What are you worried about today?
If you are like most people, you are probably worried about your weight. That might not be at the top of your list, but according to a survey by Beneden Health in the U.K., that’s the # 1 concern for most people. Here are the Top Ten Worries (counting down from #10 to #1) according to their survey:
9. Job security
8. Rent/mortgage payment
7. Credit card debt
6. Low energy level
5. Overdrafts and loans
4. Overall fitness
3. Lack of savings/financial future
2. Growing old
Here are three observations about that list:
1. These mostly fall into two categories: health and finances.
2. These are universal human concerns.
3. These are issues that will be with us as long as we live.
You’re going to have to die in order to stop being concerned about your money and your health.
Have you ever wondered how much time you spend worrying? It’s probably more than you think. The same survey asked people how much time they spend worrying. Here’s what they found out.
No wonder we have trouble sleeping
Each week, we spend 14.31 hours worrying.
That equals 744 hours of worry each year.
Which turns into 45,243 hours of worry over a lifetime.
That equals 1885 days in a lifetime spent doing nothing but worrying.
Which means that we spend 5.2 years of life captured by worry.
No wonder we have trouble sleeping.
No wonder we feel under so much pressure.
No wonder we find it hard to concentrate.
For most people, it’s not just one thing. It’s many things wrapped up together. It’s a job, school, money, work, health, bills to pay, your husband, your wife, your ex-husband, your ex-wife, the in-laws, the kids, and on and on it goes. Any one thing we could handle or even two things, but when you get three or four together, your knees start to buckle.
Strangled by Worry
To worry is to “give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” The word itself comes from the Old English wyrgan, which means to strangle or to seize by the throat. That’s a helpful image because we’ve all felt the pressure squeezing us. A friend told me about going through a crisis regarding his newborn grandchildren with serious medical issues. He spoke of being on a roller coaster of emotions as the doctors first gave bad news, then good news, then news that was somewhat confusing. He felt like being taken to the top and then suddenly dropped to the bottom. He added this telling phrase: “I’ve found that it squeezes my mind quite a bit while trying to do other things.”
Let me give you a simple definition. Worry is excessive concern over the affairs of life. The key obviously is the word “excessive.” Worry happens when you are so concerned about the problems of life that you can’t think of nothing else. It is an all-consuming feeling of uncertainty and fear.
Worry displaces God in your life
And it is a sin. Worry is a sin for two reasons: First, because it displaces God in your life. When you commit the sin of worry, you are living as though God did not exist. And you are living as though you alone can solve your problems.Second, because it distracts you from the things that really matter in life. As long as you are worrying, you can’t do anything else. You are strangled by worry.
How can we tell when the legitimate concerns of life have become sinful worries? Here are three practical guidelines.
You are probably well into worry . . .
1. When the thing you are concerned about is the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night.
2. When you find yourself thinking about it during every spare moment.
3. When you find yourself bringing it up in every conversation.
Seen in that light, most of us worry a lot more than we would like to admit.
Different Versions of the Same Verse
Here is God’s answer to our worries, stated in one verse tucked away near the end of Peter’s first epistle:
“Casting all your cares on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
To get a broader perspective, I checked out some other translations and paraphrases of this verse, starting with the venerable King James Version:
“Casting all your cares upon him, for he careth for you” (KJV).
“Throw all your anxieties upon him, because he cares about you” (CJB).
God issues the same invitation to all of us
“You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (Phillips).
“Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you” (MSG).
“Since God cares for you, let him carry all your burdens and worries” (Voice).
Look at the different words that are used for the problems of life:
Cares . . . Anxieties . . . Burdens . . . Worries.
That covers all of life. No matter which word you choose, God makes the same invitation to all of us.
“Take your worries . . .
Take your cares . . .
Take your burdens . . .
Take your anxieties . . .
And give them to me.”
Let’s take a moment to unpack this text and see how to respond to God’s gracious invitation.
I. A Definite Action: “Cast all your cares on him.”
This is a familiar biblical theme, stated in different ways in different parts of the Bible: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:5). “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
God has done everything necessary for you to trust him
“Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6). Finally we have the wonderful promise of Hebrews 13:5, “For he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” Any of those verses would make the case, but the accumulated weight makes it even stronger. God intends that you not be strangled by worry. God has done everything necessary for you to trust him.He has said, “Give me your problems.” 1 Peter 5:7 says we are to “cast” our cares on the Lord. The word “cast” means to throw off with vigor. It’s the picture of a hiker at the end of a long day unhooking his pack and tossing it down. That’s what you are to do with your anxieties. By an act of the will, you are to unload all your worries on the Lord.
