Anxiety and God
What does it mean to turn over all our anxiety to God? Was Peter really serious in 1 Peter 5:7 when he wrote, “Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you”? This verse seems like it’s supposed to be liberating, but I’m afraid that in real life, many of us read it for comfort, but keep on worrying anyway.
Should we read this verse and just do what it says? Is it really that simple?
British Methodist theologian Adam Clarke wrote that we should cast all of our “distracting care” on God because “he meddles, or concerns himself with the things that interest” us. So God is a meddler. Any Christian who has walked with God for a length of time already knows this is true, but it’s fun reading it from a theologian. We don’t usually think of God as a “meddler” because of the negative way the word is often used, but that’s what he does. Nothing is too large or small for God to concern himself with.
The Greek word translated “turn over to”, or “cast upon” in many traditional translations means “to throw upon” or “to place upon”. The same word is used in Luke 19:35 when the disciples brought a donkey to Jesus and threw their garments on it before Jesus rode it. There’s a sense here that we’re supposed to take the things that stress us out and throw them on God. We sometimes use this kind of terminology when we hand off responsibilities to other people– How many times have we told people, “I really don’t want to throw this on you…” or “I hate placing this on your back”?
So how do we give our burdens to God? John Wesley wrote that we’re supposed to cast our cares on God “in every want or pressure.” The radical lesson I think we’re supposed to take away from 1 Peter 5:7 is that Christians shouldn’t be worrying or stressing about anything. Ever. But I don’t think we should take this to the other extreme and blow everything off either, otherwise, many of us would never pray for the things that concern us!
I’ve occasionally experienced situations that should have been stressful, but the peace of God was so strong at the time that it almost felt like the crisis wasn’t really happening. Then when someone asked me later how I managed to keep things under control, I told them the truth: I let God take care of it. I’d like to say I do that every time, but I’m not there yet. Like many other things in life, worrying or not worrying is a decision that has to be made, and it involves self-control. Self-control doesn’t usually show up overnight– it takes time to cultivate.