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October 10, 2020
September 26, 2023

How to Deal With Life’s Anxieties During the Pandemic

1 Peter is an incredible letter that Peter wrote to our brothers and sisters from the first century. The primary thing that Peter addresses in this letter is the issue of suffering in the life of the believer. Learning what God’s Word has to say about suffering and hardships in this world is absolutely critical. Why? Because this has always been the promise of Jesus—that in this life, if you choose to follow Jesus and pattern your life after Him, you will be persecuted and go through suffering. And in many ways, this is what it means to follow Jesus—not health and wealth, but suffering.

2020 has been a unique time of hardship and suffering and it seems as though no one on planet earth has been exempt. But as hard as this year has been for EVERYONE, God tells us through His Word that there’s going to be another level of suffering and hardships that we as God’s people are going to go through, simply because we’re choosing to follow after Jesus in this world.

Because of the suffering and hardships of life in general and because of the suffering and hardships that will come with following Jesus in this world, many of us are walking around with a sinking feeling in our gut. This is why, when you look at your life, you see that you’re always feeling a little agitated, always a bit nervous, always sort of upset, always restless, and always a little bit scared. It’s called anxiety.

If this anxiety just sits on you for any length of time it’ll produce physical ramifications. You’ll get ulcers and high blood pressure and sleeplessness. And it’ll have spiritual ramifications. You’ll lose the taste, the feel, and the sight of God in your soul. The things that used to stir you, the things that used to make your soul glad, the things that used to make you feel safe and secure in God, they no longer resonate. If anxiety stays on you and if it’s left undealt with, you’ll lose the sense of God—not necessarily your belief in God, but you’ll lose the feel of God. You’ll lose the sense of His care for you. Anxiety is at the end of the day feeling like God doesn’t care.

And this is why anxiety is so dangerous. It makes you forget the most basic and the most precious truths of the gospel—the simple and precious truth that God cares for you. That He cares for you so much, He sent His Son for you.

And so Peter, considering all the suffering and hardships that we will face in this world, says to us:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-9 ESV)

Notice here from the outset that Peter doesn’t say, IF you have anxieties cast them on God. He assumes that you have anxieties.

So, let’s ask two questions:

  1. What is the root of anxiety?
  2. How do we battle anxiety?

What is the Root of Anxiety?

First, what is the root of anxiety?

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-9 ESV)

Peter tells us in verse 6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God …” And how do you humble yourself? Verse 7 tells us by, “casting all your anxieties on Him.” Notice, it doesn’t say humble yourselves AND cast your anxieties on God. It says humble yourselves, casting your anxieties on God. Peter is telling us how to humble ourselves.

In other words, he’s saying that to have, maintain, and hold onto your anxiety is pride. That may sound like a strange thought, but this is what Peter is showing us. He’s showing us that the root of anxiety is pride. But how can that be? Anxiety doesn’t feel like pride at all does it?

Being anxious, worrying, being afraid, and having sleepless nights, those things don’t seem like puffed up, prideful things. They seem like humble, lowly things don’t they?

But that’s the danger of anxiety, it’s pride that hides itself as humility. Anxiety is rooted in pride because anxiety reveals that we are trying to place ourselves in God’s seat. Anxiety reveals that we’re trying to take God’s place, it reveals our distrust for Him and His ways, and it reveals our fears that He’s going to get things wrong.

Let me show you this in Matthew 6. In Matthew 6, we have a famous passage of Jesus teaching on anxiety:

“Therefore I tell you, 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 ESV)

And look at verse 32:

“For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32 ESV)

Jesus says, everybody else is running after all these things, and your Heavenly Father what? Your Father KNOWS He says. Jesus says, your Heavenly Father KNOWS.

And so, look at it like this. If you’re worried today, the premise behind your worry is because you’re saying YOU know.[1]

You’re saying you know how history has to go. You’re saying, “It must happen this way. It can’t happen any other way.” You’re saying you know exactly what has to happen for you to be happy and for things to go well. And the reason why you’re anxious and worrying is because you’re afraid God will get it wrong. You’re trying to take God’s place. Don’t you see?

