Mothers-in-law often get a bad rap. Not too often do their sons and daughters-in-law have too much good to speak of them. However, I have to say that I was blessed to have a mother-in-law who was a real gem: a humble, hard working, gracious Christian with a big heart for God’s work. Not that she was perfect. She wasn’t. Perhaps her greatest battle with the flesh was that she tended to worry. She knew she shouldn’t be a worry wart and so she developed a way of dealing with her weakness. It was by having constant recourse to 1 Peter 5:7, which became her favorite text of Scripture: “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” By God’s grace she was able to do that and so found victory and peace.

Many people glibly quote that text, but gain little or no benefit from it. It states such a precious and important truth that we should give it our closest attention. After all, who among us does not have cares? Who does not long for peace of mind and heart amid the storms of life? So let us look a little more carefully at Peter’s words and see how we can benefit from them.

First of all, we must not rush into the text. It is not a saying that has somehow dropped out of heaven without any context or connections. It follows immediately on from the command of verse 6: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” Literally this verse reads, “Be humbled under the powerful hand of God.” The powerful hand of God means His power in resistless action. To be under that hand is to have the power of God acting in some way on us. It may be acting to protect us (Deuteronomy 33:3; Ezra 8:22, 31); or, it may be acting to guide us, provide for us, or otherwise bless us (Genesis 49:24; Hebrews 8:9; Mark 5:41). Or, it may mean—and often does mean—that God’s hand is administering affliction. This may be as a direct correction for sin, as in the case of David (Psalm 32:4), or it may not be, as in the case of Job (Job 6:9; 12:10)—we should not jump to rash conclusions. The inclusion of the word “under” leads me to believe that Peter is speaking particularly about suffering afflictions and realizing that they come from the hand of the Lord.

Peter’s point is that, even if we cannot understand why the Lord brings us under difficult circumstances, we should recognize that He is acting according to His perfect, sovereign, and all-wise purpose. “Be humbled under the mighty hand of God” means to acknowledge that He does all things well, that whatever we are enduring is part of His plan and that it is for His glory and our good. Isn’t that what Paul teaches us in Romans 8:28? “We know that all things work together for good,” so let us “be humbled under the mighty hand of God.” As Martin Luther said, “Where we cannot trace God, we can trust Him.” In his commentary on 1 Peter, John Brown comments that we should humble ourselves in three ways: as creatures under the hand of our Creator; as subjects under the hand of our Sovereign; and as children under the hand of our Father. In life’s hard times, recognize that the hand that brings our troubles is the hand of our all-wise Creator, our gracious King, and our loving Father. Judge the circumstances from this perspective and not from mere appearances or human feelings. And never forget that God’s purpose in humbling us is to exalt us “in due time,” or at His appointed time. So don’t be impatient. His timing is always perfect. Both Jacob and Paul suffered great afflictions, but while Jacob cried in anguish, “All these things are against me,” Paul shouted in triumph, “All things are working together for good.” Jacob was wrong and Paul was right.

Now we can come to the lovely promise of 1 Peter 5:7. With hearts clothed in humility, hearts that bow before God and believe His Word whatever the circumstances, we can enjoy the comfort of this text. “Be humbled … casting all your care upon Him.” The word “care” means anxiety, as in Matthew 6:25, 31, 34. It refers to anything that distracts us and bids to destroy our peace. There are many such things—cares of family, finance, health, and employment, to name a few. The idea of the text is not so much that we are to cast each care on the Lord as it arises, which of course we should do, but that as we live by the faith of the gospel we can cast our “whole care” upon Him. That is humbly living in submission to God’s will, where we are in the best position to deal with each particular care as it arises. Far from losing our peace, we can see each trouble for what it really is, our Father’s way of leading us on to the “due time” when He will exalt us.

Whatever our afflictions or difficulties, we humbly receive what His hand delivers to us, because there is one thing of which we are assured: “He careth for us.” The word “careth” is entirely different from the one translated “care” earlier in the text. It means “the watchful care of interest and affection” (M. R. Vincent). The Greek text reads, “It is of interest to Him concerning you.” Or, “It matters to Him.” Let that sink in. Here is the best antidote to care, worry, depression, loneliness, disappointment, self-pity, and a host of other destructive emotions that can so easily best us. What is happening to us matters to the Lord. He is no disinterested bystander. He is no harsh taskmaster. No, He has our best interests at heart. He takes a personal and loving interest in us and is pursuing a gracious purpose for us, even amid our most severe trials.

All this is true and most Christians will at least pay lip service to it; however, very often we add our own “but,” so that we find a way to avoid applying the truth to our immediate circumstances. So we come full circle, back to the command, “Be humbled.” Vincent wisely remarked, “Pride is at the root of most of our anxiety.” It is pride that questions God’s purpose, that rebels against His providence, that sulks at His dealings with us—all of which may explain why in grace His hand leads us where we don’t want to go, to endure what we don’t want to suffer. He is teaching us the benefit of godly humility, enabling us to enjoy a care free, though not trouble free, Christian life in the joyous knowledge that the Lord always has better things in store for us here and hereafter.

Dr. Alan Cairns is minister emeritus of Faith FPC, Greenville SC. He and his wife, Joan, live in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland.