When You're Burdened With Care

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : 1 Peter 5:7

You know what it’s like to lie awake at night with your mind filled with worry, and so do I. Listen now for some good advice from God’s Word about how to get rid of anxiety.

What would you say is your basic reaction to life? When that question was posed in a student poll, sixty percent of those responding said, “Anxiety.” Imagine that! I wonder if the percentage in the non-student world would be much lower. Maybe it would be higher! Whatever the exact statistics, it’s certain that many, many people are troubled by anxiety, burdened with a weight of care. Maybe you’re one of them. If not a chronic worrier, at least you’re anxious a good deal of the time.

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

What’s going on in us when we feel anxiety? What happens when we worry? Someone has said that anxiety results when we see little probability of attaining important goals. All of us have goals, desires, dreams, for ourselves and others. If we have good hopes of reaching them, of fulfilling our aims, we feel good, happy, at peace. But if we see little possibility of realizing these goals, we tend to fret and grow anxious. And the more important a goal is to us, the more troubled we feel at the thought of not reaching it.

Sometimes the anxiety has to do with issues of bare survival. “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” Here speaks our common human yearning for something to fill our stomachs and clothe our nakedness. Sometimes we don’t know where that next meal is coming from. Sometimes the prospects even for adequate clothing seem dim. We’re anxious, we’re afraid that our elemental needs won’t be provided for.

But those are only typical of a thousand other questions we ask ourselves. What am I going to do to make a living when jobs are scarce? Will I ever marry? And if I do, can I find real happiness? Perhaps you’re married now and wonder if your marriage can survive. What kind of security is there for my children in a world like this? What will become of them when I’m gone?

Maybe your questions have to do with health. Will I recover from what I’m struggling with now? Will it plague me for the rest of my life? Or how will my child, my spouse, my friend be able to cope with a serious illness?

The list goes on. Can I succeed in this new business venture? Can I find anyone to publish my material? Will I get along with people in my new neighborhood or at my new job? Will anyone take care of me when I’m old and helpless? Can I hope for anything beyond death?

Simply asking those questions is not necessarily a sign of anxiety. It’s the answers we propose to ourselves that make the difference. It’s when we believe the worst-case possibilities that we find ourselves in trouble. It’s when we say to ourselves about that important objective, “I’ll never make it,” or about that hoped-for possibility, “Slim chance!” that we are burdened with care. When you ask yourself, “What will become of me and of those I love?” what kind of answer do you give? That will pretty much determine your state of mind. Where expectations are high, hearts are glad. But where hope diminishes, anxiety grows.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT

I don’t need to tell you that feeling anxious is unpleasant. I don’t need to remind you of how it can be damaging to your health. You know that ulcers, colitis, high blood pressure, heart trouble can all be aggravated by it. But I hope you see that anxiety is at root a spiritual problem. It reveals something amiss in our value-system. It betrays a lack of basic trust. As a matter of fact, it’s a form of idolatry.

Does that sound too strong? “You mean to say that my everyday worries are like the worship of a false god?”

Well, Jesus said something very much like that. Do you remember those words of his on the Sermon on the Mount, “You cannot serve God and mammon [money]”? He had been talking about the peril of laying up treasures for ourselves on the earth. Your god, he argues, is what you look to for security and fulfillment. “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). But hoarding what we have is only one expression of allegiance to mammon. Worrying about what we don’t have is another. It’s immediately after those words, “You cannot serve God and mammon [money],” that Jesus says, “therefore I tell you, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat. . .’” (Matt. 6:24,25). In other words, the worrier has basically the same problem as the miser. Both believe that money and things represent security. Neither has taken seriously this word of Jesus, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses” (Luke 12:15).

When I worry about what I don’t have or may not get, I’m concentrating on what seems to be the sole means of getting rid of my worry. Worry is nothing else than dependence on, trust in these means: money, food, or its earthly owners and managers. When I fix on those, I worship the creature instead of the Creator, help rather than the helper, bread instead of the One who provides it.

WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

But the big question is, “What can I do?” Hearing about the miseries and evils of anxiety may only make me more anxious. I need an alternative, a way out. When I’m menaced by anxiety, how do I handle it? First, admit it. Acknowledge the fact that you are anxious. Some of us don’t like to do that. “Others worry,” we tell ourselves, “I’m only concerned. Others are anxious; I’m just being responsible and realistic!” Hey, why not just face it?

It’s humbling for any of us to confess that, but helpful too. Listen to this word from 1 Peter 5, verse 6:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.

Go ahead, call a spade a spade. Call anxiety by its right name. Humble yourself under God’s hand. Then, gather up all those anxieties and cast them on him.

