Invisible Suitcases - "You don't care about me."

1 Peter 5:6-11 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

“They sat there in a circle, their therapist, Nicole Archer, asking, ‘When you’re anxious, how does it feel?’ One young woman whispered, ‘I have a faster heart rate.’ Another said, ‘I feel panicky.’ Sweating. Ragged breathing. Insomnia.” That’s what Jan Hoffman reported about her visit to a therapy clinic at Central Florida University. She went there to attempt to get a grasp on a rising phenomenon in America today - the health crisis of anxiety. She went on in her article to cite some startling and troubling statistics. She reported that anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students. And she noted that nearly 1 in 6 college students have been diagnosed or treated for anxiety in the last twelve months. That’s a rate of 17% of the student population every, single year.

Of course, none this is dry academic interest that looks uncaringly at the lives of others in some laboratory. It’s anything but that. It’s what Peter calls, “your anxiety.” It’s having a list a mile long of present and future concerns that are yours. It’s the generalized sense that you get in your gut that something could go wrong at any moment. It’s anxiety that can come bunched and local, or general and ever-present. It’s the tenseness that comes after swirling fears take up residence in your heart. It’s the waves that roll over and emotionally squash you like a tank might - waves that can seem to have the power suffocate the life right out you. And it’s anxiety that has its roots in an idea that’s packed in our invisible suitcases – the idea that says, “God, you don’t care.”

And so because anxiety comes after us, Peter goes after anxiety. He goes after it as one of his first things by going after it last. We’re right here reading through the last things in his letter. Now you may say, “First things are first.” And there is a great deal of truth to that. Often in the Bible, you’ll find the most important matters first. But it’s also true that sometimes first things come last. Because that’s how communication worked back then. Peter’s letter would have been read out loud. They didn’t have copiers or Twitter accounts or Facebook pages to get a message out. They had reading out loud. And when you read something out loud sometimes the last things that are read are the things that stick the best. What I’m trying to point out is that when Peter wrote these words he wasn’t thinking to himself, “Oh, I better quick throw in my leftover thoughts. I suppose they need to get in here somewhere.” He would have been thinking to himself, “How can I make these truths memorable? How can I make them stick?” And we have his answer. Sometimes last things are first things. So Peter talks about anxiety last in his letter so that the message will be first in our minds.

He says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (v. 7) There’s a whole lot to say about this incredible verse, but before I do that it’s important to notice where this kingly verse makes its throne. Because it’s going to help us understand our world. Just before this Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (v. 6) Do you see the connection between the two? Sometimes God’s mighty hand in our lives can bring lowness. Sometimes a life situation can come along that can take you out like a Mack truck. Sometimes a big bill comes due. Sometimes your health goes down the drain. Sometimes somebody hurts you deeply. Sometimes - well - you fill-in-the-blank with your own experience. And when this happens God’s mighty hand can feel capricious or heavy or worse yet just plain gone. And what follows those kind of thoughts and feelings is a vicious case of anxiety.

I remember a time in my life like that. God’s hand felt heavy on me in a number of different ways. And then my dog got sick with cancer. So I owned the moment. I took it on. I warred through it. I’m not really talking about my responsibilities as an owner either. I’m talking about a deeper kind of ownership. I was owning the whole thing emotionally. I can see that now in retrospect. I did so much research on canine cancer that I’m pretty sure I knew more than the vet. I researched cancer diets for dogs and exercise and all that stuff. I knew everything science knew about the statistics of Callie’s survival and how cancer like hers normally behaved. Because I was owning the problem. Like I could actually fix her cancer. Like it was mine. Like I was Callie’s god.

That’s what anxiety really is when you think about it. Anxiety is me owning all responsibility and care for myself and my life. It’s me making myself my own god. And most of the time, we’re not doing this because we’re atheists. It’s not that we don’t believe God exists. It’s that deep down we are worried(Although we wouldn’t ever say it like this!) that God isn’t powerful enough to help. Or that he doesn’t care. It really is that simple when you think it through. Anxiety is saying, “God I’m not sure you can help, or maybe you don’t want to come through for me in this situation.” That’s what it boils down to. Because, honestly, if God can help and also actually wants to, what will we ever be afraid of? So instead of dealing with anxiety God’s way, we take ultimate responsibility by believing deep down that either A.) God isn’t good. Or, B.) God can’t help, which beliefs - if I may point out - go straight to the heart of faith and of the gospel and try to take a machete to them.

And Peter gets that. He’d felt anxiety’s sting and known its power. And before I dig deeper into what he tells us to do. I want to tell you what he did. He had to do it. He stared at his sick mother-in-law with a pit in his stomach. He knew the emotional pins and needles of wondering, “How is my career going to continue to provide for family?” He must’ve thought about that on the mornings when he sailed fishless off the Sea of Galilee. He knew the cold sweat that anxiety put on him as he sat around that fire during Jesus’ trial. And he knew what it was to think that a watery grave was minutes away when the Sea of Galilee turned into a massive sea monster. And you know what he learned to do in each of those situations? He turned to God’s Word and promises. He must’ve. That’s the only thing that can explain what he does here in his letter.

