“A Lesson in Dealing with Anxiety”

Pt. 9 in the series; “Dawn”

August 30, 2020

 

1 Peter 5:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 

Boy, did I do this right.  So, in my contract with the church, I was off 12 weeks over the summer.  Of course, I couldn’t do much because of Covid, but, still I was off.  Then, I am back for this week and then, because of prostate surgery on Thursday, I will be off another 5-6 weeks.  Oh mama, did I do that right.

 

However, truth be told, if I had a choice, I wouldn’t be taking that extra 5-6 weeks.  If I had the choice, I wouldn’t be having surgery.  But, it had to happen.  Cancer is not something you put on hold.  It is something to be dealt with and I have been dealing with it for the last 6 months. It has been an emotional journey and it has been a spiritual journey and I want to tell you all about it today. As a matter of fact, when I get back from recovery, I will be so transparent that, if you ask me nicely, I will show you my scars.  That’s right, I will just open up and show you my scars.  I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.  No, we will have none of that.  But, I will show you some emotional and spiritual scars that I have gotten along the waay.

 

Now, before I begin, I want to get this out there, that I am fully aware that many of you have had surgeries before and have gone through many of the things I am going to talk about.  Many of your surgeries were far more serious than mine.  My doctor said that if you have to have cancer, prostate cancer is the one to have.  I was told that 70-80% of men will die with prostate cancer.  They won’t die of prostate cancer. Yet, as some of you know who have received the cancer news, when they tell you, there is a shock.  And, it was for me. 

 

The other thing I want to get out there is the reason I am sharing this.  It certainly is not to get sympathy points or for people to bring me ice cream.  You get ice cream when you get your tonsils out.  There are two reasons I am sharing this.  First, I want to bring glory to God.  He was the One who did everything I am going to talk about today. Second, I am hoping that my emotional and spiritual journey might be helpful to anyone else going through surgery or just going through a trial, Covid or whatever.

 

So, with that in mind, let me jump in.  Over the summer in my private devotions, I have been going through 1 Peter like Deacon Al has been doing in sermons on Sundays.  I got to the end of the book and found this verse that I had read many times before.  Now, with surgery looming, it took on so much more meaning.  Listen to it again.  It is short.

 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 

You could almost memorize it on the spot.  Let me read it again.  Say it with me. 

 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 

So, as Deacon Al likes to say, let’s do a deep dive in these verses.

 

  1. “Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s Mighty Hand…”

 

That translation is not quite right.  The verb is passive.  More precisely, it might be; “be humbled,” or “Allow yourself to be humbled.” The thing is that God has a hand in this.  God wants to bring each Christian to a place of dependence on Him.  It is like the image of the branch and the vine.  The vine cannot say to the branch, “I don’t need you.”  It is a dependent relationship.  God wants us dependent on Him.  The opposite of that is to live life with a swollen estimate of yourself, to trust only in your own resources, to think that you can handle life all on your own, that you have the power and you can ignore God.  Let me give you a name for that.  It is pride.  It is arrogance.  And that was the first thing God confronted me with through this cancer dealy. 

 

Some of you know that I am a control freak.  If you know that about me, raise your hand.  I better not see any hands raised because I installed an electric shock under your chair and if you raise your hand, you are going to get zapped. I can control you.  I am a control freak.  I want control.  I need control.  Over the years I did learn a valuable lesson.  I learned that I should control only the things I can or should control and to let the rest go.  So, from a church perspective, I should control the doctrine that is preached and the mission and vision of this place.  How we get at those things is not something I can or should control. 

 

So, here is a guy who is a control freak—say that with me, “control freak”—I told you not to call me that.  I do have the electric shock.  Here is a guy who is a control freak and I go to the doctor for an annual physical which was about 5 years late—I have learned that they call it an annual physical because it is supposed to be done annually.  But, I went for my annual physical and they did bloodwork and they found that my PSA level was above a 4.  I don’t know what a PSA level is but my doctor told me that above a 4 and you should look into it.  They repeated the test and it was still over 4.  So my doctor sent me for a biopsy.  Now, let me tell you how they do a prostate biopsy.  No, I won’t show you my scars and I won’t go into detail about the prostate biopsy.  Sending me for the biopsy started to make this thing real.  What did it cause me to do?  It sent me into prayer mode.

