Thursday, December 9, 2010

Worry and Pride

          Most of us are aware of that often quoted verse in 1 Peter 5 that exhorts us to cast all our anxieties upon Him.  When conversing about worry and anxiety in a Sunday School setting, we can all give the right answer, that it is a sin to not trust God with our concerns.  Yet, the knee-jerk reaction in times of trouble is to hold onto them.  We may try to give our anxieties to the Lord, only to find ourselves relieving Him of the burden and taking them back on our own shoulders.  Why is it that we find it so difficult to cast our anxieties upon Him and leave them there?
          The answer is that our root problem is not anxiety.  It’s pride.  Anxiety is a manifestation of pride.  The truth of that is found in the very passage from which we quote the famous exhortation to “cast all your anxieties upon Him…”  Close inspection will show that we’ve been quoting it wrong, which is why we’ve failed to understand the issue.
          1 Peter 5:6-7 reads, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you.”  The imperative here is not to cast your anxieties upon Him, but to humble yourself.  Peter is exhorting the reader to assume a posture of humility before the Lord.  “Casting all your anxieties upon Him” is a participial phrase that modifies the main verb “humble.”  We humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God by casting all our anxieties upon Him.   
          Now that we understand the grammar, what is the connection between humility and trusting God with our problems?  At first glance, the two things may seem unrelated.
          These verses give us two reasons to trust God, and they work in tandem.  One without the other leaves us with no ground for comfort.  First, God is powerful.  The text tells us to humble ourselves under the might hand of God.  This speaks of God’s ability to help us.  He spoke all things into existence and upholds the existence of all things by the word of His power (Gen 1; Heb 1:3).  Surely dealing with my temporal concerns poses no strain for Almighty God.
          Second, God cares for His children.  How many times have we noted that God has marshalled all His resources to accomplish His great purpose for us, our transformation into the likeness of His Son?  All salvation history has proven His indomitable care for us.  As Paul notes in Romans 8:32, God’s grace toward us in Christ in the past proves that His loving disposition toward us is guaranteed in the future – “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
          So God is all-powerful and God cares for us.  As mentioned above, one of these without the other is of little comfort.  If God were all-powerful but did not care for us, we would have great reason for anxiety.  Because of our sin against Him we could and should expect His power to be used against us, not for us.  On the other hand, if God cared for us but was not all-powerful, we might appreciate the sentiment, but casting any anxieties upon Him would be a fruitless exercise since He would not have the ability to do anything about them.  
          But when we put those two truths together – that God is all-power and He cares for us – we find that He has both the ability and the inclination to work all things for our good, just as He has promised (Rom 8:28-30).  
          And this is why it is so incredibly prideful to take our anxieties upon ourselves and not cast them upon Him.  When we do this we are making the implicit statement that even though God is almighty and supremely loving toward us, we are better equipped to deal with the situation than He is.  Our actions simultaneously deny that He is powerful and caring, and exalt us above Him.  
          When we are struggling with anxiety or worry, we should first repent of our pride.  We should confess our implicit denial that He is powerful and loving.  We should ask forgiveness for thinking more highly of ourselves than of Him.  Then we should purpose to humble ourselves, by trusting Him with what concerns us, purposefully mindful of His mighty and caring hand.

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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