Sabbath, a Time to Toss!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:7 NIV)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV)
Now, I don’t mean toss and turn sleepless on your bed at night because you are full of anxiety. Much anxiety is the result of a person’s lack or loss of control. The older I get, the more mindful I am of the limitations on my ability to change the world or, for that matter, much of anything of significance.
When I view world and national news, I see history about to repeat itself in some very regrettable ways. As I have opportunity to work with churches, I observe congregations making the same unfruitful decisions they have made in the past. As I meet with pastors, I see them repeating the same mistakes I made. All of these scenarios generate a dreadful sensation of anxiety creeping up my spine; the result of my inability to control much of anything outside of myself.
So what do I really mean when I use “toss” in the title of this article? Paul says, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition. . .” Peter uses a graphic action verb: “cast (or toss) all your anxiety on the Lord.” In other words, put some effort behind the act of tossing your anxiety - as if you actually believed that God could handle it and it wouldn’t overwhelm or hurt Him. Toss your anxiety as if you truly wanted to rid yourself of it.
The opposite would be coddling anxiety as if you cherished and wanted to protect it. Now, who in their right mind would do that? Anxiety is dreadful! While we may not like anxiety, we may be quite proud of what it is attached to: “Control”. Our egos thrive on being in control. Few are the people whose pride does not swell with the expansion of their control.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
There is a reason why the message in verse 6 precedes the exhortation in verse 7. Humility is a prerequisite to letting go of control. At the root of inappropriate control is this kind of pride: “I want to make a big splash in the world or at least a notable contribution and I have to be in control to do that!”
I have a definite need to return to a position of humility under God’s mighty hand for a reality check as to just how little I am able to control or change planet earth on my own. I am not God, and playing God only makes me and others anxious.
If you can effectively toss your anxieties on the Lord during a brief morning quiet time, great! However, I find that the tossing of deep-rooted anxiety takes an extended time of solitude to identify the pride of control, followed by a very intentional act of tossing them on the Lord. That extended time is the Sabbath and it means to rest or cease from work-related activities. It means doing serious business with God.
Now, by the grace of God, we can make a difference in our world, nation, communities, churches, homes, etc. But that difference begins as we position ourselves “under God’s mighty hand” - not above it, beside it or beyond it! That’s where we experience the peace which transcends all understanding that Paul talks about.
I conclude with the words of an old Hasidic rabbi on his deathbed:
When I was young, I set out to change the world. When I grew older, I perceived that this was too ambitious so I set out to change my state. This too, I realized as I grew older was too ambitious, so I set out to change my town. When I realized I could not even do this, I tried to change my family. Now as I am an old man, I know that I should have started with myself. If I had started with myself, maybe I would have succeeded in changing my family, the town or even the state—and who knows, maybe even the world!
Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), p. 100.