 

I started praying really hard.  I prayed and prayed that it was benign.  I had no symptoms, it had to be benign, right?  God wouldn’t let it be positive, would he? We had a Zoom meeting with my urologist.  Nancy and I bolstered each other up.  “Dorothy in the Wizard said, “I think I can.  I think I can.” Nancy and I were going, “I don’t have cancer.  I don’t have cancer.”  But, I did.  Thank God it was detected early but I still have it and that was a shock to the emotions and to my faith.

 

Now, again, I know many of you have received news about cancer and yours was more serious than mine.  Maybe I am just a wimp.  However, I was feeling upset with God.  I didn’t understand why He would allow this.  I was angry with Him.  That happened to me before when our daughter, Katie, died.  You have heard me say that then, I shook my hoary fist at God, whatever a hoary fist is.  I shook a hoary fist at God and cried out, “Why God?  Why?”  I asked that question of God for about 2 years at Katie’s death.  This summer, those feelings lasted about 2 weeks. 

 

You see, God was doing a work in me.  He was changing me, refining me, transforming me.  Do you know how?  He was beating down my pride.  He was confronting my arrogance.  He was challenging my independence.  He was smacking me up side of the head because of my spiritual control freakishness, if control freakishness is even a word.  God was saying to me, “Yo, yo yo, Arnold (God is from the hood) yo, yo, yo, Arnold—here it comes--God was saying, ‘I am God and you are not!” 

 

What!!?? I don’t get to call all of the shots? I don’t get to dictate to God how the story ends, “And they lived—what?—happily ever after.”  I don’t get to be in control?  God was saying to me, “I am God and, Deknatel, you are not.” I had to say that myself.  God is God and I am not.  And, then I read the verse before us today.  “Humble yourself…”  Peter said to “humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.”  God is the One with the power here. 

 

“The Lord has established his throne in heaven,   and his kingdom rules over all.”  Psalm 103:19

 

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” Psalm 115:3

 

Who am I before God?  I am an ant of a man.  I am a minute dot on the blip of God’s creation.  His is a mighty hand.  I was coming to understand that mine is not.  And, notice the direction.  We are to be humbled under God’s mighty hand. I am the creature.  I am His servant.  God is sovereign.  My pride, my arrogance was like me being on a ship in a terrific storm and I would  run to the bridge and want to tell the captain of the ship, the one who had been through many storms at sea, it would be the height of arrogance for me to try to tell the captain how to steer the ship or even worse, to take the helm itself.  God was having me confront my pride, my arrogance, my control freakishness.  God was tearing me down.  He was humbling me.  I could not control this cancer thing.  I could not control the diagnosis and I couldn’t totally control the treatment.  Ah, the treatment.  That was the next step in God molding me over the summer.  Peter describes it this way            

 

  1. Cast all your anxiety on him…”

 

The word for anxiety in the original Greek means to divide.  Anxieties divide our mind so that we cannot concentrate on anything else.  Someone said that anxiety or worry is a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.  Worries, anxieties distract us from what God wants us to do.  They divide our minds, diverting our thoughts from what God is teaching us.  My anxieties divided my mind all right.

 

The morning we received the results of my biopsy was the real beginning of some anxieties.  The doctor told us that if we didn’t do anything about the cancer, I’d have a 65% chance that I wouldn’t die of cancer.  If I did treat it, my percentage goes up to 99%.  I would get this thing treated.  My choices for treatment were radiation and surgery.  Both had a 99% cure rate.  They each had different side effects.  I figured I could manage any of those no matter which way I went. But—here is where my control freakishness came into play—with radiation, I didn’t have to undergo general anesthesia. General anesthesia is losing control. With radiation, I didn’t have to lose control.  With surgery, I would.  I would lose all control and that was a huge source of anxiety for me. 

 

Now, many of you have had surgery before and for you it is no big deal.  My wife has had about all that they can remove in her removed.  She has had a number of surgeries.  General anesthesia is not a big deal for her.  I, on the other hand, have not had any surgeries to speak of and I was anxious. I was of a divided mind.  I described it to others as being chicken. I was being a chicken about surgery and I didn’t want to have it.  So, I was full steam ahead with radiation treatment, only so I could avoid general anesthesia.  It would be my choice of treatment because I didn’t want to lose control.

