The remedy for anxiety is surprisingly simple. Don’t misunderstand me. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. For example, hitting a baseball is incredibly simply. Swing the bat, hit the ball. It’s not a lot more complicated than that. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, many argue that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. One writer explains it this way: “The diameter of a baseball is 3 inches long. The sweet spot (area on the bat where you will hit the ball the hardest) is 2.75 inches, less than the diameter of the baseball. Home plate has a width of 17 inches and an average height of 36 inches. The area of home plate is roughly 612 square inches, while the area of the ball is just over 7 square inches. This means that the ball, which you have to hit, takes up less than 2% of all the area which is a strike. . . . When facing a 95 mph fastball, a hitter has just .43 seconds to decide if they want to swing or not. This means that in less than a half of a second, the batter has to identify that it is a fastball, determine where the pitch will end up, and figure out if they want to swing.” [i] And that’s just one pitch out of many. No wonder the best hitters in history only record a hit 35% of the time. It may be simple, but it’s not easy.
So what is the simple, yet difficult remedy for anxiety? It’s trust. Some may say that anxious people have trouble trusting, but I’m not sure that’s true. Everybody trusts somebody or something. The anxious trusts himself or herself. That’s the problem, isn’t it? We’re trusting ourselves and the weight is too heavy. It’s too hard! Peter is inviting us to trust Jesus! His yoke is easy, His burden is light. Notice in the text four reasons to trust God with your anxious heart.
But before I show these to you, I want you to understand something. Anxious Christian, telling you to believe these things in the throes of your anxiety may be like telling the drowning man to stop drowning. In the moment of your deepest anxieties, you are unable to believe these things which is why you’re anxious! So what you need is a Peter for your anxious heart. Notice what Peter is doing, he’s not just telling the drowning person to stop drowning. He’s throwing the life preserver of truth to the drowning. Every one of us needs that. So whether you’re wrestling with anxieties or not, someone in your life is. So listen to these truths so you’re ready to help them when they cannot help themselves.
God’s Hand is Mighty
Look at 1 Peter 5:6, Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God. Peter is reminding us that God is mighty, He’s all-powerful. Now if you’re one of those with a tendency towards anxieties, you may look at the phrase and it doesn’t comfort you because you’re anxious about whether His mighty hand is really on your side. The Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, writing about the depressed and anxious (who were then called melancholic), wrote this: “They read all the threatenings of the Word with a ready perception and application. However, they read the promises over and over without noticing them, as if they had not read them.”[ii]
The way you respond to God’s mighty hand is totally dependent upon one thing: your relationship to Him. If God’s hand is mighty and you are His enemy because you have not repented and believed in the Gospel, then this is horrifyingly bad news. But if God’s hand is mighty and you are His son or daughter, because you have trusted in Christ then there could be no better news.
The mighty hand of God that made the Heavens and the earth
Was held by nails upon the Cross to bear the sinner's curse
The mighty hand of God undoes the wretched work of sin
Restores our lost and dying souls to victory in Him
The mighty hand of God remains, His faithfulness is sure
To hold our lives within His grasp, in Christ we are secure
Even though our hearts are prone to wander
We could never run beyond His reach
Nothing in the world could separate us
From the love of Christ, our King
He will never let us go, the grip of God will hold
He will never let us go, in Christ we are secure
He will never let us go, the grip of God will hold[iii]
For you to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand is simply to admit your lack of control over all the things that cause you anxiety. It’s to commit them to His control, to His care. As Corrie Ten Boom has said, “never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
God Cares for You
Look with me at verse 7 again: casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. He cares for you. He cares for you. He cares for you. Those four words have the potential to destroy your anxiety if you let them.
Jesus cares more about you than you do. He cares more about your well-being than you do. He cares more about your family than you do. He cares more about your finances than you do. He cares more about your ultimate comfort than you do. He cares more about your health than you do. He cares more about your safety than you do. He cares more about your spiritual state than you do. Brothers and sisters, if you belong to Jesus you will not find anything in life of significance that you care about more than Jesus. So cast your cares on Him!
