Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7
Peter has turned in this letter briefly toward the elders and given them a brief exhortation (5:1-4), and then turns to everyone else in the church: “Likewise you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you…” (5:5a). So this verse and following is directed once again to all the members of the churches in the five cities he expected to receive and read this letter (1:1).
In verse 5, he says, “Act in humility toward one another” (my paraphrase), because, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (5:5b), and then elaborates in the next verse, “Humble yourselves…”.
1. How is the command to be humble connected to our anxieties?
I think the connection is highlighted in a kind of “grace sandwich.” It goes like this:
- (5:5) God gives grace to the humble
- (5:6-7a) Be humble and trust God with your worries
- (5:7b) God cares for you
So here we have obedience and faith smashed between the bread of two of God’s promises. Be humble (obedience) and trust God (faith) with your worries.
1a. Peter why are you even bringing up anxiety here? Aren’t you still talking about humble obedience to the elders in the church?
I am tempted to highlight here how pride is connected to anxiety. I do not think Peter’s aim is to show how anxiety indicates a lack of faith and a sense that you know better what you need or desire than God does, and how you ought to repent by humbling yourself and repenting of the kind of pride that produces anxiety. But the connection is there nonetheless, or putting these themes together this way would make no sense. We would be left scratching our heads going, “Peter why are you mentioning my anxieties right now? We’re talking about pride and humility!”
The reality is, there is something in anxiety that causes us to feel or believe that we must take matters into our own hands and fix it and (looking back at 5:5a) perhaps not obey the leadership of the elders God has entrusted me to.
Humble trust in God’s ability and God’s love
This kind of humility, on the other hand, stays those impulses—to go take what I feel that I lack, or force what I want to happen, or cheat so I don’t have to wait—and turns away from a focus on my present need or desire. Instead, it looks to God’s “mighty hand,” which is able to give all I need for joy and for life, and trusts in the promises, “God cares for you,” and “God gives grace to the humble.”
John Piper wrote a fantastic book called Future Grace. The main point is that the Gospel looks both backward to past grace (which brought justification) and forward to future grace (final sanctification and glorification), and that all of life as a believer ought to be lived thankful for past grace and in anticipation of future grace—goodness we can trust God to give because of his many promises in Scripture. We may receive some of this future grace here in this life, and some in the next, but we can rejoice because our God has given us himself through Jesus, and has made us many promises we can trust in his mighty hand to fulfill.