Humility and Anxiety

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (NASB1995)

— The Apostle Peter: To Elders and Young Men
(and the whole church)

There is a connection between being humble and having anxiety.

In my previous post (Take every thought captive) I tried to explain how we can use the word of God to fight against anxiety (as well as other mental illnesses) which is truly an attack against the very knowledge of God on a person. Here I’d like to elaborate a bit more on this and take a look at 1 Peter 5:1-11 (but mainly verses 5-11). There is something very unusual about this text. The concern in this text that tempts us to be anxious is not explicitly health or injury or security or plundering of property or loss of money. The concern is humility. Or to put it another way, the reason Peter deals with the problem of anxiety is because he is dealing with the problem of humility. Somehow the command for humility makes the command to cast our anxiety on God more urgent, more needed.

The Flow of Thought from Verses 1 Peter 5:5–7

Notice this in the flow of thought from verses 5–7. The chapter starts with a word to the elders of the church to shepherd the flock willingly and eagerly and without being motivated by money. Then the focus turns to the others in the church.

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; [then to all the church] and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time . . . 

Now right here comes the connection between this call for humility and the command to cast all your anxiety on God. The command for humility seems to cause anxiety to rise and so Peter deals with it.

The NASB and the KJV don’t have a period because verse 7 does not start a new sentence in the original Greek. It is part of the sentence in verse 6 and continues with a participle: Not, “Cast all your anxiety on him . . . | but | . . . casting all your anxiety on him.”

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Not: “Humble yourselves. And cast your anxiety. | But: | Humble yourselves . . . casting your anxiety.”

Casting Your Anxiety on God Is Part of Humbling Yourself

The point is that casting your anxiety on God is somehow part of humbling yourself. Casting your anxiety on God is crucial if you are going to humble yourself under God’s hand and clothe yourself with humility toward each other. Casting your anxiety on God is not simply a separate thing that you do after you humble yourself. It’s something you do in order to humble yourself, or in the process of humbling yourself.

There is something about humbling yourself under God’s hand and humbling yourself before other people that makes casting all your anxiety on God necessary. Or to say it another way, there is something about casting your anxiety on God that makes humbling yourself under God and before others possible.

It looks like humility is a threat that causes anxiety. And if we are going to be humble with God and with each other, we are going to have to cast our anxiety on God. That’s the connection between verse 7 and what goes before. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward each other and humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God by casting your anxiety on God.”

Why Does Humility Create Anxiety?

But why does humility create anxiety? Why does humility take courage? Why do we need someone to take our anxiety away in order for us to be humble?

You can see the answer easily if you just start thinking of some examples of humility. What does it mean to be humble? It means, when you’ve made a mistake, admitting it and saying you’re sorry. It means, when you are weak or sick or inadequate for a task, not being too proud to ask for help. It means doing some ordinary jobs and spending time with ordinary people and being indifferent to accolades.

In other words, in all its forms humility is the risk of losing face. Humility is the risk of not being noticed, not being appreciated, not being praised, and not being rewarded. Lowliness runs the obvious risk of being looked down on. And being looked down on is painful. Being unnoticed and unappreciated is painful. Losing face is painful. Being made little of is painful. And therefore humility causes anxiety. And the command to be humble under God and to be clothed with humility toward each other makes us anxious.

We Have to Solve This Anxiety Problem

So if we are really going to be humble, we have to solve this anxiety problem. If we are going to have the courage of humility and the boldness of lowliness, someone is going to have to take our anxiety away. That’s the point of verse 7: “Be humble by casting all your anxiety on God.” The secret of humility is being able to cast your anxiety on God. Note the connection between humbling yourself under God’s mighty hand in verse 6 and casting your anxiety on God in verse 7. God is the focus in both verses, and the connection is this: before you can put yourself humbly under God’s mighty hand, you have to put your anxiety confidently in God’s mighty hand.

There is a fearful cowering under the mighty hand of God for the rebellious and the proud. But that is not what Peter is calling for in verse 6. The humility Peter commands under God’s hand is the peaceful, confident humility that comes because we have cast our anxiety on God with the confidence that he cares for us.

I love these two images side by side: humbled and lowly under the mighty hand of an infinitely holy and powerful God, and confident and peaceful because that very God cares for us and carries our anxiety. Before you bow down and step under him, cast the burden of your anxiety on him!

How Do You Cast Your Anxiety on God?

Now what does it mean to cast your anxiety on God? How do you do that?

Getting Help from the Same Word in Luke 19:35

This word “casting” in verse 7 occurs one other time in the New Testament. In Luke 19:35, in exactly the same form. It’s Palm Sunday and the disciples have been sent to get the donkey for Jesus to ride on. Then verse 35 says, “They brought it to Jesus, and casting their garments on the colt, they set Jesus on it.”

So the meaning is simple and straightforward: if you have a garment on and you want an animal to carry it for you, you “cast” the garment on the animal. In this way you don’t carry it anymore. It’s on the animal not on you. The donkey works for you and lifts your load.

Well, God is willing to carry your anxieties the same way a donkey carries your baggage. One of the greatest things about the God of the Bible is that he commands us to let him work for us before commanding us to work for him. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4). “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).

God wants to be a burden bearer because it demonstrates his power and puts him in a class by himself among the so-called gods of the universe. “No one has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him.” So throw the garments of your anxiety onto him. He wants to carry it.

Practically How Do You Do That?

You do it by trusting the second half of verse 7 very specifically in relation to your specific anxiety. The first half of verse 7 says, ” . . . casting all your anxiety on him . . . ” and the second half of the verse says, ” . . . because he cares for you.”

Here is where the rubber meets the road. How do you practically make the anxiety transfer from your back to God’s back? The answer is: trust that he cares for you. Believe this promise. Trust him. It’s a matter of practical trust.

That promise does not hang in the air. It is connected to a command and the promise is meant to show you how to obey the command. The command is, Cast your anxiety on God. The promise is, God cares for you. That means, he cares about the thing that has you worrying. He wants to be trusted for that.

Lay a Specific Anxiety on God

So often we trust God in the abstract. Yes, he is a trustworthy God. Yes, he can save sinners in general. Yes, he will work it all out, generally speaking, for my good (Romans 8:28).

But a text like this means, Lay a specific anxiety on God. Trust him specifically that he cares about that. Believe that he is God. His purposes cannot be thwarted. “I know that you can do all things, says Job, and no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

When it says that he cares, it means he will not stand by and let things develop without his influence. It means he will act. He will work. Not always the way we would. He’s God. He sees a thousand connections we don’t see. The lost credit card might result in an evening of searching and take you away from a TV program that unbeknownst to you would have put a lustful desire in your mind and made prayer unappealing so that you failed to seek God’s power and missed a golden opportunity to speak of Christ to a ready colleague the next day, which because of that lost credit card you did not miss. God sees a thousand connections we do not see.

Casting your anxiety on God means trusting him for handling this specific situation. If you believe that he cares (which is what the promise says), and believe that he is God, then your fears will be lifted.

The Connection with Prayer

There is one other thing to say about this act of casting anxiety on God, namely, the connection with prayer. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6 -7

So 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your anxiety on God by trusting that he cares for you.” And Philippians 4:6 -7 says, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord by praying and letting your requests be made known to him.” The connection is simple. Trusting that God cares about your anxiety is expressed in prayer. Prayer is the trust turned toward God and spoken.

(This Article has been adapted from a Bible Study written by my brother, Jordon Moore)

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I hope this blog entry has been some help to you. Please leave a comment if the holy spirit leads you to do so or use my contact form to get in touch with me directly. I’ve struggled with mental illness for over 8 years and I think I can offer some good suggestions with whatever you are going through (not a Christian? No worries. I offer my advice to you as well). Also, I am open to criticism and would encourage even the non-believer or those of other faiths to offer his/her opinion. Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Alive in Christ


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