In this brief verse, Peter gives profound instruction to the disciple of Jesus Christ for dealing with anxiety in their life. This is the third in a series of blogs exploring anxiety and then applying Peter’s instruction to every believer’s everyday life.
“casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
We have seen that anxiety is “the ongoing fear and emotional distress and unease felt in response to some perceived threat, whether real or imaginary.” In our last study, it was shown that anxiety in the life of the believer robs God of His deserved glory and disobeys the explicit commands of Scripture to fear not. Thus the disciple of Christ must be resolved to drive anxiety out of his/her life forever. Now, since the word of God commands us to be “casting all your anxiety of Him . . .” we will turn to practical, biblical strategies and means for “casting.” Here is our goal: that we become so aware of our sinful anxiety and we detest its presence so much, that casting our anxiety on the Lord becomes a reflex response. When I feel fear and anxiety rising up within me; when my stomach begins to have that characteristic knot in it, I want to automatically and intentionally respond by casting that anxiety on the Lord. I want to learn this skill of casting my anxiety; I want to learn it well. Let the unbeliever deal with their anxieties and their fears, but let the believer resolve to reject all fear and cast all anxiety into the depths of the sea by casting it onto the powerful shoulders of our great God.
It is almost time to explore how to cast our anxiety onto the Lord, but first I want to say this. As one who has dealt with anxiety for a long time and who has experienced the Lord’s deliverance from its misery, we must realize that the journey to freedom from anxiety is probably going to be a long one. This is because we have indulged anxiety and tolerated anxiety and even cultivated anxiety for a long time. Anxiety has been allowed to dwell in our minds and to unsettle our hearts and now it will be difficult to dislodge it. Anxiety’s roots now run deep and digging them out will take an attitude of being alert to the disease and a diligence and a persistence in getting rid of it. Like all spiritual growth, the victories will come little by little (Deuteronomy 7:22) as you continue to trust the Lord and seek His face. It is likely that you have allowed worry and anxiety to dwell unopposed and unhindered in your life and you have not been diligent to attack it at every turn. The fact is that you and I can develop strong habits of anxiety and default responses of worry and fear and breaking these habits will take time and practice and effort. But now we are resolving to “put to death” (Colossians 3:5) the habits of anxiety and to drive anxiety out little by little.
FOUR PRACTICAL STRATEGIES:
I suggest there are four broad practical strategies that lead to victory over anxiety:
- Discipline our thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5; Romans 12:2; Isaiah 26:3);
- Prayer and Confession (Phil. 4:6-7);
- Fellowship and Encouragement from other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25; Romans 1:12; etc.); and
- Memorize the Promises of Scripture (Isa. 12:1-6; 43:1-7; 41:10-16; Psalm 34:4, 6; Psalm 91; etc.)
DISCIPLINE OUR THOUGHTS
Key verses: 2 Corinthians 10:5 – “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;” Romans 12:2 – “be transformed by the renewing of your mind;” Isaiah 12:2 – “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.”
Key concept: The believer must discipline his/her thoughts such that the mind is trained to avoid all the paths and reject all access to anxiety.
Before a person comes to faith in Christ, he/she lives an undisciplined life and thus develops habits of mind that lead to places of sin. This is certainly true in regard to areas of overt sin, but it is also true in the way the mind is allowed to respond to threats. For the unbeliever, threat often triggers fear and anxiety, and as this pattern of “see-threat-feel-anxiety” is repeated over and over again, the mind is trained to respond automatically to a threat, whether real or imagined, with fear and anxiety. Thus thinking is effectively bypassed by the habit of anxiety. Now this person hears the gospel and they repent of their sins and they place their faith in Christ and they become a new creature in Christ. What happens to the old habit of mind of “see-threat-feel-anxiety?” That habit will remain firmly intact and will continue unabated until the new disciple of Christ, through the power of the Spirit and by intentional effort, destroys those fortresses (2 Cor. 10:4) and disciplines his/her mind to reject the old habit and to respond as a believer in trust and confidence.
What I am saying is that you and I have developed and then nurtured the habit of anxiety in our minds out of ignorance as unbelievers and then out of carelessness as believers, but it is now time for the destruction of those fortresses. The first strategy, then, is to discipline our thoughts. We must be aware of our thoughts and take control our thoughts so that they are focused on truth and not on fear. Anxiety exists in our thoughts, and so “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The first step in taking a thought captive is for me to be aware of my thoughts and to discern where those thoughts are leading. Is this thought leading toward fear? Have I started down a path of untruth that will end in anxiety? When I begin to feel that tightening in my stomach or sense the distraction brought on by fear, I need to assess what my mind is doing. Then seize the thought; take it captive and overwhelm it with truth. Stop the anxious thought dead in its tracks and get off the path leading to fear and go in a different direction. This is all done in the mind. Remember that, now that we are in Christ Jesus, “We are being transformed by the renewing of our mind.” As a part of our sanctification, we are destroying old habits of mind and replacing them with God-honoring ones. Before we succumbed to the sinful habit of responding to threats with distrust and fear, but now we say, “Behold! God is my salvation! I will trust and not be afraid!” My thoughts are being filled with truth and are being purged of the lies and foolish, useless speculations that filled my brain and that offered no defense from anxiety.
The first strategy, then, is to discipline our thoughts and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Strive to secure undistracted devotion to Christ. So fill your mind with the things and the thoughts of the Lord Jesus that other thoughts are crowded out and overwhelmed.
The next blog will address the other three strategies that lead to victory over anxiety.
SDG rmb 3/20/2017