 

God wasn’t finished humbling me, yet.  I discovered for the better option medically was surgery.  I knew that deep down.  Nancy knew that from the get-go, but then again she keeps looking for some other internal thing she can have removed.  Gall balder—don’t need that.  Liver—you can have that, too.  Heart—let’s see if I can live without one.  Me, on the other hand, I want to die with all of my stuff.  And, I didn’t want to lose control with surgery.  I was chicken.  I was anxious. 

 

I spoke to my pastor—that being Nancy—again and again.  I spoke with my son.  He just wanted to know if my life insurance was paid up.  I’m kidding.  I spoke to my Care Group.  I spoke to other men in our congregation who have had this surgery.  I spoke with 3-4 doctors, one of who has done surgeries on some of our men at Risen Christ.  Finally, I was referred by one of our men to a Dr. Rashid.  Dr. Rashid has done thousands of these surgeries.  He is a busy man.  When I called his office in July, I was expecting to have to wait a while for an appointment.  The scheduler told me that he was booking appointments into September.  Then, she said, “But, wait, he has an opening tomorrow!” Tomorrow!  I took that as a God thing.  Nancy and I went and He was fantastic as have been all of the doctors and nurses that have cared for me.  I told him I was chicken when it comes to general anesthesia and he said that of all of the things I could be concerned about, that should be way, way down on the list.  Right then and there, I decided that this was the way to go and I agreed to surgery. 

 

Dr. Rashid was good but, truth be told, I was still anxious.  Back in my devotions, I read again, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand…”  Yes, God was humbling me, alright.”  Then, the next part; “Cast all your anxiety on him…”  The word, “cast” occurs only one other time in the New Testament.  It was when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday.  The Bible says that the people brought the donkey to Jesus and that they cast their garments on the colt and set Jesus on it.  The meaning is simple.  If you have a garment on and you want the animal to carry it for you, you cast the garment on the animal and in this way you don’t carry it any longer.

 

There is a little story of a boy who was walking along a road carrying a heavy load. A man came by in a horse drawn buggy and offered the boy a ride.  The boy accepted and got in but instead of laying the heavy load down in the buggy, the boy kept holding it on his shoulders.  When asked about it, the boy said that he wouldn’t set the load down because he didn’t want to be a burden to the horse.  Peter tells us to cast all of anxieties on Him.  We are to cast ALL of our anxieties.  Not some of our anxieties but all of them.  Cast all of your anxieties on Him.

 

I told you all of the people I talked to about me being a chicken concerning anesthesia. There was one more.  I talked to Jesus—a lot.  You know, that is just where God wants you.  I told you that upon hearing the results of my biopsy, I was angry with God.  But, even when I was angry, I kept praying.  I kept reading the Bible, thinking, praying, journaling, asking God again and again to let me cast all of my anxieties on Him.  This is what I can tell you.  The last two weeks, I have had a real sense of peace about this thing. The anxiety is hardly there.  I feel more settled, not having a divided mind. I can’t tell you when I got rid of almost all of my chicken--ness, but I can tell you what did the trick.  It is found in the last part of this verse. Listen to it;        

 

  1. “Cast All Your Anxieties on Him.  He cares for you”

 

If you want something that can just make anxiety melt away, if you want something that can take whatever issue it is that you are anxious about and give you peace, it is this; God cares for you.  He loves you.  Let me ask you: Do you love yourself?  C’mon, you can admit it.  Do you love yourself?  I am not talking about some egotistical, I am the greatest thing since buttered bread kind of love.  I am talking about a healthy self-love.  Do you love yourself?  I hope you do.  And, how great is that love?  Is it pretty intense?  Now, listen to this—I came across this as I meditated on this verse—“God loves you more than you love yourself and desires the best for you so you can trust Him.” Take that one in, will you.  Let me read it again; —“God loves you more than you love yourself and desires the best for you so you can trust Him.”  God loves you way more than you love yourself. That will melt that anxiety away. It did for me.

