1 Peter 5:6-11
Except – the situation with several of my friends is not physical illness, like a broken bone or having gallstones or needing a knee replacement. Those are all conditions that are straightforward, and can be readily fixed. No, the situation with several of my friends – and several relatives in my extended family – is mental illness. Invisible illnesses like major anxiety disorder, or one of many forms of autism, not to mention schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This kind of affliction is a very real illness, just as real as diabetes, or spinal stenosis, or heart disease. The apostle Peter did not have the kind of understanding that the medical workers of today have. At least, not about the medical intricacies and interrelations of the human body and the human mind. He did not have medical understanding concerning diseases and health histories. However, Peter had significant spiritual and relational understanding, especially concerning his risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ and Christ’s relationship with us. As I have reminded us all during the past weeks, Peter concentrates on suffering a number of times in this short letter. He raises it again in today’s matter-of-fact reading.
Everyone will suffer at one point or other in our lives, frankly. It just depends when and how much we suffer, whether we suffer physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Sure, we can be afraid! Who wouldn’t be afraid? It only makes sense for us to fear and have concerns!
If we step back and take a look at the beginning of chapter 5, I know that Peter was thinking more about suffering in a physical sense. But, I want us all to consider people with mental illness, especially untreated mental diseases. Peter’s words about suffering surely can apply to people like these, people like several of my friends and several in my extended family.
Perhaps, you are thinking of someone you know, someone in your circle of friends or your family. Thank goodness here in the Chicago area we have a large number of therapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Even though we have all of these professionals here in this area, all of these people who can diagnose and assist those with mental illness and cognitive impairment, many, many people still suffer. Just like there are many people who suffer with heart disease, or diabetes, or many other physical illnesses.
The apostle goes into more detail here in chapter 5, when he talks about suffering. Peter does such an amazing job of describing the human condition in such terrorizing detail. From fiery ordeals to facing a lion prowling around looking for someone to devour, yikes! Sure, it feels like that on a regular basis, but seeing [the fears] there in print makes me want to cling to those fears even more tightly. They are real; they are overwhelming; and they are mine.I think those fears might be yours, too. Except, the apostle gives us a welcome relief! A welcome refuge from all of these anxieties and fears, too!
Let us look at verse 7. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Another translation of this verse says Cast all your cares upon him. Yes, we are beset on all sides by suffering and strife, sometimes! Yet, we have this Godly solution to our problem. If you will, we have a medicine for our spiritual diagnosis. But here’s the real question – How do you do it? Or even – Can we do it? Is such a thing humanly possible? Well, of course it is. We wouldn’t be presented with a task that is beyond human capabilities. God isn’t in the frustration business. The gospel song I Must Tell Jesus ,gives us some direction. In my distress He kindly will help me, He ever loves and cares for His own. And the chorus gives us reassurance, too: I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone.That is just the point! We cannot bear these burdens all alone, ashamed and in silence. We need each other to assist. We need each other to come alongside, to encourage, to comfort. And, often we need the additional helps of therapists, counselors, social workers, psychologists or psychiatrists. We can confide in a good friend, too, or ask for prayer. We can write in a journal and set down our fears, frustrations, and anxieties. However you and I hold these cares about mental illness, there is help! This is just one of many resources, and it’s available locally in many places throughout South Africa , the are organisations that are supportive and welcoming to individuals and families living with mental illness.
I don’t know how it’s been described to you: depression, anxiety, compulsion, addiction, autism, Asperger’s, disorder, syndrome. I invite anyone who would like to have Jesus come alongside of them, to help them bear their burden to come forward and light a candle. For your loved ones, or friends, or yourself. And, we can all help bear each other’s burdens, too.
At this tender moment, this moment of release and encouragement, we can indeed cast all our cares upon the one who truly understands. Hand over our anxieties so they burden us no longer. We can cast all our cares upon Him who cares for us immeasurably more than we can ask or think or possibly understand. And, that is a sure promise from God.