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April 21, 2020

“Cast All Your (Covid–19) Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 5:7)

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The Bible tells us to take our anxious worries off our shoulders and place them on God. Easier said than done! It reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live skit with Bob Newhart: “Stop it!”

This verse has always bothered me, partially because my spiritual gift is "worry." I can find more creative ways to worry than anyone I know, and it has been a central task in my spiritual life to learn how not to worry. After all, worry exhibits a serious lack of trust in God and a misunderstanding of his caring love. As one person told me, “Worry is virtual atheism.”

But the verse always struck me as a type of impossible legalism. “Just do it” is the voice in my head. Just give your worry to God; and if you don’t, you’re a bad person. But can anyone out there just “cast all (not some of) your anxiety on him”?

1 Peter 5:6–7 is one sentence in Greek. While all translations frequently shorten long Greek sentences into shorter English sentences, in this case, that is a bad idea because it separates the command to “humble yourself” from the idea of “casting your anxieties.”

The ESV keeps the sentence together (as does the NASB and CSB): “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.” What is the relationship between “humble!” and “casting”? I think it goes two ways.

Humility is coming to a right understanding of who God is, and who you are in Christ. The God of the universe, he who made and sustains all things, is as loving as he is powerful. He loves us with a ferocity that we probably can’t fathom. He cares for us. As we come to a deeper and deeper understanding of what that means, it will be easier and easier to trust him with our anxieties. How blissful it must be to go through life with a detachment from the worries of life.

But I suspect the process is a bit cyclical. As you cast your worries on God, you will come to a deeper and deeper understanding of who he is and who you are, and that should lead us to a more profound sense of humility and willingness to continue trusting his loving care.

In these days of Covid-19, we have the opportunity to show God we love him, we trust him, and we rest secure in his arms. Let’s not insult him by worry, acting as if he doesn’t exist or care for us. But it all starts with the right understanding of who he is, and who I am. 

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