 

So, in the midst of some of my anxiety over this surgery, I meditated on these two verses and when I got to this part, “He cares for you,” I started thinking about all the ways that God has cared for me over the course of my life.  Bear with me as I share just a short list of those ways with you.  See if you can relate.

 

  • God cared for me even before I was born.  You may remember me saying that before I was born, my father made a vow to God that he would dedicate me to Jesus.  That was before I was born.  God called me before I was born.  That’s what Scripture says about each of us.  “I have called you by name, you are mine,” the Scripture says.  God cared for me even before I was born.   
  • I grew up going to church every single week.  My dad started taking me to Sunday School at 18 months and if I had to miss because I was sick, I’d bring a note to my Sunday School teacher and if we were on vacation, we would find a church where we vacationed. God cared for me.
  • I was confirmed in the church and I was part of youth group all through high school.  God cared for me.
  • I met Nancy at church and 4 years later married her.  She has been perhaps the biggest evidence that God loves me, that He cares for me for how could I ever doubt how much God loves me when I see how He gave me the most incredible woman in the world and He gave us such an amazing relationship.  I thank God daily for her and our relationship.  Talk about God caring for me, loving me.
  • I got to go to seminary.  God cared for me. 
  • God showed me His love in the bad times, the difficult times, too. With Katie’s death, I doubted God’s love, I fought with God.  But, again, my God did not leave me or forsake me.  He was there for me even in my angry rants at Him and in the end, I learned grace.  I learned that there is not one thing I can do to have God love me any more than He already does and there’s not one thing I can do to have Him love me any less.
  • And got to serve 5 churches in my lifetime, all opportunities to experience God’s love and care. 
  • And, how could I doubt the love and care of my wonderful God when He has given me 25 incredible years at this wonderful congregation.  They have been 25 years of joy-filled ministry. Oh how God loves me.  And I am only scratching the surface.

 

And, it was in the midst of thinking about those things, about His love and care, that my anxiety melted away.  I have been at peace about this surgery and about anesthesia and it is because I thought again about how much God loves me.  If He has loved me through my entire life, He will love me as I fall asleep in surgery.  And, He will love me for eternity.

 

Now, it is your turn.  

 

Whatever it is you are going through right now, if you are anxious about anything, listen, God cares for you.  “God loves you more than you love yourself and desires the best for you so you can trust Him.”  Here’s another one; “God is more concerned about your welfare than you could possibly be.” You might be scurrying about making sure everything is going well for you, you may be overly concerned about all the stuff of your life, but God is far more concerned than you could possibly be. 

 

But, drill down even farther.  Know this; God cares for the very thing that is causing you anxiety.  God loves you more than you love yourself and desires the best for you in whatever is causing you anxiety.  Do what I did.  Start from the beginning and rehearse in your heart of hearts all the ways that God has cared for you, all the ways He has loved you.  Think about the good times and the bad times.  Think about the times you were aware of His love and even the times you forgot about Him.  List those times. Meditate on every last one of them.  Let His care, let His love seep into your very spirit. 

 

And, if you are still not convinced, then go one last step, the supreme step.  Go to the foot of the cross and see how much God loves you.

 

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  Romans 8:32

 

The cross of Jesus is the supreme way that God says to you, “I love you.  I care for you in this life and the life to come.” 

 

Listen one last time to Peter’s words; “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 

I told you at the top of this message that the reason I am sharing this is to give glory to God, glory to God for how He worked in my life these last few months. And, I am sharing this for all of you may be anxious about anything right now; a surgery, Covid, other sickness, finances, relationships.  What can you do? 

 

  • “Humble yourself”- set aside your arrogance and know that God is God and you are not
  • “Cast all of your anxiety on Him”- cast it, throw it on Him, and give it all.  Don’t hold on to any part.
  • “He cares for you.”  Go over that again and again in your spirit. Look back over your life and see that God loved you.  He loves you. He will always love you.  And the cross tells me that.  Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.

 

Think about that as you deal with your anxieties.  It is what I will be thinking about when they wheel me for surgery.  I will think about it.  I will meditate it.  Maybe instead of counting down from 100 when they put me to sleep, maybe I will just sing… “Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me (snore).”

 

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.