The Bible is the long-time expert on the entire spectrum of human feelings, thoughts, and actions which we go through when things don’t go perfectly according to plan. There are hundreds of references in the Bible to men and women just like you and me whose hearts were weighed down by worry, anxiety, fear, and vexation, to mention some of the terms the Bible uses to speak of these things. In His Word, God counsels us in our anxious thoughts, comforts us in our fears, and guides us through our troubles, calamites, disasters, and suffering—to mention some more terms that the Bible is a proven expert on.
The letters that Peter was inspired to write touch on suffering as a dominant theme. Closing the first letter to suffering Christians, Peter has some ancient, yet timely, guidance for us in times of uncertainty and difficulty. In 1 Peter 5:6-11, in the closing paragraph, before his final greetings, we as Christians read these words:
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 5:6-11 (ESV)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
This passage instructs us in three ways to refocus our worries.
First, be personally humbled. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
We only worry when things do not work out as we would have liked. In other words, worry is a notification mechanism that we are not all-knowing, we are not all-powerful, and we most certainly are not in control of our own lives, not to mention the affairs of this world. When used wisely, worry is therefore a trigger for humility. We tend to think of worry as an arrow pointing to our problems, while in reality worry is an arrow pointing to our God. Worry itself does not improve our situation in any way whatsoever (cf. Matt 6:27), but when worry is used to point to God, then we have some realistic hope of improving our situation. So cast your anxieties on Someone Who actually cares for you. When your heart is weighed down by all the things you can’t seem to do anything about, then use that worry to refocus your eyes on the Lord God.
Second, be spiritually alert. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Our earthly troubles are not our greatest problems. Instead, behind every earthly trial lies spiritual realities. The Devil is on the prowl, seeking to devour you at your weakest moment. By worrying we turn our earthly problems into spiritual dangers. We refocus our worries into strengths when we remain spiritually sensible. Recognise that sinning is always worse than suffering. Affirm that your faith is in God and not in comforts, finances, and success. Be spiritually alert. Watch out for worry’s daunting twin called depression—be firm in your faith. Resist worry’s cousin called fear—know that many other Christians are in situations very much like yours. We refocus our earthly worries when we remain spiritually alert.
Third, be expectantly hopeful. (1 Peter 5:10-11)
Think of life as a really long path, of which only the first metre is here on earth. It might feel like a really long metre, but a metre is a metre, and by inching forward one day at a time, you will soon find the metre has been covered, and the rest is smooth sailing in the most wonderful and glorious way that God’s grace could ever have made it! We feel destroyed by the temporary, but will be restored for eternity. We are uncertain about this world, but will be confirmed for eternity. We are weak in this life, but will be strengthened for eternity. We are unstable in this era, but will be established for eternity. We refocus our worries in this world when we eagerly anticipate the metre on earth to be over so we can enjoy the future ease and blessing.
Worry blinds us to much of what is really going on. It does so by bending our heads downward where we see only our problems. It does so by erasing all peripheral vision so we only see the worst. Things might truly be really bad, but worry makes you believe that the bad things are the only things still true of your life. To get out of anxiety’s oppressive darkness, we need to refocus all our many concerns. We do so when we use worry as a tool towards humility, spirituality, and eternity. Do not waste your worry!
Suggested Sermon: Luke 12:22-34 “Freedom for the Fretful“