Summary: God is able to deal with all of our anxieties, not just a portion. He can relieve us of our fears for those things which will not really happen; for our concern for daily survival; and most of all, for our fear of death.
(Originally preached at Calverton Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD, Jan. 30, 1983; thereafter, with slight variations, at Clinton Baptist Church, Clinton, MD, July 29, 1984; Cresthill Baptist Church, Bowie, MD, Aug. 5, 1984; Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC, Aug. 12, 1984; First Baptist Church, Wheaton, MD, Sept. 16, 1984)
No one wants, it seems, to debate the thesis that ours is a peculiarly anxiety-ridden age. It has been the theme of much of our literature, it has preoccupied our playwrights and our filmmakers; it has absorbed the attention of psychiatrists and social workers, of entertainers and of clergymen. Anxiety is the catchword for our time; it is the umbrella under which we have come to place everything from drug abuse to overwork, everything from dieting to defense budgets: anxiety. Fear of the future, dread of what may come; anxiety, fear that we are not adequate for the days ahead, a nameless, gnawing, grinding suspicion that we are about to go under. Anxiety.
And if we are labeled as an anxious age, of course we have set out to do something about it. With American ingenuity, with old-fashioned Yankee know-how, we have come up with a number of solutions to the problems of anxiety.
We have devised the chemical escapes, so that properly understood, drug use and alcohol abuse are those ways our society has come through with that lift us up out of our worries and our miseries for a little while and allow us to forget, to escape. Never mind that when we come back from these indulgences, it's all there, just as scary and just as worrisome as before – but at least for the time being we have escaped.
Or we have developed the trap escapes – the trap escapes, the ones which look so attractive as ways out of our anxieties, but which end up making them worse, trapping us. We work hard because we fear a financial disaster, and we work harder and harder, faster and faster in order to stay ahead financially, but somehow it never really is enough. And the emotional and physical toll which is taken, the exhausted spirits and worn-out bodies become a trap, a vicious trap, because how we have something more to worry about. Plenty of cash in the bank, but too tired and too fragmented to enjoy what it might buy us. A trap. An anxiety trap, a trap escape.
I could name others, but I think you see the point. I could go on and bring you a detailed analysis of our anxiety syndrome, I could deal with the suicide rate and the crime rate, the divorce rate and the rate of admission to the mental hospitals. In the midst of such a world, such an age, I wonder how the clear, unequivocal command of the Apostle strikes you? Is there a word for us here, is there something in so deceptively simple a word as this? "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you."
Is this just one more nostrum in all age marked by cheap and easy solutions? Is this the latest California craze, the worst of the self-help adages? "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you."
My thesis this morning is that there is enormous wisdom in Peter’s command, "Cast all your anxieties on him." My thesis is that there is great wisdom in it and that it is gospel, it is good news and is liberation for us, prisoners as we are of our own making. Here is a key which will unlock us from the cages we have created; here is a hammer which will break open the boxes of our lives. “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you." And a good bit of its power rests in a single little word, in one nuance in this verse. Let me now highlight it for you: Cast ALL your anxieties on him. Cast ALL your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.
You see, what is so powerful about Peter's command is that it recognizes the fragmentation of our way of doing things. It recognizes that we are unwilling to commit ourselves wholly and radically to anyone thing or to anyone person. We always want to hedge our bets, to cover all the bases; we don't like leaving anything to chance, we say, and so we can understand what it might mean to trust God up to a point. But all your anxieties? Cast ALL our anxieties on him? We have trouble with that, don't we? We fall back on the old proverb which says, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." And, though we acknowledge with our heads that if God be God he is able to take care of it all, yet with our hearts, down in the tummy, we feel uncertain, don’t we? How can I trust all my anxieties to Him? How can I bring him everything that I feel, everything that hurts? How call I consign to God those irrational, nameless, pointless fears? How is it possible for me to lay before the Father all that I am?