Anxiety Is A Form Of Pride

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[A daily devotional by John Piper originally published by BibleGateway.com.  Reprinted under permission]

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God Cares for You    by John Piper

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)

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Why is anxiety about the future a form of pride?

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God’s answer would sound something like this:

I — the Lord, your Maker — I am he who comforts you, who promises to take care of you; and those who threaten you are mere men who die. So your fear must mean that you do not trust me — and even though you are not sure that your own resources will take care of you, yet you opt for fragile self-reliance, rather than faith in my future grace. So all your trembling — weak as it is — reveals pride.

The remedy? Turn from self-reliance to God-reliance, and put your faith in the all-sufficient power of future grace.

We see anxiety as a form of pride in 1 Peter 5:6–7. Notice the grammatical connection between the verses. “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God . . . [verse 7] casting all your anxieties on him.” Verse 7 is not a new sentence. It’s a subordinate clause. “Humble yourselves . . . [by]casting all your anxieties on him.”

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This means that casting your anxieties on God is a way of humbling yourself under God’s mighty hand. It’s like saying, “Eat politely . . . chewing with your mouth shut.” “Drive carefully . . . keeping your eyes open.” “Be generous . . . inviting someone over on Thanksgiving.”

One way to be humble is to cast all your anxieties on God. Which means that one hindrance to casting your anxieties on God is pride. Which means that undue worry is a form of pride.

Now why is casting our anxieties on the Lord the opposite of pride? Because pride does not like to admit that it has any anxieties. And if pride has to admit it, it still does not like to admit that the remedy might be trusting someone else who is wiser and stronger.

In other words, pride is a form of unbelief and does not like to trust in God’s future grace. Faith admits the need for help. Pride won’t. Faith banks on God to give help. Pride won’t. Faith casts anxieties on God. Pride won’t.

Therefore the way to battle the unbelief of pride is to admit freely that you have anxieties, and to cherish the promise of future grace in the words, “He cares for you.”

11 responses

  1. Dear Author, This continues to be the best blog on this topic I have found to date. You have expressed early on that you have dealt with a narcissistic person yet you remain far from angry or bitter as a result. This is very encouraging and is the key to my repeat visits. My spouse and I are currently dealing with older immediate family members whom we have discovered to have very strong narcissistic characteristics and it can be somewhat despairing. It appears that these family members could change…only if put in a King Nebuchadezzar-type season of humbling. Thanks for the time you have spent researching this and putting your thoughts into this easy to read blog. Thanks!!!

  2. This blog is a blessing. I have had a narcissist in my life for 39 years. It has been so difficult for me and my children, and until recently, I didn’t realize what I was dealing with. Since I’ve learned about narcissism, I have read many blogs, but this is the best because it’s based on God’s word.

    • Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. It is a struggle to write, and your note provides motivation to keep plugging away!

  3. I really enjoy your blog as well. I’ve done lots of googling on Narcissism, and watched lots of youtube videos. I eventually came across your blog because I googled Narcissism, pride and psalms. My struggle is with my dad. I’m in my 40’s, have a great husband, and two elementary school aged kids. Yet to this day, my fathers subtle emotional abuse can send me to the point of feeling suicidal in an instant. About 7 years ago, we chose to move 4 hours away from him. But I still have contact with him over the phone, and really that’s all it takes to send me into an emotional tailspin. He’s very cruel, unforgiving, condescending, punishing, arrogant, prideful. He’s also very accusatory (false accusations against me, and pretty much everyone else he knows). I try to only call him once every two weeks now, out of a sense of obligation, because he is my dad. I don’t call him unless my husband is with me on the phone. If my dad knows my husband is there participating in the conversation, he is less likely to get verbally hateful towards me. I have reduced our visits down to once a year. I can’t really go “no contact” as they say because I feel a biblical obligation towards him (since he is my dad). Also, I worry it would have a negative domino effect on every other relationship in my extended family. If I cut dad off, then I’d have to deal with questions from my brothers, other relatives. It might bring more emotional trouble than I have right now. I used to spend a considerable amount of effort trying to save my dad. I’d witness to him, send him sermons, buy him christian books, send articles etc…. After many years of doing this, all I got in return was mocking, scoffing and scorning. So I stopped doing that. He has been so cruel to me over the years. The words that come out of his mouth (towards me, his only daughter) are so dripping with cruelty, I often wonder if he is possessed. But then in the next heartbeat, he can turn around and play the role of perfect loving grandfather to my two kids. It’s so awful. I have been praying for God to release me fully from his tyranny (and his wife…..my “stepmother” who he had an adulterous affair with 30 years ago, and they are still together to this day). I just want it over. I’m tired of feeling obligated to him.

    • “Lord Make Me A Bird”, my dad is also a narcissist. I’ve been homeless for a long time because of his continued devious strategies to destroy my life. (I know this sounds like at least a little exaggeration, but it isn’t. In fact, the real story is far worse.) I say that to say this: the obligation you feel to remain in contact with your dad is not from God. Only once in a while does God ‘want’ someone to remain in an unhealthy-abusive situation so He can teach them something, bring them to a higher place after they’ve conquered that mountain, or so they can extend what may be a last chance of salvation to the unhealthy or abusive person. But probably no less than 90% of the time, the Bible tells us put distance between ourselves and such people.

