“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:6-7
How big are your shoulders? At times, I am convinced mine are larger than a linebacker’s because I feel like it is my duty to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Okay, so maybe not the weight of the entire world but, at the very least, the weight of the world of my people who live under my roof. I mean, it is what moms (parents) are supposed to do, right? Our job is to worry about the people for whom we have been entrusted and thereby responsible for. WRONG!
Maybe not everyone is a mom or a parent, but not so fast, because you don’t have to be a mom or wife or parent or husband to feel entitled to worry. Basically, the only requirement to worry over something is to have a heartbeat. Some people are natural worriers because it’s how they feel they demonstrate “love.” While others would never have labeled themselves as worriers because they have life under control. Control is often fueled by fear. Thus, a direct connection to worry.
Today is the day of letting go and letting God. It is, after all, His responsibility anyway. For as much as we think we love our families more than anyone else ever possibly could, God loves each one of them so much more and so much better and so much more perfectly than we ever could in our own brokenness. As much as we think we have control over our own environments and individual universes, the reality is, quite simply, we do not.
I never would have considered myself a woman prone to worry. However, upon reflection and hindsight being that perfect vision of 20/20, I realize that maybe, perhaps, I was, years ago, a great worrier. Nope, not a great warrior which is so much more desirable and adventurous. Instead, just your every day, ordinary worrier. I only came to this self-diagnosis within the last 18 months, when the Lord and I did some work on past wounding and present healing. It was during that time when the Father graciously showed me how much of life I had been carrying on my own shoulders during my younger years. During these last 18 months, He has taught me the beauty of true release and the art form of surrendering control. Oh, I am nowhere near perfect on this, but I am aware of what it looks like when the tendencies begin again.
When my children were younger, I didn’t see it. My worries and fears manifested as I tried to control their environments as much as it depended on me. Protecting my children was not a bad thing, for it is part of the duty of parenthood. Yet when fear is the underlying factor, it’s time to step forward and take notice. I would worry over the silliest things, though they didn’t seem silly at the time. The firstborn bears the brunt of the overprotectiveness, but by the time you have the fourth one, it is less about protecting and more about worrying. I remember feeling that stirred-up feeling in my gut all the time. I cared so much over what people thought of me and my parenting because I was a young mother. In addition to worrying about my children, I worried about how others perceived me. Oh, the energy I wasted worrying over insignificant things and things beyond my control.
The worrying came to a head when my lastborn was an infant and diagnosed with a potentially blinding disease. Any semblance of control I thought I had was stripped away within seconds. Despite my best efforts to protect my children and prevent the worst things from happening to them, I was powerless. I could not determine the outcome of his disease by my sheer will to do so. Oddly enough, (or not oddly at all because God’s timing is always spot-on), I was fully submerged in a Bible study on faith. Faith is seemingly strong when all is well.
But faith begins to show cracks when pressure is applied if the faith is not deeply rooted. It was during that season of life that God began to change me and change the way I responded to situations and how I prayed. Worrying over my son would not change one thing about the situation, but I loved and served a God who absolutely had all the power and control over my son’s entire life story. God began to pry open my fingers from the death grip I had on fear and worry.
As life continued and I encountered various trials and challenging seasons of life, my tendency to worry and fret would rear its ugly head. Sometimes, I quickly recognized what was happening and other times, well, I admit, I can be a slow learner. Thank God He is a patient and compassionate God and Father. Along the journey of worry and fretting, I lost sleep at night only to realize later that God never sleeps so I can release it to Him because He’s God and He’s got me.
Finally, it felt like I had conquered the fretting. I mistakenly attributed it to being because life was finally as I had anticipated and desired it should be. But, then, along came 2020. I am digressing here for a minute, but one thing I have learned is that just because we find ourselves weak in any area where we thought we previously had victory does not mean we never conquered it. Sometimes, we face it again because we need to strengthen our faith muscles and foster our constant dependence on God in the face of that weakness.
So—back to 2020. Life had been smoothing right along until one of my sons faced a health challenge that was unanticipated and unexpected. All of it occurred prior to the pandemic in our country and before life was shut down. Yet, it was during those few weeks that I found myself back to those old habits of worrying. I just wanted someone to tell me everything was going to be okay yet I knew life didn’t work that way. I had learned this already, hadn’t I? Eventually he was just fine but only after a few nights in the hospital and surgery.
My experience with Jesus through that was priceless. He taught me that things don’t have to be okay or look okay for me to be okay. His shoulders are wide enough to carry all of my burdens, cares, worries, and anxieties. His love is deep enough to hold me steady through whatever storms life may hurl at me. In hindsight, I can see He was preparing me to learn how to cast ALL of my cares on Him prior to COVID. He was gently reminding me that I am not in control because He is, even when life feels like it is spiraling out of control and going completely off the rails. He was preparing my heart to trust Him when times are uncertain and the unexpected becomes the norm.
Life is about to change yet again, with kids returning to school, with one daughter married and beginning her career, and the other heading to college. After this school year, all but one will have flown the nest. My role is changing, our world is changing, but God is not changing. Daily, the news threatens to put one in a tailspin if we let it. I can look at the calendar for the week and make my plans, while also looking three or six months ahead and feeling myself to start to fret. But in this new rhythm of life, God reminds me of something. He tells me to cast my anxieties on Him just like a fisherman casts his net into the sea. He wants us to place them all on His shoulders because He cares. It’s easy to feel like no one cares about the invisible loads we carry, but Jesus cares. He cares so much that He wants to lift it right off of our backs and place them on His own.
In 1 Peter 5:6-7, Peter reminds us that it takes humility before we cast our anxieties on Jesus. We need to humble ourselves before the throne of grace, acknowledging our weaknesses and need for Him. It’s a whole lot easier to slide those burdens off our shoulders when we are already bowed down on our knees before Him. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know the God who does. When we feel ourselves begin to fret and worry, may we feel the quiet whisper of Jesus in our ears telling us, “Cast it all on me because I care.”