1 Peter 5:7 A Brief Comment and a Special RequestRelated Media
In 1 Peter 5:7 we read one of the most comforting verses in all of Scripture: "casting all your cares on him because he cares for you." This is how we learned the verse in Sunday school. What is interesting is that it does not even form a complete sentence. The participle "casting" (ἐπιρίψαντεσ) is sometimes translated as an imperative--e.g., as in the RSV, NRSV, NIV, etc. As good as these translations are (and they are very good), they often miss the point of the Greek for the sake of simpler English. The problem here is that the connection with the preceding verse is no longer explicit. But the participle really is dependent on the preceding verse (in particular on the imperative “humble”): "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time." The specific relationship can be spelled out as follows1: the way in which we humble ourselves before God is to cast our cares on him.
When we worry, when we are overly critical (which is simply a covert assertion of our own sovereignty and pride), when we do not acknowledge our profound neediness and even helplessness before God, we are not being humble. But rather than knuckling under, God wants us to cast our cares on him. Thus, biblical humility is not being a doormat for an uncaring omnipotent taskmaster. There is no negative appeal here; this is not a command to be a tail-between-the-legs lap dog. No, biblical humility is not self-deprecation or a dispensing of our self-esteem. Just the opposite. It is recognition that our worth is to be found in our Maker. The command is positive: We have a loving Father who desires us to come to him with all our shattered dreams, disillusionment, dashed hopes, and fears.
At bottom, humility is a recognition that we really are frail after all. If the ’80s were the “me generation,” the ’90s may well be the “image-is-everything generation.” A good image, by today’s standards, means being cool. And being cool means being independent, detached, and above it all. It’s not cool to care or to be cared for. It’s not cool to admit your inabilities or frailties or fears. Being cool is being invincible. Being cool is what sells blockbuster movies. But being cool is ultimately a fantasy, radically divorced from reality. And being cool is the antithesis of biblical humility.
I know what it means to be cared for. I know what it’s like not to be cool. Since April 17 I have spent more than 21 days in the hospital. I have been in the emergency ward of two different hospitals, in ICU for two days, and diagnosed and rediagnosed. I have had veins collapse and spinal taps that didn’t take. I’ve needed a wheelchair or a walker most of the time, have had moments of paralysis, episodes of violent shaking and paranoia and hallucinations (the most recent being just a few hours ago). All because of some unknown virus that has attacked my central nervous system. I have been brought down by a bug so small it can’t be detected by a microscope. My invincibility has been penetrated by the tiniest of enemies, the weakest of foes.
The doctors are baffled so they sent me home two days ago. There’s not much more they could do. My kids are scared and my dear wife is exhausted. She has had to administer a very potent IV treatment once or twice a day for more than a month now. I am not cool when my body jerks thirty times a minute for twenty minutes at a time (and when I’m not having an episode, my body still jerks, hundreds of times a day). I am not cool when I have an ongoing killer headache that keeps me from standing upright. I am not cool when I go days without shaving because I have a shunt in my shaving arm, forcing me to use the other to awkwardly shave and often miss spots or cut myself. I am not cool when I need my wife to bathe me and shampoo me. I am not cool when I put on weight because I can’t exercise, since my legs don’t work and I’m not allowed to bend my arm.
But in all this lack of coolness, my dear wife, my precious Pati, loves me and cares for me and calms me down when I’m hallucinating that a train is coming at me or lava is engulfing my friends or I’m fighting Germans on D-Day or a dragon in medieval times. I am certainly not cool then; I’m not even lovable. Yet, she loves me even then. And she cares for me and holds my hand until the terror goes away. We’ve decided some time ago that I’m a ‘high maintenance’ husband (after all, I truly am an absent-minded professor who loses track of time and forgets where he lives and never knows where he parked the car). But, now, after 23 years of marriage (we celebrated our anniversary in the hospital this past Sunday) I have become--at least temporarily--a full-time job. Now my wife has two full-time jobs and four boys (plus me) to care for. I know what it’s like to be helpless, to be cared for, to be loved.
And I think I understand the character of God better through my Pati. I see his unflinching care in her eyes, his loyal love in her gentle kiss. I know what it’s like to be uncool, and it’s okay--because I am loved by the God of the universe who cares for me. Although I must confess: I wonder at times about who cares for my dear wife. This is not to denounce what many, many of our friends have done. Indeed, we are so deeply grateful for our church--astounded, really, at their sacrificial support. But even this, as great as it is, cannot keep Pati’s hair from coming out or give her sleep in the middle of the night when I’m groaning and hyperventilating. Tonight, I solicit prayers for Pati. Tonight I ask that you, my friends, cast her on the Lord, knowing that He cares for her. This is biblical humility, this is intercessory prayer, this is caring. And it is so uncool!
1 Technically, the participle in v 7 is a circumstantial participle, most likely of means (see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996] 340, 629-30), subordinate to the main verb of v. 6, "humble yourselves."