Pastor Tim Keller said that God would give you only what you would have asked for if you knew what He knows. In other words, we ask God for all sorts of things and we wonder sometimes, “God, why don’t you give this to me? Don’t you love me? Don’t you care?” But the premise behind that argument is that you know what you need and what’s best for you. That you know how life works best. But Jesus is saying, you don’t know. God knows what’s actually best for you. He’s dealing with 10 million data points that you have absolutely no idea about and if you knew what He knows, you would be asking for exactly what He’s giving you right now. You wouldn’t be asking for anything different because if you knew what He knows, you would be able to see that what He’s giving you is what’s actually best for you.

Pastor Tim Keller says that anxiety is, at the end of the day, fearing that God will get it wrong, and bitterness is believing that God did get it wrong.

And so, anxiety is rooted in the pride of fearing that God will get it wrong. It’s rooted in the pride that says, I know, He doesn’t know, and if I were in charge I would get it right.

Why Do We Fall Into Anxiety?

Now, let’s ask the second question, “How do we battle anxiety?”

In Psalm 27, we have a look into how King David is fighting against his anxieties[2]:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” (Psalm 27:1-3 ESV)

The world thinks that the reason people fall into anxiety is because we worry about all sorts of things that may never happen and the solution is to just stop doing that—to just stop worrying about all sorts of things that, in reality, will most likely never happen. That is the best solution the world has to offer us in dealing with our anxieties, and a whole self-help industry is built around that solution.

But is that what David is doing?

Look at verse 3, “Though an army encamp against me … though war arise against me …”  He doesn’t say an army has encamped against me, he doesn’t say war has risen against him. He says, “even if it did … ” So, what is David doing? David is doing the very opposite of what all the self-help books would tell us to do about anxiety. David is imagining the worst-case scenario. David is saying even if all of his worst nightmares came true:

  • “… my heart shall not fear …”
  • “… yet, I will be confident.”
  • “… yet the LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … He is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

You see, we fall into anxiety NOT because we’re needlessly worrying about our worst-case scenarios, but we fall into anxiety because we don’t have a view of God that enables us to face our worst case scenarios. We don’t have a category for how we’ll be able to deal with life if our worst nightmares happen. That’s the real problem.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it has taught us that we do live in a world where the worst-case scenarios happen. We do live in a world where a world-wide pandemic can truly strike. A world where you can be hated, hurt, or even killed because of the color of your skin. A world where, in a moment, you can lose your job and your family face homelessness.

And so, the solution to our anxiety problem can’t simply be, just don’t think about worst-case scenarios. Instead, you have to have a view of God that enables you to face your worst-case scenarios. You have to have such a view of God that you can say, “Even if sickness claims me, even if people hate me, and even if I lose all my possessions and securities in this world, YET my heart shall not fear. Yet I will be confident. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

But, how do we get this kind of view of God? How then do we battle anxiety in this way? David shows us how in the very next verse:

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4 ESV)

Why is David able, in the face of his greatest nightmares and the worst case scenarios of his life, to be unshakeable in God? Because look at David’s prayer in verse 4. Look at what he’s after. He says, “There’s only one thing that I’m after, God. To dwell in your presence, and to gaze upon your beauty.” David is revealing to us the secret to living a life free from anxiety. He’s saying if God becomes our one thing—if our one greatest desire and joy is being in His presence and having Him be the source of all my satisfaction—then we’re invincible, safe, and fearless.

Why? Because every other good thing in your life is vulnerable in this world. They can be threatened, be ill-treated, and they can be taken away. But nothing and no one can take God from you. Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35 ESV) No, he says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

God is the only one weighty enough and powerful enough to bear the burden of being your one thing.

And who is He? Who is God that He should be worthy of being our one thing? Seems like a blasphemous thing to ask, but let’s ask it.

Who is He that He should be our greatest desire and our greatest source of satisfaction? Why should we say, “Unless I have you God I won’t be happy and unless I have you God, my life will fall apart”?

Why should we run to Him with all of our worries and all of our fears and anxieties?

Let’s go back to 1 Peter. He tells us two critical things about God that makes Him worthy.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” ( 1 Peter 5:6–7 ESV)

What does Peter tell us? Do you see it? He tells us that our God is mighty: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God …” And what else? That not only is He mighty, but that He cares: “… casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” He’s worthy because our God is MIGHTY and He CARES.