Again, this is simple but it’s not easy. Peter himself struggled to believe that Jesus cared for him. In Mark 4 we read of one example. Peter and the rest of the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. Suddenly a fierce storm arose, and high waves began to break into the boat. It was slowly filling with water and the disciples, many of them seasoned sailors, were anxious and afraid. Meanwhile, Jesus was sleeping. The disciples woke Him up and yelled at Him: “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?!?” Jesus, do you really care about us?
That word care in Mark 4 is the same word in the original language that Peter uses here. He really does care, Peter says. Don’t take Jesus’ silence in your suffering to mean He doesn’t care. He cares for you, Peter says. Then why doesn’t He act?
God’s Timing is Perfect
Look again at verse 6: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. Did you catch that? God intervenes “at the proper time.”
Just like when Jesus calmed the storm in Mark 4. He could’ve supernaturally kept the storm from coming. He could’ve calmed the storm after the first few raindrops, or after the first gust of wind blew a wave into the boat. But no, Jesus waited. Why? What was Jesus waiting for? I believe that Jesus was waiting for the disciples to stop trusting in themselves. Think about it. Jesus didn’t calm the storm until the came to Him, questioning His care. Why? Because it wasn’t until then that the disciples had stopped trusting in themselves and their ability to navigate the storm on their own strength.
Christian: Jesus’ timing is perfect. He knows the right time. Whatever has you anxious today, you can trust Jesus to care for you. Maybe, like the disciples, you’ve questioned Jesus’ care. Or maybe like Martha outside the tomb of Lazarus, you’ve questioned Jesus’ timing. And that makes you anxious too. What if you’ve doubted Him one too many times? What if you’ve questioned His mercy once too often? What will Jesus do to the likes of you?
God Will Exalt You
Let’s read verse 6 one more time: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may . . . what? Exalt you. What are Jesus’ plans for you Christian? Not merely a welcome. Yes, you will be welcomed into His presence, but this promise is bigger than that. Not mere acceptance. Yes, if your faith is in Christ you will find perfect acceptance, but this is bigger than that. Jesus promises to exalt you. The day is coming, Christian, when all the humiliation and affliction of this world will melt away into glory. Where you will be raised up to a position of honor and exaltation, more glorious than anything you’ve ever seen in this life.
Surely this can’t be right. Can my future really be that good? What if I mess this up somehow? Won’t Jesus get fed up with all my pride, anxieties, and unbelief? In his book Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund writes this: “Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in their capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistances to Christ’s love. Even when we run out of tangible reasons to be cast out, such as specific sins or failures, we tend to retain a vague sense that, given enough time, Jesus will finally grow tired of us and hold us at arm’s length. . . .
“No wait”—we say, cautiously approaching Jesus—“you don’t understand. I’ve really messed up, in all kinds of ways.”
I know, he responds.
“You know most of it, sure. Certainly more than what others see. But there’s perversity down inside me that is hidden form everyone.”
I know it all.
“Well—the thing is, it isn’t just my past. It’s my present too.”
“But I don’t know if I can break free of this any time soon.”
That’s the only kind of person I’m here to help.
“The burden is heavy—and heavier all the time.”
Then let me carry it.
“It’s too much to bear.”
Not for me.
“You don’t get it. My offenses aren’t directed toward others. They’re against you.”
Then I am the one most suited to forgive them.
“But the more of the ugliness in me you discover, the sooner you’ll get fed up with me.”
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.[iv]
Unbeliever, this is the love you’ve been looking for all your life. It’s yours for the taking today. You don’t need to clean yourself up to receive it. How could you? As the hymnwriter Joseph Hart said, "Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream; all the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.”[v]
Christian, this is the love we have in Christ. So cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.
[i] Matthew Edward Simco, “Is Hitting a Baseball the Hardest Thing to Do in Sports?,” SiOWfa16: Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy, October 18, 2016, https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa16/2016/10/18/is-hitting-a-baseball-the-hardest-thing-to-do-in-sports/.
[ii] Michael S. Lundy and J.I. Packer, Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 77.
[iii] The Citizens, The Mighty Hand of God, 2015, https://genius.com/Citizens-the-mighty-hand-of-god-lyrics.
[iv] Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 63–64.
[v] Joseph Hart, Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy, 1759, https://hymnary.org/text/come_ye_sinners_poor_and_needy_weak_and.