“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” Or so we were advised in this past Sunday’s passage from 1st Peter (5:7). A parishioner asked me this week what this looks like in real life. How do we hand over our worries and fears to God, especially the more reasonable ones?
Well, let’s consider the alternatives. We can cast all our anxiety on others, hoping they’ll carry at least some of it for us and lighten our load. Unfortunately, I find that when I try to offload my anxiety onto someone else, nothing is really subtracted on my end. The contagion simply multiplies.
We can cast some of our anxiety on God – or even hold onto all of it ourselves. We can try to reassure ourselves that we can handle our self-imposed burdens. We can turn our stubbornness into a test of strength and then condemn ourselves for failing a test God never intended us to take in the first place.
I suppose we could start by figuring out what is truly our anxiety vs. what we’re trying in vain to carry for someone else. That might ease the burden a bit.
It might also help if we could discern where our concerns are truly focused. Sometimes that specific, nagging discomfort in the middle of the night provides just enough motivation to change what we would otherwise neglect or ignore. We’re not being asked to cast off our legitimate responsibilities to others. Perhaps not all concerns we lump into “anxiety” are created equal. If they wake us up and open our eyes to where we’re called to make a difference, then they might be God-given signals we should heed.
Maybe that’s why we’re counseled to cast all our anxiety on God – so that God can help us sort through it all and take back on our shoulders what is truly ours to carry.
Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 extends the advice: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We could just stop at the impossibility of the first line, I suppose, but then we’d miss the impossible promise of peace that follows. We’re talking about God here; since when is the impossible a barrier?
We’re given a couple of practical clues here as well. Prayer seems key – and not just those carefully censored prayers where we only present to God what seems reasonable and polite. We’re encouraged to make all of our requests known – both so we can figure out what is truly needed and so we’re not wasting our time playing silly games with the One who knows our hearts anyway.
But prayer is more than just a laundry list of all that’s wrong; it’s also thanksgiving for what’s right. The stillness of prayer can open our eyes to see the beauty and possibility that anxiety masks. It can help us take the good news as seriously as we take the bad and give us strength to act responsibly.
Sometimes we get so focused on the do’s and don’ts of Scripture that we forget the promises undergirding them – whether it’s the peace passing all understanding or the simple reassurance 1st Peter offers for why we should bother God with all our anxiety in the first place. Because it’s not a bother. “Cast all your anxiety on him…” Why? “Because he cares for you.”