We think we’re in control–but we’re not
Said in two words, we are “release anxiety.” I tend to hang on to my problems. Odd as it seems, I feel more comfortable when I am worrying about my finances or my family or my future. We all like to be in control, don’t we?Worry gives us the illusion of control: “Well, as long as I’m worrying about __________, I can do something about it.” No, not really. There is a fine line between worry and legitimate concern. We had breakfast recently with a wonderful family. They have a child with some special needs. As we talked about that child, they mentioned some of the steps they had taken on her behalf. Do they worry about her?I suppose they do, but they did not seem “worried” as they spoke to us. She is a special concern to them. Perhaps better said, their daughter is a special assignment from the Lord to them. So they think always about how to make sure her needs are met while still maintaining a happy, healthy family.
Don’t let worry strangle you
I mention that so you will know that Peter is not telling us, “Blow off all the concerns of life.” You’ve got to think about things like your job, your education, your finances, your children, your health, your friendships, and your plans for the future. Every day you make decisions that touch all these areas. So what is Peter saying?Make wise plans in all areas.Make the decisions you need to make.But do not be “strangled” with worry about things you can’t control. Thus the command to “release” anxiety and “throw the full weight” of your anxieties on the Lord. We are to “unload all our worries” on him.
II. A Deliberate Release: “Cast all your cares on him.”
Not long ago I sat down, took out a piece of paper, and began to write down the things that were troubling me. Within a few minutes I ended up with a list of 43 items. After I looked at it, I added four more things to the list. As I studied the list later, two thoughts occurred to me. First, none of the items are world-shaking in their impact. Many of them are just the normal, ongoing concerns of life. Nothing was in the category of “Bringing peace to the Middle East.” Yet the things on my list, trivial though they are, have a cumulative effect that weighs heavily on the soul. Second, I have no power to solve or change most of the things on my list, at least not immediately. Some things will take care of themselves. Other things involve God’s timing. Still others are ongoing prayer requests that I pray about almost every day. After I made my list, I wrote I Peter 5:7 at the bottom of the page to remind me that I don’t have to solve my own problems. Let me encourage you to write your own list.You don’t need to let anyone else see it.Just take a few minutes to write down your cares, worries and burdens. Then write “1 Peter 5:7” at the bottom of the list. Since this list isn’t for public consumption, write down whatever is on your heart. Then rip it up and throw it away. The very act of ripping up the list is part of what it means to “cast” your cares on the Lord.
III. A Divine Destination: “Cast all your cares on him.”
Either he carries the worry or we do. If we do, we’ll be divided, distracted, disturbed, confused, frustrated and burdened. If he carries the load, we may still have trouble and difficulties, but no consuming anxiety, no dominating fear, no undue concern, and no hopeless despair. Here’s another way to say it: “Jesus will carry your backpack as you hike toward heaven.”It’s not just that your burdens will be carried.It’s that he, the Lord of the universe, will carry them for you.
Either he carries the worries or we do
He who is before all things.He who is above all things.He who created all things.He who is our Savior.He who knows and loves us.He who came for us.He who died for us.He who rose for us.He who intercedes for us.He who will one day come again for us.He will personally carry all our worries.
Jesus will carry your backpack
Why would we lug that heavy weight when Jesus will do it for us?Why would we cling to our problems when the Lord of Heaven and Earth will do it for us?Why would we stagger under that load when our Lord says, “Let me carry that for you”? Here is an invitation both intimate and personal.Jesus says, “Will you let me carry your burdens?”How can you say no to him?
IV. A Delightful Reason: “Because he cares for you.”
Ponder those four simple words: “He cares for you.”What truth they contain.What hope in the time of trouble. In thinking about this, it helps to know that when Peter wrote this verse, he used two different Greek words. The word translated “cares” or “worries” or “anxieties” in the first half is completely different from the word translated “cares” in the second half. The words aren’t related at all. The word in the second half of the verse means something like “to fix your thoughts upon” something. One writer said it means “much thought is given to you.” I like that.It means he has you on his heart.He is always thinking about you.
God has you on his heart
We can think of many contemporary examples: The mother waiting while her child has surgery. She has that child always in her heart. Nothing can intrude or change her focus. Or think of a soldier returning home from war. How fervently his family makes ready to greet him. How often they hope and pray for his safe return. Or think of a husband coming home from a long trip. How happy his wife will be to see him. How carefully she prepares everything for his arrival. Or think of a prodigal son who at long last is returning from the far country. In the story Jesus told, much thought was given to him by his father. He waited and watched and hoped for the day when at last his son would return. Nothing would deter him. The neighbors may have thought the father was crazy. “Come inside, old man. That boy of yours is never coming home.” But he would not be turned aside. His son was on his heart, and at the first sign on the horizon, he ran to meet him. Here is the great truth that makes this verse so powerful. Our Father has us on his heart. He is always thinking about us.
Can God Be Trusted?
He’s not the God we think he is. Many of us fear that if we cast all our cares on him, somehow he will mess things up. That’s why people sometimes say, “Pray for the opposite of what you want because God gives the opposite of what we most desire.” At the bottom of it all, when you move past the problems we think we have, if you burrow down deep, you find that our deepest problems are theological. Can God be trusted?
No wonder we’re so messed up!
Until you settle that issue, worry will rule your life. We fear that if we submit our lives to Jesus Christ, he’ll mess things up for us. He’ll ask us to do things we don’t want to do, he’ll send us places we don’t want to go, he’ll bring unpleasant people into our lives, and he’ll force us to be someone we don’t want to be. We secretly fear he can’t be trusted to take care of us. So we decide to handle our own problems and we wonder why we are frustrated and unfulfilled. No wonder we’re so messed up! After I preached on this topic, a woman commented to me that she doesn’t have any problem casting her burdens on the Lord. Her problem is that she keeps pulling her burdens back, like a fisherman with a casting rod who throws the line into the water and then reels it back in again. Many of us can identify with that. As the old chorus says, “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”
The Heart of Our Faith
Here is the heart of biblical Christianity: God cares for me. He proved it by sending his own Son to die for me. The issue was settled for all time at the cross. Any God who would sacrifice his own Son for a person like me must care for me. There’s no other reason he would do such a thing. When we come to God, we don’t have to convince him to hear us. We don’t have to chant or shout or burn incense or ring bells or use a priest or offer a sacrifice. We come as his children and gladly he hears us. We don’t do anything to make God care for us. We start from the assurance, rooted in history, that God cares for us. And on that basis we can unload all our worries on him. He loves us.He made us.He came for us.He died for us.He rose for us.He will come again for us.
And we still have our burdens and concerns, the questions that keep us awake at midnight.What will tomorrow bring?Will our health hold up or will we have a heart attack or a sudden stroke?Will we end up in a nursing home or waste away in a hospital?What about our children? Will they serve the Lord? What if something happens to them?Who will take care of us in our old age?Singles wonder if they will ever marry. Married couples look at all the divorces and wonder if they will make it.Will we live to see our grandchildren?We all have concerns about our career choices and we wonder where we will be in ten years.
God will never leave you!
Here are three truths that ought to encourage us as we think about our worries over the future:1. Don’t worry about tomorrow because God is already there. He is the God who goes before his people.2. God promises to be with you no matter what happens to you tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and all the days after that.
3. You can live without fear because God has you on his heart at this very moment. He will not forget you, indeed, he cannot forget you. We all have our concerns. I have my list of 43 things (that quickly grew to 47). You have your list that grows day by day. We’ll never be free of the cares of this world as long as we live in this world. But we can live without suffocating worry that strangles our faith and drains our joy. To all our fears the Lord says quite simply: “I am with you always. Fear not.” Will things get worse? Fear not.Will I lose my health? Fear not.Will I get cancer? Fear not.Will I keep my job? Fear not.Will my loved ones undergo hardship? Fear not.Will my investments collapse? Fear not.Will I run out of money this year? Fear not.Will tragedy strike my family? Fear not.Will my children disappointment me? Fear not.Will others ridicule my faith? Fear not.Will my cherished plans come to nothing? Fear not.Will my dreams turn to ashes? Fear not.Will God Himself forsake me? Fear not.Will I face death this year? Fear not. We of all people ought to be optimistic as we face tomorrow. We have a great future because we have a great God.
Chin up, child of God
So chin up, child of God. Stop staring in the soup. Pull those shoulders back. Put a smile on your face. Take your troubles, wrap them up in a box, and give them all to the Lord. As the old chorus says, Cheer up, ye saints of God. There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing to make you feel afraid, Nothing to make you doubt. Remember, Jesus never fails, So why not trust Him and shout, You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning!
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.