Cast All Your Cares
Every creative person I know has something we call “the inner critic.” It is that voice inside your head that sabotages and undermines all your efforts with questions and demands like, “You are stupid. No one cares about this. You will fail so why try?”
The inner critic is not the same thing as an overactive conscience. It is not even a moral guide. What most distinguishes the inner voice from a conscience or guide is its degrading, punishing quality. Its demeaning tone tends to increase our feelings of self-hatred instead of motivating us to change undesirable actions in a constructive manner. It is the part of us that is turned against us.
But there are times when inner critics become far more lethal. They become inescapable voices telling us we are absolutely worthless and the world would be better off without us completely. It is then that those voices drive people to self-harm and suicide. These persistent and increasingly frequent lies make living seem intolerable. “Now is the time to end it” is the insistent message.
This week, we were invited to a reception and reading for a new author, Laura Grace Dykes. Laura has suffered from severe chronic depression since she was 19 and for the last 15 years has fought off the inner voice that encourages her to end her life, telling her she is worthless and a burden to everyone around her. That inner critic has become a lingering scream that never completely goes away.
“Yesterday was a bad day for me. I cried for roughly nine hours, unable to eat or sleep. Nausea, headache, diarrhea, despair, hopelessness, fear. Finally, I texted my husband to come home from work because I could no longer be alone. My sick brain was talking to me, intermittently whispering and screaming the same garbage it has been trying to get me to believe for the last 15 years. And no matter how much therapy I have, that voice is never really gone. Maybe it never will be. Because depression is more than just suicide. It will kill you slowly, smothering out all the light and leaving nothingness. So how do I face this again? How do I face the probability of a lifelong struggle with depression? One day at a time and lots of support. My entire life is dedicated to fighting my illness.”
In the chapter “Crying Out to God,” Laura Grace quotes a familiar passage from 1 Peter 5: “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” (The Message) In another translation that last phrase reads, “Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you.”
As I read Laura Grace’s book this morning, I kept coming back to this. Mental illness is not “fixed” with more prayer and Bible study. It is not some shameful defect or character flaw that will only be eradicated with more spiritual discipline and, frankly, we do more harm than good when we misuse Bible verses and prayer and alienate people even further. However, there is something about the verse below that does offer comfort that is lasting and deep and makes it an anchor in the storm.
The word for “cast” comes from Leviticus 16:20-22 and reads, “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”
Peter as an old man out of his lifetime of suffering, perseverance and trials is not lecturing us. He is sharing wisdom. In confidence we are to continuously press – with both hands – our cares and anxieties on the Lord. This kind of casting is intentional and not casually tossing our momentary burdens or casting and then reeling them back in. Instead, it is, as Laura Grace discovers, knowing enough about those particular cares and anxieties to pay attention to and fight them.
That is why the words from Leviticus are so important. Put both hands – our full attention – on those cares and lay them on him. It is not a cure or a fix but it is our constant hope. This is not the life we have chosen but we can choose how we will respond and fight back every day.
Let me close with her words.
“My purpose is to help others like me somehow. I might truly be at the start of another episode or maybe I can fight it off. We’ll see. But I am a fighter, and I want everyone who faces depression to fight. Today I can fight. So I will.”