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 Pt 5.6-7).
I do a fair bit of worrying. I worry about long-term, epitaph-related matters like vocation, character and legacy. I worry about our kids’ futures and my wife’s health. I worry about what might happen and what most likely won’t. I worry that it’s far too late to become the man I always wanted to be but never was.
I worry about short-term matters like next week’s bills and our strained ability to meet them, the leaky gutter, the missing shingles and oil changes.
I worry about what people think about me or that they don’t. I worry about worrying and worry what God will do about it.
Like “Martha, Martha” I am “worried and bothered about so many things” (Lk 10.41).
We know worrying is bad for us. It makes us sick, joyless, short-tempered, small-minded, selfish. We know it won’t add one more minute to our already vaporous life (Lk 12.25). We know it will probably do just the opposite: shorten our life and/or stifle our enjoyment of it. But despite all of that I just can’t help it.
Jesus said quite frankly, “Do not be worried about your life” (Mt 6.25). Or in the king’s English, “Take no thought for your life.” Jesus cannot be serious. Did he really expect his followers to just stop worrying about things? It would be easy for him to say after all. He is God and an Omniscient God never has need to worry. Is it that easy, Jesus? Just stop worrying?
Jesus always means what he says even if we don’t always say it the way he means it.
Jesus did not command a flippant, Pollyannic life that never feels weight. He knew we traded that life when we wanted to become our own worry-free gods (Gen 3.5). He knew what he was doing when he entered our world of death, disease, despots and dangers. He knew the people he would save struggled for food, drink and clothes. Rather than spend life pursuing and enjoying the perfections of God, we chose to spend our lives hustling for basic sustenance.
In commanding us to be done with worry Jesus was not impatiently scolding those nervously biting their fingernails. He was giving us a gift. He came to free us from a life unduly concerned with temporary matters so we could concern ourselves with eternal matters. Jesus was assuring us the time, energy, tears and sleeplessness we expend on temporary matters will be far better spent “seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mt 6.33).
The same word Jesus used for worry (μεριμνᾶτε) is the verb form of what Paul used to describe his daily preoccupation (ἡ μέριμνα) with “all the churches” (2 Cor 11.29). There are certainly matters about which we should be gravely concerned and those we should not be. Jesus corrected those priorities by being tempted in every worrisome way without being overcome by worry (Heb 4.15). Jesus knows full well what it’s like to be “distressed and troubled” (Mk 14.33) He knows what is worth sweating over and what is not. Like Jesus we do not grow anxious about fleeting pressures like food, drink and clothing. We do concern ourselves with kingdom realities and daily taking up our cross (Lk 9.23).
Peter wrote incessant worrying or anxiety is an outworking of pride, or the opposite of humbling oneself before God (1 Pt 5.6-7). Worry is an expression of assumed self-dependence and probably idolatry. Something is just out of our reach and we must keep jumping or else. We cannot get rid of something we have or cannot get what we must have.
To humble oneself under God (v6) is to regularly cast “all your anxieties” on him (πᾶσαν τὴν μέριμναν ὑμῶν is emphasized in the verse) (v7). Why? Because God thinks we’re whiny babies who cannot handle some heat? No. Because he cares for us. Jesus invites us to life of humility, the life of the Spirit where in we shamelessly entrust our lives to the one who is able to guard our eternal joy (2 Tim 1.12).
In Christ, God has relieved us of the incessant pressure of the curse rightly imposed on us. The command to stop worrying about mere earthly concerns is not a weight Jesus puts on us. He’s commanding weight off of us. To fight hard against worry is to faithfully trust that God cares for us. He really cares. We don’t cast our anxieties on him so that he can worry instead of us. We cast our anxieties on him so he can care for us and free up our minds and hearts to pursue what is worth pursuing.
Jesus was serious. He purchased and gave us a life free from vain worry. It’s not a carefree life that feels no weight. It’s a life free from soul-robbing worry about shallow, fleeting concerns so we can dedicate ourselves to eternal matters – his kingdom and his righteousness. Jesus won’t pay the gas bill for you or change a pathology report. But he will ensure they don’t dominate your heart and mind. Jesus told Martha, Martha, “but one thing is necessary” (Lk 10.42). Let’s choose the good part that cannot be taken away.