With the fear and uncertainty generated by the current COVID-19 pandemic, we consider this series by John MacArthur to be even more timely now than when it was first run eight years ago. The following blog post was originally published on November 29, 2012. —ed.
A prideful heart cannot find rest in God’s sovereignty. A person who values his or her own plans, opinions, and desires above all else has nowhere to turn when worry creeps in. In fact, pride paves the way for an anxious heart.
Last time we looked at the apostle Peter’s prescription for dealing with anxiety: humility (1 Peter 5:5-7). Humility requires strong confidence in a caring God. I can’t humble myself under God’s pressure if I don’t think He cares, but I can if I know He does.
The basis of that trust is the loving care God has repeatedly shown us. You cast your anxiety on Him when you’re able to say, however haltingly, “Lord, it’s difficult . . . I’m having trouble handling this trial, but I’m giving You the whole deal because I know You care for me.”
The word Peter used in verse 7 that’s translated as “casting” was used to describe throwing something on something else, such as a blanket over a pack animal (e.g., Luke 19:35). Take all your anxiety—all the discontent, discouragement, despair, questioning, pain, and suffering that you’re going through—and toss it all onto the Lord. Trade it in for trust in God who really cares about you.
Hannah is a great illustration of someone who did just that. She didn’t have any children, which was a significant trial for a Jewish woman in ancient times. The book of 1 Samuel tells us what she did about her problem.
She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life. . . .”
Now it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli was watching her mouth. As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.”
Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad (1 Samuel 1:10-18).
What happened to her? Why was she no longer sad? Her circumstances hadn’t changed—she still had no baby—but she changed when she cast her care on the Lord. Soon thereafter, God blessed her with a son, Samuel, who grew to be a great man of God. He also gave her three other sons and two daughters. Hannah is proof that when you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, casting all your anxiety on His loving care, He will exalt you in due time.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Peter had Psalm 55:22 in mind when he wrote his first epistle: “Cast you burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”
Now that doesn’t mean we won’t feel shaky at times. Think how Hannah felt when the priest accused her of being drunk. Sometimes when we’re bearing burdens that in themselves seem too great to bear, people treat us insensitively and heap more burdens on us. But, like Hannah, we can be gracious about it and find relief through prayer to the God who does care.
If you need to be reminded now and then that God really cares about you, remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Since the Lord luxuriously arrays mere field lilies, don’t you think He will clothe you? Since He faithfully feeds mere birds, don’t you think He will feed you? Spiritual maturity begins with these fundamentals: an attitude of humility toward God and others, and trust in God’s care.
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