Him being both is absolutely critical.

You see, because if He was ONLY mighty, but NOT caring—if He was powerful only, controlled all things only, but didn’t give a rip about us—could we go to Him? Could we trust in Him? No. Because you would have absolutely no confidence that He would use His might, His power, for your good.

But on the other hand, if He was ONLY caring, but NOT mighty—if He was crazy about you and cherished you, but He wasn’t mighty enough or powerful enough to control ALL things—could we fully trust in Him and count on Him? No. Because He may love you and care for you and only want the best things for you, but with certain things He would say, “That’s just outside of my control. I don’t have the power to do that.”

The reason why He’s worthy enough to be our one thing is because He’s both. And many of us, we can trace our anxieties to the fact that we’re not living as if He’s both.

Some of us are anxious, not because we don’t think God cares for us or loves us, but because we don’t believe God is mighty enough in His power to actually be in control over all things. You’re anxious and you’re worrying because you’re thinking perhaps God has nothing to do with that thing or that maybe God can’t do anything about that situation. To live in a world where there are realms and domains where God is not in charge is a frightening world to live in. Of course you have anxiety.

Others of you right now aren’t anxious because you don’t think He has the power, you do believe that He has the power. In fact, that’s why you’re so upset. You’re saying, “God, I know You have the power to do something about this, so why aren’t You doing it?” The thing that you’re doubting is God’s care. You’re anxious because you’re asking, “God, don’t You care?” But hasn’t the cross of Jesus answered this question for good?

And so, what’s the solution? How do we deal with our anxieties? Peter is saying to us, cast all your anxieties on this God who is mighty and who cares. When Peter tells us to cast all our anxieties on God, what is he telling us to do? He’s telling us to pray:

“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 ESV)

Paul tells us to pray about everything. Everything you’re worried and anxious about, tell God about it in prayer. By prayer and supplication, Peter says. What does that mean? Peter is saying, ask Him. Ask Him for all the things that you want Him to do for you. And some of you are saying, “Well I do that already. I do that all the time, but I’m still anxious.”

But here’s the critical part. “With thanksgiving …” Peter says. With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

What does that mean? How do you ask God for something while already being thankful to Him for it? How do you do it?[3]

  • You’re saying, “God, whatever You do in response to this request is good. And so, I already thank You for it.”
  • You’re saying, “God, if I’m asking for something which You want for me but just not right now, I thank You for that. I thank You that Your timing is perfect.”
  • You’re saying, “God, if You give me the opposite of what I’m asking for, I thank You for that because, while I don’t know what’s ultimately best for me, I thank You, God, that you do.”

Trusting Him does not mean prayerlessness. Trusting Him means that we’re free to pray all the time about everything and ask for Him for all sorts of things. And because we have a God in heaven who is both mighty and cares for us, we can pray already with thanksgiving. Our thanksgiving isn’t held hostage to God giving us what we’re asking for. We can offer Him thanksgiving immediately because we know that whatever His response, it will be good.

But still, you may be asking, “How can I be sure that He’s worthy to be my one thing?”

How can we be sure that we have a mighty God that cares for us?

The only way to be sure is by going to the cross.

Look at the cross. Though He had all the power, all the might, how did He use it? He used all of His power, all of His might, not to take, but to give. Not to be served, but to serve.

He had the power to crush us because of our sins, but instead He was crushed for us

He had the power to forsake us for an eternity, but instead He was forsaken for us.

He had the might. He had the power to create any reality, but He chose the one where you would be created, the one where you would be alive and breathing. The reason why He’s able to say that He knew you before the foundations of the world is because He was saying, “I’m dedicating all of My might and all of My power to orchestrate a reality where you would exist and be alive and breathing and here today—so that you can know Me and enjoy Me forever.”

He had the power to write any story, but He chose to write the story where His Son would come and die on a cross so that you may know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you have a mighty and powerful God in heaven that cares for you.
And so, we can trust Him. We can humble ourselves under His mighty hand and cast all of our anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you.

[1] Timothy J. Keller, How Money Makes Us Orphans (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 1997).
[2] Timothy J. Keller, The Problem of Anxiety (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 1993).
[3] Timothy J. Keller, Peace: Overcoming Anxiety (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 1990).

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Halim Suh
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