You know what he does? As he writes the Word, he believes and he quotes the Word. Because that is what we must do in life. We have to. It is God’s way to help us deal with anxiety. God gives us promises in his Word for a reason. We are to believe them. We are to use them. We are to bring them up in our mind’s eye over and over again. God’s promises aren’t treasures that we put under lock and key in our hearts and only handle with velvet gloves on Sunday mornings in a clean and holy setting. God’s promises are there and are meant to get hauled out especially in our darkest, messiest and muckiest situations. They are meant to be gotten out and flicked on even more often than our iPhones. And so that’s what Peter did when he was anxious. He dug out Psalm 55:23, put it on the tip of his brain, and deep into his heart and said to himself, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord and he will sustain you.” Peter’s not about to tell us to do anything he doesn’t do himself. So he quotes the Psalm here.

With a twist. With some additional understanding. By making it clear to us how big a promise this really is. Did you catch how he did that? He broadened it to be all encompassing and perfect. He said, “Cast all your anxiety.”  In fact, if you read the command as Peter originally wrote it the first word he uses is, “all,” which tells you a whole lot. God’s interest isn’t just in what we feel justified in feeling anxious about. God’s interest is thankfully so much greater. Because there is some anxiety that we see in ourselves and we say, “This is so silly and nit picky for me to get antsy about this. I just need to get over it.” But God still wants it. Whether we think its justifiable or not, whether the anxiety is explainable or not, God wants it. Peter is saying, “God wants every massive worry, and every nit picky little anxiety, he wants it all.”

That’s when the action comes. Peter tells us to cast them, which seems so Peter if you think about it. Peter the fisherman. Peter the guy who spent a good part of his life on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. You can almost see him throwing those nets in your mind’s eye. It sails out onto the water. It sinks down. It’s gone. It’s left in the depths of the seas. Every anxiety – all of them! – they’re cast. They’re gone. So aquatic. So perfect. So Peter. Cast and leave to God.

At least, that’s what I thought I’d find when I studied Peter’s idea of casting. But I learned something. Casting here is even better than I thought. It’s even more compelling and clearer than I knew before. While cast is a powerful action word, it’s not really emphasizing the cast itself. It’s emphasizing where it lands. It’s not really about the throwing so much as it is about what happens when the throwing is done. The word, “cast,” really is talking about a transfer of responsibility. When you cast, you transfer the final moral and legal responsibility to another party. Do you see what that means? It’s even better than what I thought before. It means that God not only wants us to toss our anxieties off of ourselves, he wants us assign them to him.

Transfer responsibility. Cast it. Let go and let God. Say it however you want to. We cast for a pure, perfect gospel reason. “Because he cares for you.” (v. 7) Don’t you just love that? Isn’t that just perfect? There’s no big long doctrinal treatise about anxiety and its effects. There’s no big huge presentation of in depth gospel here. Sometimes when waves of anxiety are rolling in, you just need it short and simple and clear. You just need to know he cares. You just need to know that it’s ok to let God take the reins and have the final say in your life. You just need to be told sometimes, “Hey worry wart (And I’m talking to myself as much as I am anyone else here today.), your anxiety is trying to tell you that God isn’t interested in your problems. That’s a big, fat, juicy lie. He cares about you.”

But you know what the best part of all is? This is a gospel reason with historical guts. This isn’t God being sentimental. It’s not him patting you on the head telling you, “Hey, it’s going to be ok. I care about you.” As nice as that sounds, this isn’t God trotting out nice, sugary statements that aren’t really true so we can live to see another day. This is a gospel reason with historical guts. Let me tell you about this God who says he cares. He has shown that he does. He didn’t sit in heaven and say, “Someday I’ll come down and make it all ok.” He did come down. He made it all ok. He came down into this chaos and sin and guilt and he made perfect sense of it with his cross. But he didn’t stop there. He got that truth into your life. He entered your world that before seemed so random and he guided and controlled and governed so that here in this moment I could tell you, “God came in Christ. He rescued you. You’re his now.” There’s nothing sentimental about this. This is gospel truth with historical guts. This God who says he cares has the resume, the power, and the compassion to do what he’s saying he will do. Care and act. Love and protect. Govern and help.

That’s why we can do what Peter’s telling us to do. To take every anxiety, every worry, and every concern and cast it. Cast it overhand. Cast it underhand. Cast it sidearm. I don’t care. Just throw it. Huck it. Pitch it – whatever term you want to use – just don’t carry it yourself. Transfer the responsibility to the one being who is supposed to have it: God. And then live life. Love others. Work hard. And let God be God. You can let him. He loves you more than you can ever imagine. Just take one look at Jesus and you can know that.

Do life that way. Because anxiety will come. Sit in that emergency room and cast. Take that exam for school and cast. Go to that job interview and cast. Stare at that empty checking account and cast. Think of your kids and cast. Feel a pang of the conscience and cast. Cast. Cast. Cast. Transfer all ultimate responsibility to him. Because he cares for you. Stop treating that promise like it’s only meant to be handled on Sunday mornings with velvet gloves. Get it out into your life. Get it out when its darkest and messiest and most awful. Put it on the tip of your brain and in the center of your heart. Do it. All day every day if you have to. God’s telling you to do it and you have every historical gospel reason to do it. We can cast. Because he cares for you. Amen.

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