Tuesday I stood before a grave. Wednesday I stood before a cross. As the Word echoed through the sanctuary this refrain filled the air: Cast all your care upon him; for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Yes, I remember this I truth. I memorized this verse in Awana. Suddenly, long forgotten songs from my childhood started parading through my mind. It all seemed very…familiar.
There in the pew I began to wonder how it read in the Message. I wondered if I might grapple with the truth better if I approached it from a less familiar viewpoint. This is what I read:
“Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you.”
Talk about a new perspective.
Carefree? Live carefree? How do I live carefree when I’m so aware of the sting?
Careful? Most Careful? His handling often feels more like being tossed about, battered and bruised than handled with kid gloves.
So I started to talk with God about the words carefree and careful, wondering what He might want to teach me through these words.
The first place my questions took me was Isaiah 28:23-29.
Listen and hear my voice;
pay attention and hear what I say.
When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil?
When he has leveled the surface,
does he not sow caraway and scatter cummin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,
barley in its plot
and spelt in its field?
His God instructs him
and teaches him the right way.
Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
and cummin with a stick.
Grain must be ground to make bread;
so one does not go on threshing it forever.
Though he drives the wheels of his threshing cart over it,
his horses do not grind it.
All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.
I’ve written before about how this obscure set of verses have brought me deep encouragement in my walk with God. This passage reminds me that God knows what kind of seed that I am. He knows what it takes to cultivate me and He knows what would crush me.
Just like the caraway and the cumin in these verses, each and every spice comes to release its full flavor through its own unique process. As it is with every child of God.
God never stops the work of shaping and forming His children into the “true-self-in-Christ” that is unique to each of one. He alone has wisdom in counsel to understand everything that goes into the process of each soul becoming who we were created to be.
But when we feel the sting, the rod, the sledge, the wheel, we start to wonder about His goodness. In the midst of the pain of life it certainly does not feel as if He is being “most careful” with us.
We forget that only God sees the whole picture. We become blind to the fact that while we can’t always choose our circumstance, we can always choose how we relate in the midst of all that is happening. We so easily forget that we chose the sting; that death originated with a choice to sin. And we lose sight of the fact that God Himself took the heaviest blows of all on the cross. We start to define the idea of “care” as being pain free. We start to believe that He only cares for us if He gives us what that we want – including a life absent of pain.
I am guilty of all this and more.
I Peter 4:1-2 states:
Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
“Then you’ll be able to live out your days free.”
What if that’s what it means that He is most careful with us? What if He is using the pain of this life to carefully and completely release us from the tyranny of our self-centered and selfish nature so that we can live free?
The word carefree brings to mind a child at play. A little girl chasing lightning bugs. A little boy tossing sticks into a stream. Trusting. Unencumbered. In the back of their mind, hidden from the joys of the moment, they have a fixed faith that mom and dad have life under control. They live fully in the moment. They aren’t worried about making super or keeping a roof over their heads or the storm clouds on the horizon. They chase the butterflies and laugh at inchworms. They delight in friendships and focus on the task of building a sand-castle or playing a game with rules that only they understand.
But what would it look like for me to live carefree? I’m a woman grown. Children are often unaware of the struggle that goes on beyond their bubble of security. I am not unaware. I have known sin and death and grief and loss and struggle. I’ve felt the sting.
How do I live carefree?
Maybe it is simpler than I realize. Maybe it’s all about that fixed faith of a child. Maybe, just maybe, freedom is found in surrender.
What would my life look like if I really believed that God is always working for my good? What if I trusted that He is wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom? What if lived out the belief that in the very midst of the rod and the sledge and the wheel and the sting that He is being most careful with me? Would that release me to live free?
Would living carefree be to let go of all my demands to have my own way; to surrender to His most careful wisdom? Would it mean not denying my pain, my hurt, my struggle, but releasing it into the care of the One who is most careful with me?
Would it mean letting go of my desire that I be protected from every pain so that I can discover a deeper desire born of the Spirit: A desire to know Him, to dwell with Him, to be made more and more like Him in the beauty of His holiness?
Would carefree living allow me to crawl up in His arms so that like the little lamb in Isaiah 40 so that I too can be carried close to His heart, laying my head against His chest and listening to His heartbeat as it thrums “I love you”?
My heart cries a resounding “Yes!”
I long to live free, carefree and surrendered before the One who is most careful with me.