Question: What lies at the bottom of the ocean and twitches?
Answer: A nervous wreck.
We’ve all been there. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been a nervous wreck at any point in your life. OK, for those of you that didn’t raise your hand, if there was anybody… I guarantee that at some point in your life, it will happen. You will be incapacitated by the anxiety of something going on in your life. It will be terrible. It will be awful. And you will wish for it to end, but you can’t seem to get yourself out of it no matter how hard you try.
Well, that was uplifting. ‘Bye everyone! I’m gonna go home and eat four pints of Ben and Jerry’s and binge watch A Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. Peace out.
Just kidding! Well, maybe I’ll do that later today.
Here’s the thing, though. Worry and fear and anxiety can get the best of us. We worry about our family, our friends, our job, our health, our future. In fact, there is so much that could happen in our lives that we don’t know about and can’t control, it’s hard NOT to have anxiety and worry.
Anxiety is defined as: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, or—the desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease. I don’t have to tell you that having anxiety is not fun. It can be uncomfortable at best, and be all-consuming and terrifying at worst.
I found this percentage break-down of what we have anxiety about in our lives. I found it on the internet, so it must be true.
An average person's anxiety is focused on:
40% -- things that will never happen
30% -- things about the past that can't be changed
12% -- things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% -- about health, which gets worse with stress
8% -- about real problems that will be faced
Now, there was no scientific study to back those percentages up, but I would guess these percentages are pretty accurate for most of us. 82% of what we have anxiety about are things that do not matter. At all. And only 8% are real problems that we will have to deal with.
Seems like we spend a whole lot of time worrying and being anxious over things that don’t warrant that type of time and stress. Can I get an amen on that???!!!
Anxiety is a huge deal. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are actually the most common mental illness in our country right now. An estimated 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders. That’s 18% of the population. But only about 1/3 of those suffering seek out and receive treatment.
My theory behind that, is that we have actually normalized anxiety in America. We are expected to be anxious and stressed, because if we are anxious and stressed, we are busy and important and have THINGS TO BE ANXIOUS AND STRESSED ABOUT. A work ethic and caring about our lives is a good thing—but not when we see anxiety as almost like a status symbol, and we think that suffering from extreme anxiety and worry is normal.
I’m here to tell you today that IT IS NOT NORMAL. Being worried or having anxiety periodically will happen. That is normal. But if you are consistently anxious and it is affecting your life on a regular basis, that is not normal. It is OK to seek help, and please know that if you are experiencing anxiety issues, getting treatment for an anxiety disorder will make your life infinitely better.
So why am I talking so much about anxiety and worry today? It’s because we read a very profound statement in 1 Peter today. It goes by pretty quickly in a long litany of helpful Christian life advice, so it’s easy to miss. It’s chapter 5, verse 7. Check this out: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
I’m going to say that again. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
Who is the he and him in that statement…? Yeah, God. So, when said without previous statements before it, so we know who the pronouns are talking about, it’s “Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.”
Now if you’re like me, and you have a tendency towards worry and anxiety, you probably hear the first part of that statement “Cast all your anxiety on God”, and your first reaction is something like: “Ummmmm…. Easier said than done!”
I know that when I hear that first part, I’m like, oh sure, I’ll get right on that. Easy as pie. Now let me go curl up into the fetal position in my Snuggy and pretend all my anxiety is gone because I gave it to God! Huzzah!
It’s so EASY to have that reaction!
But that reaction happens, because we only focus on the first half of the statement. If we only hear “Cast all your anxiety on God”, it sounds like it’s up to us to get rid of our anxiety. It almost sounds like if we are having issues with anxiety and worry, it’s our fault because we haven’t given the anxiety to God!
And, sometimes that can be true. But in the long run, hearing that is not helpful. Because it makes it all about us. It makes it all about what we do. And what we do will always fall short, because we can’t do it alone. We need the rest of that statement. We need the second half.
“Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.”
Do you see how hearing the full statement changes it completely? We are only able to do the first part, because of the second part. BECAUSE GOD CARES FOR US, we are able to cast all our anxiety on God. We can’t do it ourselves. Only with God are we able to do that.
And only with God do we know that God lifts our heavy “worry burden” when we can’t do it ourselves. Nothing is too big for God! God can take our biggest and worst anxieties and worries!
There’s another Bible passage about this. Paul talks about anxiety in his letter to the Philippians:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So Paul basically says, if you’re anxious, pray to God about it—and God will give you peace.
It’s pretty much an extended version of what our original Bible verse says: “Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.” God promises to care for us and give us peace, so we are able to cast our anxieties on God through prayer.
My friend’s father wrote an article in a Christian publication about his anxiety. In his article, he talks about how he had prayerfully decided to retire. The problem was that he was overcome with anxiety about this major life change.
But while he was thinking about his anxiety and his fear about the future, he remembered another time in his life when he had been anxious.
It was many years before, when he was leaving his call serving as pastor of a congregation. He knew that it was time to leave that congregation, but he was living in the parsonage, the house owned by the congregation. He and his wife had a 2 very young kids, a 1 year old and a 4 year old, and they had nothing lined up—no jobs, no housing, no way to be financially stable, nothing-- and they had to leave the house within the month. It would be an understatement to say that they were paralyzed by the anxiety of it all. Still, they trusted that God would take care of them.
And right before they had to move, a new opportunity materialized for him, one that they did not see coming. And it wasn’t just any old opportunity, it was the right one—for him, and for his family. God took care of them!
So as he was dealing with this new life change of retiring, and the uncertainty of it, he looked back on that experience in this article and said, if I could trust then, I can trust now.
We all have things in our lives that we are anxious and worried about. It could be a major life change, like my friend’s dad. It could be a family situation, or the health of a friend, or the future in general.
But know that whatever you are anxious about, you can trust God to care for you. You can bring your worries and anxieties to God in prayer. You can know that God gives you peace and helps you through the uncertainty and fear. No matter what life throws at you, no matter what the future holds, God loves you and takes care of you and gives you peace.
“Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.”
Whenever I am anxious about the future, I pray a specific prayer that is in the new Lutheran hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. May I pray it with all of you today? Great! Let’s pray.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.