Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.
I Peter 5:7
Today we conclude our discussion on “An Uneasy Feeling.” I heard a phrase on a podcast where the speaker said, “When in doubt, pray it out.”
Now, as an aside, today’s Bible verse is not critical of those who suffer from anxiety as a mental illness. That’s not the anxiety that Peter is talking about. There are people who suffer from anxiety who can benefit from therapy and even medication. The kind of anxiety that is being referred to in the verse from I Peter 5:7 are the routine things that cause us to be anxious. It might be a math test. It might be that our stock portfolio is tanking. It could be any number of things that happen in life, whether they be things that we cause, things caused by others or things caused by circumstance. We all have things that we are anxious about, things that bring about that “uneasy feeling” we’ve been discussing.
The ultimate example of faith is being able to cast these anxieties on the Lord, trusting that He cares about us. For those of us who are football fans, broadcasters have described certain running backs as “patient runners.” To which I always wondered “how much patience can one afford when a play lasts only a few seconds? According to the football analysts, the “patient” runner sees the game almost in slow motion, and see the hole where to run with the ball.
One of my biggest anxieties is when the world seems to be moving too fast. There is either too much to do, not enough time to do it, or things keep piling up faster than I can finish them. Then my mind starts spinning out of control with worry. This is when I (try many times but also fail to try) spend some time in prayer and in quiet reflection, asking God to slow down my thoughts, to allow me to “see” the whole field, to see the person who needs help and is too shy to ask, to see the direction that I should take something in, or to see the opportunity or solution I had not considered. When I “cast my anxieties on Him,” this is when things tend to slow down for me mentally, and allow me to work more efficiently and with less worry.
When we have one eye on the past, because we carry guilt or shame from the past, and when we have one eye on the future, because we are worried about something that may or may not happen, then we have no eye on the present. And when we have no eye on the present, it is much easier for the present to be filled with anxiety.
In casting our anxieties before the Lord, we come to God with past failure and we ask Him to forgive us, if we have sinned, or to guide us if we’ve made a poor choice. Confession is a great way to do this. God doesn’t want us to have guilt or shame, or to be bogged down with anxiety brought on by past failure. That’s why He has provided the means to be loosed of guilt and shame, as well as the anxiety associated with them. This is why we should go to the Lord formally in the sacrament of confession, and even more frequently, in a posture of repentance, to own up for past failings, to make a new start and to be rid of the anxiety over the past.
In looking towards the future, we need to control this anxiety as well. I think each week about where my son might go to college, or what retirement for me might look like, or I wonder if the economy is totally going to tank and how much more of my investments I’ll lose. These things, and many others, cause me to feel anxious. I work through this anxiety in two ways. First, the things I worry about may or may not happen. I may not live long enough to see my son go to college or to retire. Worrying about where he might go to college is not going to affect his grades and his future in anything but an adverse way. Second, I ask the Lord for the focus to stay in the present. To BE with whomever I’m with, or in whatever situation I’m in. I have a full day for tomorrow, including an appointment I’m anxious about. As I sit in my office typing this message, I am choosing not to dwell on what may or may not happen tomorrow, and instead to concentrate on writing this reflection, very much in the present. Tomorrow’s issues will present themselves tomorrow. As for today, the focus is on writing and after writing, to rest, so that I face the challenges of tomorrow with a body and a mind that are well-rested and ready.
I Peter 5: 8-9 speak of the devil. St. Peter writes “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.” Many times, our prayer should be one to ask God to protect our minds from the devil that seeks to enter them and cause us anxiety. We are to resist him, remaining firm in our faith. This happens more easily when we are casting our anxieties on God, specifically through prayer and reflection on Holy Scripture. Time and time again, the Bible reminds us of broken people that God still shined on. Time and time again, anxieties cripple us, and it is good to be reminded that even in our brokenness, God can still shine on us, especially when we are going to Him with our anxieties, as opposed to going to worldly temptations. When we get that “uneasy feeling,” the first recourse should be to stay faithful to God, to stay vigilant, and ask God to help you see the possibilities (the holes in football) in the present, not to be weighed down by the failures of the past, or the anxieties about the future.
Lord, so many times life is moving so fast. I feel anxious as I contemplate all the times and ways that I have failed You, failed others or failed myself. I feel anxious as I contemplate a future I cannot fully see. Help me, Lord, to manage these anxieties by sending Your Holy Spirit into me to comfort me. Please forgive me to past failings that leave me feelings guilt and shame. Restore my soul to one that is filled with joy and hope, reassured of Your forgiveness. As I look towards the future, help me not to dwell on things that may or may not happen. Help me to stay present, to look for opportunities to strengthen my faith in You, and also for opportunities to serve and help my neighbor. Soften my heart, open my eyes, and calm my mind, so that I can walk with joy, see those who need help and move throughout the day with a mind that is calm, that sincerely is able to cast anxieties on You, trusting that You care for me at all times and in all circumstances. Amen.
Cast your anxieties on the Lord, trusting that He cares for you!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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