My sons and I often rake leaves together during late autumn. In Michigan, leaves can accumulate to quite a depth. We wonder each year how in the world we can get rid of them. Our technique is usually to make a clearing with a rake and then put down a large sheet of cloth or plastic. Then we rake those huge piles of leaves onto that sheet to be carried away. I can envision those leaves as so many worries, and that raking operation as heaving them all on God. In one long swoop, I get thousands of them off the yard and onto something else.

In one way, leaves are not the most apt image for our worries, since they’re fairly light. Our anxieties, on the other hand, usually seem heavy. They’re like a bulky, crushing burden. Suppose now that you’ve been carrying a hundred-pound pack for miles. You’re exhausted and your legs will hardly support you any longer. Every muscle groans and you’re staggering under the load. Then a friend stoops down beside you and says, “Here, let me carry it for a while.” You’ve never heard any offer as welcome as that one! Before he has time to change his mind, you roll that pack off on him. What a relief! You feel free as a bird. That is what it’s like to cast your anxieties, to roll your inner burdens onto God’s shoulders.

Anxiety, as the Bible sees it, is related to pride. We act proudly when we think we can manage on our own, that we are completely sufficient in ourselves. We say, “I’ll handle it,” even when we’re about to collapse under the load! “If I don’t concern myself about it,” we seem to imply, “who will?” Humility, on the other hand, is simply acknowledging, “I can’t carry it all. I’d like some relief. I need help.”

I remember reading a remarkable passage about the difference between the living God and the idols we make for ourselves. Here it is, from Isaiah 46, verse 1:

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops. Their idols are on beasts and cattle; these things you carry are loaded as burdens on weary beasts.

“Do you see that statue?” the prophet is saying, “that image of wood or stone? Don’t expect that to help you when you’ve got to move fast. If you want your idol with you, you’ll have to carry it on your back or load it on a beast of burden.”

But the Lord of heaven and earth is different. He’s the one who carries you. Listen to his Word,

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:3,4, niv

You don’t have to go around with that monstrous burden of care. Put it on him. He’ll not only take it off your hands; he’ll carry you. Imagine him standing at your side right now, looking at those worries that are weighing you down. “Look here,” he says, “You aren’t meant to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. I’m the chief Burden-bearer around here.”

Someone says, “That sounds great. But now, how do I unload my anxiety?” The apostle Paul says, “Let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). Tell him about what’s making you anxious. Ask him for his help and grace. Do that, he goes on, “with thanksgiving.” Say to him, “Thanks, Lord, I’m trusting you to carry the whole business.”

Now that doesn’t mean that you won’t do anything. God’s not going to do things for you that you can do for yourself. He’ll carry all your anxieties, but he’ll let you carry your share of the responsibility. And it’s when the anxiety goes, when the burden rolls away, that you can really get moving.

You know how it is when you’ve got eighty-eight things to do. You don’t see how you’re possibly going to get them all done, and the prospect of all that seems to paralyze you. But if you can get rid of the worry about it, you can make at least a start on task number one. I talked to a counselor once who urged a woman with that kind of problem to make a very modest beginning. She was overwhelmed by her undone housework. He said, “Try cleaning four tiles on your kitchen floor.” Just make a start, and you’re on your way. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make progress, to do something about problems when you relinquish that mountain of care.

Do you know why you can unload like that? Peter gives the answer, the beautiful open secret, “Cast all your care on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). That’s it. He’s concerned about you. You matter to him. The Lord is on your side. Psychologists tell us that the mere presence of other people, especially friendly others, helps to keep anxiety low. Everything isn’t bad, life isn’t hopeless, as long as I’ve got a friend. As long as someone is around who cares, maybe I’ll make it after all. Well, take this in, friends. There’s someone walking right beside you who cares more deeply than the best friend you’ve ever had. His name is Jesus Christ, God with us.

He’s the One who carried his people in the wilderness, like a shepherd shouldering a lamb, like a father teaching a toddler to walk. He’s the One who came to carry our most dreadful burden. “Surely,” sings the prophet, “he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:4-6). Jesus “bore our sins in his own body on the cross.” He lifted the weight of our guilt and carried it away. Friends, if he carried that for us, if he let himself be crushed by our sin and rose victorious, mighty to save, you know that he’ll take on your burdens of care today. He said so: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” In other words, “Come, I’ll get under that burden with you.”

It’s when you know that you’re loved like that that you’re willing and able to let go. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you’ve placed your trust in him for forgiveness and eternal life, you’ve pinned all your hopes on Jesus, what a shame to keep on carrying worries that he’s willing to shoulder! Whoever you are, take him at his word today. Try casting your burden his way and see how he will sustain you. You’ve nothing to lose but your anxiety. Cast it all on him; he cares about you.