the responsibility that is His alone. You might finally find what a wise man once penned to be true: if you Don’t Worry, you’d Be Happy.
-Dedicated to Pierre Marcel Schroeder (whose name ironically is French for Peter), who taught myself and those he loved how to live life carefree and humble even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
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