“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7 NRSV). How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said it, or something like it? Leave your worries at the foot of the cross, for example. Give it over to Jesus. There are lots of different ways to say this fairly simple idea. We hear it and say it all the time. But here’s the real question – “How do you do it?” Or even – “Can we do it?” Is such a thing humanly possible?
Well, of course it is. We wouldn’t be presented with a task that is beyond human capabilities. God isn’t in the frustration business. Where do such questions come from? From years of experience. Casting our cares onto Jesus – even knowing, as we do, that he cares for us – is an extremely difficult task. Especially when Peter does such an amazing job of describing the human condition in such terrorizing detail. From fiery ordeals to facing a lion prowling around looking for someone to devour, yikes! Sure, it feels like that on a regular basis, but seeing it there in print makes me want to cling to those fears even more tightly. They are real; they are overwhelming; and they are mine. So, how are we supposed to just cast them aside? It sounds like we’re slacking or irresponsible somehow. Like we’re each a budding Scarlett O’hara, not wanting to think about that today; I’ll think about it tomorrow.
We aren’t being given a pass to ignore the problems that beset us and surround us. This isn’t really about disengagement and living blissfully ignorant of all that is wrong. This isn’t a way of avoiding responsibility or saying as so many do, “That’s not my problem.” For sure, some “thats” are not your problems, but others are. What do we do with those? Cast them off too?
Digging a little deeper, we find a number of things in the text from 1 Peter that might help us understand what he is calling us to do and understand. The word that in so many translations is rendered as “anxiety,” but in the King James Version as “care” is, in fact, singular. So, when we say, “Cast your cares,” we are mistranslating the suggestion – or command – from the text. Oh, so we must select one? We get a pass on one care, but the rest of them we have to keep wrestling with? Or Jesus can handle only one problem at a time, one petition per prayer?
What if we took a different interpretation of that word? What if it wasn’t the individual problem or each care that besets us and instead it is our approach to these problems? What if we translated “Cast all your caring on him” or “set aside your tendency to become anxious about each problem that you face”? This doesn’t make any of the issues disappear, but it does equip you for a response. It gives you the freedom to look for options and ultimately to trust that with God, all things are possible. Peter isn’t suggesting that we should stop caring; the verse itself speaks of how much Jesus cares. He suggests instead that we should stop worrying. He is remembering, no doubt, when Jesus said the very same thing: “Do not be anxious.”
Psalm 68 gives us a model of how to cast our anxiety onto the one who cares for us. It starts as many psalms do – and as we often do ourselves – with complaint, or anger, or frustration with all the bad things that surround us too often. But the psalm quickly moves to a different mode, as if casting aside those attitudes and feelings. “But let the righteous rejoice.” It’s that “but” that’s important, it seems. There is a choice and not a both/and. But let’s let that go and move into joy instead.
How do we get into joy? We start by describing God and then what God has done and is doing for us and with us and through us. When we focus on what is right and on what is good, then what is broken begins to lose its power to define life as we know it. And if we can’t see the good, can’t see God at work around us, then look again and look deeper, we might be surprised. Start by rehearsing the history of God’s work with God’s people; read the stories in the scripture texts; read the history of the church and the history of your church. Prepare to be amazed and to be moved to praise. Then look again at your own life and your own community of faith. What is going right? Where is healing brought? Where is hope rekindled? Where are the hungry fed and poor lifted up? When we know how God is described in the story of the people of God, then we will recognize the presence of God when we see it at work around us and in us. Or through us. Maybe if you can’t see it, you need to start by asking what you are doing to reveal God’s presence.
Once we’ve cast our tendency to be anxious on the one who tells us not to worry, then acting like we can be the sign of God’s presence by how we live our lives becomes possible. Once we let go of what we’re afraid of, of what could go wrong, and grab hold of what the vision of the kin-dom calls us to do and be, then we find that we and everyone around stops wondering what God is doing these days. And we become instruments of praise and rejoicing. Cast your anxiety, because the Lord cares for you.