I cast my cares on God, and those cares keep finding their way back to me. So how do I get rid of those cares for good? We get that question a lot. Today it comes in the form of an email from a listener to the podcast named Claire. Claire writes, “Hello, Pastor John and Tony! I’m a Christian college student and I listen to APJ all the time. Pastor John, I was recently rereading your book Battling Unbelief. In the first chapter, you mention 1 Peter 5:7 and that we should be ‘casting our cares on God.’ I have often wondered about this command and how you do it. How do you cast your cares? Do you simply tell God you’re giving up your worries? Additionally, once you do cast them, are we expected to forget those worries? Or can we expect them to come back to us?” Pastor John, what would you say to Claire?
Suppose you lived in a village with about five hundred people and no army, no fortress, and suppose you heard that an enemy army of five thousand armed soldiers was coming against you to take your village and destroy its inhabitants. Now, that would be in your heart a burden. It would be an anxiety, and the kind of thing Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7 should be cast on the Lord, right? “Cast your anxieties onto the Lord.” Or Psalm 55:22: “[Roll] your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you. He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
And suppose that there was a king, with an army of fifty thousand soldiers, who had pledged himself to protect you and your village when you call him for help. So you send a messenger to the king and plead with him to come and protect you against the enemy, and he sends a royal messenger back with a message with the official king’s seal on it that says, “I will protect you. The enemy will not overwhelm you.” Signed, “The King.” Now, what would it mean for you at that moment to cast your burden, to cast your anxiety, onto the king?
Surely, the answer is this: to the degree that you trust the king’s promise to protect you, to that degree, your burden will be lifted. If your trust is small, you will still feel burdened, but if your trust is great, your burden will be light. So the key to casting your burdens, your anxieties, onto the king is to trust the word of the king, the word of promise, which, of course, includes trusting that he has the power to do what he says he’ll do, that he has the wisdom to be as strategic as he needs to be, that he has the will, or the desire, or the commitment to do what he says. Trust will involve all those things, but trust is the key to letting your burden go, putting your burden on the king.
What Kind of God?
When it comes to casting our anxieties onto God, the most fundamental thing is for God to tell us what kind of king he is. Is he the kind of God, the kind of king, that wants to load his people down with burdens like slave labor — as the Israelites in Egypt were loaded down with making bricks without straw, because that’s the kind of king Pharaoh was? Or is he the kind of God that loves to lift burdens off of his people? What kind of God is God?
“God will never surrender the glory of being the all-sufficient provider and deliverer.”
That has to be settled, and God has to tell us and show us what kind of God he is. Oh, how liberating, how thrilling it was — I can remember it — for me when I first saw the texts that I’m going to read right now. I had never quite articulated for myself that God really is this way. This is the kind of God who created the universe, who sent Christ into the world, who governs things by the providence of his wisdom. He really is this kind of God. So here they are.
Acts 17:25: “[God is not] served by human hands as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” In other words, God has no needs at all. He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need my slave labor. On the contrary, he shows his divine fullness, wisdom, power, love by giving, not getting.
Here’s Psalm 50:12, 15. God says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. . . . call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” What an amazing two verses. In other words, never think that you can glorify God by sacrificially providing for him, providing your labor for him, as though he depended on you for anything. God is not glorified by being your beneficiary. He’s glorified by being your benefactor. “Call on me,” he says, “in the day of trouble; I will deliver you” — not the other way around. “I’ll deliver you, and you will glorify me for my delivering you.” He’ll never surrender the glory of being the all-sufficient provider and deliverer.
Isaiah 64:4 — oh my goodness, this is glorious. I remember the first time I saw this and had it pointed out to me what kind of uniqueness God claims for himself. “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you.” Okay, now what’s the uniqueness here that nobody has seen? “. . . who works for those who wait for him.” In other words, what makes God unique among all the pagan gods of the nations is that he doesn’t look for help; he provides help. He works for those who wait for him. Baal and Nebo, those Babylonian gods, they’re like idols sitting on carts that you’ve got to drag around with yokes over your shoulder, whereas our God carries us. We don’t carry him.
And maybe the text that amazed me the most of this cluster that I’m reading was 2 Chronicles 16:9: “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” What that really says is that God is prowling around; he’s on the lookout for people who let him work for them, for people whose hearts will turn to him and trust him to be strong on their behalf. God is looking for ways, so to speak, to show off his power for us, not against us — for the sake of those who humble themselves under his mighty hand and trust him to work for them. Amazing.
One more text to illustrate the point, and it goes right to the heart of the matter because it has to do with the incarnation and what God was up to when he sent Jesus. Here’s Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In other words, at the very peak of the revelation of who God is — namely, in the incarnation of his own Son — the point he makes again is this: “I’m not coming to recruit help. I’m not coming to be served. I’m coming to serve. I’m the Savior here. I’m the helper here. I’m the rescuer here. I’m the provider here. I’m the all-wise guide here. I’m the treasure here. Don’t switch roles with me. Be needy, be satisfied, be trustful.”
Trust the All-Sufficient God
So, the answer to our most fundamental question — What kind of God are we dealing with when it comes to burden bearing? — is that we are dealing with a God who is so full he does not need our help to be more full, to be better, to be more effective, to be more satisfied, to be more glorious. All of his fullness — all of his excellence, his effectiveness, his glory — is shown for his people by his working for them, not them working for him. He lifts burdens. We don’t lift his. So with this glorious, massive reality of the kind of God that we are dealing with, what it means to cast your burden or your anxiety on the Lord is that you listen to his promises concerning your situation, and you trust him that he is the kind of God who is strong enough, wise enough, good enough to take onto his strong shoulders your concern and fulfill his promise to you.
“God is the kind of God who is strong enough, wise enough, good enough to take onto his strong shoulders your concern.”
Now, notice that the command in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast your anxieties on the Lord is preceded by the statement that God is mighty and followed by the statement that God cares. It goes like this: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7). Therefore, the casting of our anxieties means trusting his might and trusting his care to fulfill specific promises that he makes to his children in their various situations of life.
So as I’m facing a situation of anxiety, I admit that I cannot provide God’s needs. That’s not my job. He doesn’t want me to take that role. I’m helpless. God is all-sufficient, so I call to mind a promise like Isaiah 41:10, my go-to precious promise, where God says to me personally (I can hear him saying my name almost), “John, I will help you. I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” — a wonderful promise. And I trust that promise at that moment, and that trusting is the casting of my anxiety onto him. If, by grace, I am able to rest in the promise, the burden is lifted, and I can walk into the scary situation without fear.
So, never cease to be amazed that God is not a man that he should be served, but he is God, and he delights to show his power and his care not by burdening us, but by lifting our burdens. Trust him for this.