      On one hand, the Bible says to dislodged from all unequal yokes. (The yoke your dad puts on you is not from the Lord; therefore, staying in contact with him is the same as being yoked to someone who isn’t an equal/Christian.) On the other hand, the Bible says to pursue fellowship with like-minded brethren and “so much the more as we see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25.) So, the Bible says to ‘depart from’ unhealthy and ungodly people and to ‘join yourself’ to healthy and godly people. There is no room for mistaking God’s will when it comes to dealing with abusive people there. However, as I said before, God sometimes ‘changes the rules’ in order to achieve something different; and once in a while (not often), He will lead a believe to ‘put up with’ an abusive or hateful person or even a narcissist. Your burden for your dad is not from God. It is up to you to carry it or to lay it down.

      I currently live with a narcissist who plays the Christian role as my dad does. I am leaving here today actually. When I saw this person’s hardness of heart against God, I gave up trying to reach him. But God told me to pray for him to open his heart to God’s call to salvation. He didn’t tell me to intercede for or befriend or take to Bible studies or fast for this person; He told me to pray that the person will receive the salvation that the Lord apparently has been holding out to him for who knows how long. By God’s Grace, I have done my part. He hasn’t received any salvation, but maybe a seed was planted. It is up to him to open up to God and up to God to save him if he does; in the same way, it’s up to your dad to repent and change his ways, and only God can help him. It can be over, and you can drop your obligations to him. Narcissists cause bondage and fear which are not God’s will for anyone:

      “God has not given us a spirit of bondage again to fear, but He has given us the Spirit of Adoption by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:15-16).

      God is your real Father, because He doesn’t abandon but takes care of His children. Maybe talk and pray with your husband about cutting ties with your dad (and your family). God bless.

    • You may find Proverbs 22:10 helpful as it has helped me. (I’m also in my 40s, the N’s are my parents and specifically my dad, have a great husband and kids) I/we have had no new abuse from our Ns since we went no contact or since we removed the mockers from our life. Or were we removed from the N’s life, I’m not quite sure yet. Here’s a link, if this website allows, that shows all the different Bible versions of Prov. 22:10: https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Proverbs%2022:10. Also, reading what King David has to say about those who were out to destroy him can be very encouraging. He talks about those who twisted his words in Psalms 56. Mark 10:29-20 talks about those who have left mothers, fathers for Jesus’s sake that may comfort you as well. You are not alone.

  4. I agree with everyone here; this is a good and Bible-based site and treasury of information and knowledge.

    Searching4Wisdom, while we’re talking about humility, you have a humble name for someone who already has wisdom. But of course, we grow daily in wisdom even as Jesus did while He was growing up. I wanted to add to something you said in this article.

    You said, “Pride is a form of unbelief and does not like to trust in God’s future grace. Faith admits the need for help. Pride won’t. Faith banks on God to give help. Pride won’t. Faith casts anxieties on God. Pride won’t.”

    I have had both, so apparently, it’s possible to have both. I ‘did not’ (probably ‘could not’) trust God’s future Grace or providence, and I worried about the future constantly; however, I was easily able to acknowledge God and God’s ability to help me, and put my hope in that. You can say I was double-minded; but right at this moment while living with a narcissist, I’ve been learning to trust God rather than fretting about the narcissist’s evil ways. My focus has turned from cleverly outwitting the narcissist to just trusting God and waiting on Him. (Ps. 37.)

  5. I am so thankful for this website. This is the only place that gives a biblical perspective. After 40 years of marriage to an unbelieving N, I am just now realizing the cause, the magnitude and the affects of his behavior. Every other piece on the subject says to get away, and get them out of your life. I am not going to do that. I have learned and grown so much through my trials. I am searching now as to whether I should confront his sinful selfishness or just go on enduring with my newfound knowledge of the subject. Ive always thought that if we continue to work on it, our marriage could be better. I am coming to the conclusion that that’s not going to happen. I have been grieving this realization and trying to combat my cynicism. I would appreciate help and advice on staying and coping. I look forward to future posts.

    • Thank you for your comments. I admire your courageous intention to swim against the tide. I hope to better address the question of staying and coping in future blog posts, but as you might have noticed, I’m quite slow. I prefer to work Biblically, rather than just spouting my own opinions, but my immediate and quick response would be 1. Find verses that re-emphasize daily God’s care and goodness for you in spite of your visible circumstances 2. look to God and trust Him to work in millions of little ways on your behalf in solving the problems which your N creates for you. 3. Ask God to provide the emotional comfort and support which your N will not be providing 4. Think positively about all the things that God IS providing to your through your N (it’s not zero, even though it’s not what you would hope or expect) 5. If your N is a believer, ask God to open or enlighten his eyes to see what he is doing. And ask God to humble Him and heal him of his narcissism 6. If your N is not a believer, ask God to bring him to Himself 7. If you have kids, ask God for miracle in healing your family of it’s narcissism (praying for a break in the generational chain of sin) 8. Look for ways to create space for yourself, while not neglecting your responsibilities 9. Be kind to your N, as unto the Lord – even though he does not deserve it …… 10. Think about other (especially Biblical) people who have been in impossible, intractable situations – and how the Lord worked in many many ways, large and small, to rescue them. And finally, the number one piece of advice is to focus on developing your own personal love relationship with the Lord. Ultimately, whether your circumstances are good or terrible, HE is the ultimate answer to our deepest heart longings. People with good circumstances are not very motivated to do that, while people in difficult circumstances are driven to Him out of desperation (which in the end is a blessing, not a curse). ……….. I’m sure there is more, but maybe this can be at least a little help. May God grant you much grace, mercy, peace, and comfort.

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