Don’t Carry those Anxieties!
Catherine Marshall wrote a book years ago called “Beyond Ourselves.” It was a powerful book that made an impression on me. She introduced a concept she called a prayer of relinquishment. “I got my first glimpse of it in the fall of 1943. I had been ill for six months with a lung infection, and a bevy of specialists seemed unable to help. Persistent prayer, using all the faith I could muster, had resulted in—nothing. I was still in bed full-time. One afternoon I read the story of a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years. Constantly she had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do his work. Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, All right. I give up. If you want me to be an invalid, that’s your business. Anyway, I want you even more than I want health. You decide. In two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.”
Relinquishment is a letting go, but with hope. It is not resignation or fatalism where we sigh and say, “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.” Rather, it is a relinquishment of our cares, concerns, fears, and worries to God, trusting in him alone for the outcome. Careful! This does not mean that a prayer of relinquishment will always result in God healing you or taking away your troubles. It is a submission to his sovereignty and trust that what he chooses for you will be for your good and his glory.
Peter tells us to “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.” The word literally means to throw. It is an act of the will to take your anxieties and cast them, throw them onto the Lord. And it is total relinquishment of all your anxieties. Not just the ones you don’t think you can manage in your own strength. Because the truth is, we cannot manage any of our anxieties in our own strength.
Martha is an example of a woman who was anxious about many things and was resentful that her sister Mary was not anxious at all! And she came and told the Lord about it in no uncertain terms. Jesus rebuked her gently and pointed out that the way Mary was serving the Lord was the way that was most important. Edmund Clowney wrote, “Martha’s many concerns grew from her pride, pride in many dishes that made her a servant of the dinner. When we cast our cares on the Lord, we often find that they were the concerns of our pride, not the cares of his kingdom.”
I remember hearing Neil Anderson years ago teach years ago about the difference between goals and desires. If we have a goal to have family harmony where everybody in the family gets along all the time, who can block that goal? Every person in the family! Even people outside the family can block that goal. If family harmony is a goal, we will likely be frustrated or anxious all the time. It is fine to have a desire for family harmony, but your goal would be better suited for something only you could block. For example your goal might be to speak with kindness to your family and not use anger to manipulate or get your own way. That’s a goal that only you can block. And a worthy goal to work towards, understanding you will fail at times, and God will give grace.
We cast our anxieties on the Lord knowing that he cares for us. Peter learned this, even at the point of his greatest failure. When Peter uttered his third denial and the rooster started crowing, Luke reports that “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Think of that. Peter looked at Jesus looking at him at that moment. And now as he writes his letter, humbled and restored, he urges all of us to cast our cares on the Lord, knowing that he cares for us. He cares about you. Not just when we do the right thing, but like Peter, even when we do the unthinkable. Look at Jesus looking at you. Not with disdain or disappointment or disgust. But with unfading and unconditional love. Then cast those anxieties on his shoulders. He can carry them so you don’t have to. His yoke for you and me is easy and his burden is light.