“Submission” is a dirty word today. It implies authority, that whatever or whomever you have to submit to has power over you. And no one likes the idea of being bossed around.
But there is a kind of submission that is precious, and by it we find peace and the release of anxiety in our lives. Let’s take a look at God’s promise to us written in the Apostle Peter’s first letter, that deals with this issue:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV)
Peter tells us to cast all our anxiety on God. Casting our anxieties on God is a way of coming under his leadership. God tells us to humbly do this because he, the Lord of heaven and earth, actually cares about what we are anxious about.
Let’s start with asking, why in this letter does Peter address anxiety?
Anxiety Is Normal
Let’s face it, life is full of anxiety—worries about healthcare costs, concerns about the future of our children, fears over war and rumors of war, stress over employment and money and housing and possessions and retirement.
The Bible assumes our humanity and all the weaknesses that come with it—including anxiety. Humans are anxious. Peter knows this, and God knows this, so he counsels us through Peter.
Notice the assumption behind Peter’s words here. Christians can, and certainly do, experience anxiety – it’s not a matter of if, but when. Peter doesn’t try to dismiss this possibility. Instead, he wants to help us discover what we should do when we became anxious. And we will see that the solution involves humility.
But there’s another reason Peter writes about anxiety.
Anxiety Is Tied to Humility
Peter addresses anxiety because it relates to authority and our attitude about God’s authority in our lives.
Peter addresses Christian leaders at the end of his letter, who we call “elders.” He uses the metaphor of shepherds caring for their flock to describe their leadership role in the Christian community. He says they must be willing and eager to serve others (v.2). He also says that despite their authority, elders shouldn’t “lord it over” those under their care (v.3).
No one likes an arrogant authoritarian leader, and God doesn’t either. God wants his people under servant-hearted caring leaders, because that’s the kind of leader God is—even though he is Lord of all!
Ultimately, our example of leadership comes from the Chief Shepherd, Jesus.
Peter further expands this teaching to all Christians:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:5-6 NIV)
Peter explains that we are all to understand ourselves as under God’s ultimate leadership and Lordship. Then Peter draws a straight line between anxiety and submission to God’s leadership in our lives: “Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you.”
So what’s the connection? What’s the relationship between a humble attitude of submitting to leadership, and anxiety?
Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6). This is the submission we talked about earlier.
Peter says in his letter, “clothe yourselves with humility” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV). The original Greek phrase literally means “tie on humility,” which conjures up the image of tying on a servant’s apron. It is possible that Peter has a picture of Jesus in mind when in John 13 Jesus takes a towel, wraps it around his waist, and washes his disciples’ feet. He was both literally and figuratively clothed with humility.
Humility is the clothing that every believer in the Lord Jesus must wear. If we humbly submit to God as the one in total control of our lives, we will willingly cast all our cares upon God, knowing he is the only one who can handle them.
Conversely, this verse identifies anxiety as a pride problem. When we do not submit to God’s authority over us, it’s the result of arrogance. We want to be God. Arrogance leaves our anxiety unaddressed. Those who refuse to submit to God will consistently struggle with anxiety, because they can’t handle life on their own and prey to our angst-inducing world, without God by their side.
In fact, Peter says God “opposes the proud.” When he says that God opposes the proud, he means that God is their enemy. The proud can expect no favor from God. God opposes our self-reliance. And if we want to be the Lord of our lives, he lets us be that, but it closes us off to his favor and help.
So now it’s time for a heart-check.
Anxiety Is An Indicator of Our Relationship with God
If you are anxious about every little thing in your life, what does that say about where you place your trust? Do you truly believe God is in control of your life, guiding and directing it in the way best for you, working all things out for good?
What would your life look like if you genuinely trusted God for all things?
Humility flows out of genuine trust in our relationship with and position before God. Conversely, anxiety comes from a proud refusal to submit to God’s authority, and to entrust our concerns to him.
A Solution to Anxiety
So what do we do? Cast our anxiety onto our caring Lord. As we do this, he replaces our anxiety with peace.
But how do we do this, practically speaking? Elsewhere in the Bible, Paul writes:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
A wonderful transaction takes place through prayer: we give our anxiety to God, and he gives us his peace.
Do you believe God cares for you? I don’t mean intellectually. I mean at a heart level, in a way that changes your behavior.
Far too many of us live lives full of anxiety because we do not embrace this simple truth: God wants to care for us. And because we do not believe it, we do not trust God, and because we don’t trust him, we don’t submit to him and humbly give him our anxieties in prayer.
But what does it look like to give our anxiety to God?
How to Cast All Your Anxiety on Him
Paul tells us that when we are anxious, we should present our requests to God—in other words, ask him for what we need. We should also do this, he says, with thanksgiving.
That means that when you are anxious about any situation or circumstance, God wants you to not only tell him about how you’re feeling but to submit those feelings to him by asking him for his help!
This could take the form of journaling, or talking to God as you drive to work, or sitting down with your spouse and committing your anxieties to the Lord together, or just pausing your activities to speak to God from your heart—with thankfulness. After all, prayer is simply speaking to God.
And Paul says that when we ask God for help, with a grateful heart that trusts his good and wise leadership, we will experience peace from God that transcends understanding!
But note that God’s peace that transcends all understanding is given to those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). While anxiety will always be a natural part of human nature, only those who have placed their hope and trust in Jesus can experience the kind of anxiety-easing peace that God gives to his children. For only those who believe in Jesus are God’s children (John 1:12).
Have you ever tried casting your cares on God in prayer? Do you believe today that he cares about you?
Why don’t you choose to trust him right now. Believe he cares for you.
He showed you his great love by sending his Son Jesus to take care of the sins you have committed against him by paying your debts to God with his own life on the cross. Jesus rose from the dead so that he might give new life to everyone who comes to him asking for mercy.
If God would offer you forgiveness for all your offenses at the cost of his own Son, and a new life at the price of his own, would he not also offer you his precious help for your every circumstance?
Throw those cares off your shoulders and into the lap of the Lord of all—do it today. Grab a paper and pen to write out a prayer or set aside time to cast your anxieties to the Lord. Maybe the first care to throw on him is that your relationship with him be restored in Jesus Christ for the very first time.