Yes, anxiety is normal and yes, practicing anxiety is a sin.
And there is good news.
I’m being trained to look behind a statement in scripture to reason about the condition of the author. For example, yesterday morning I paused at verse 4 while reading Psalm 86:
- Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Since it was a rainy, gloomy Saturday morning I immediately asked God to gladden both my and my husband’s hearts. But afterwards I realized that the only reason the Psalmist would have penned such a request was because he was struggling with the blahs or worse and knew he could count on God to help him! Why ask for something of which you have no need????
Here’s another verse from Matthew 6:25
- I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.
Why would Jesus dedicate these minutes to expound on worry if He didn’t SEE or KNOW that worry was present in the hearts and minds of those listening to Him?
How about the command NOT to fear? I read in the on-line Christian Post (5 Nov 2014 blog post entitled Faith over Fear) that Jesus’ primary teaching was: to love others. (125 times taught in the Gospels) According to the writer of the post, Jesus presented and organized His teachings by theme. And the primary theme (21 times) for His instruction was about FEAR. Do not fear; don’t be afraid; be courageous; be firm in your faith. This means that Jesus exhorts us to LOVE by NOT FEARING. Hmmm, could it be that fear drives out love? Is that the reason that the apostle John pens in 1 John 4:18?:
- There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,
And why would Jesus repeat such a message if it weren’t a glaring problem?
So YES – worry and anxiety are normal, but they are neither GOOD, nor HEALTHY, nor appropriate for Christians. In fact, worrying is a sin since God commands us NOT to worry.
So how does it help to know that worry is both a sin AND a normal reflex?
Because God doesn’t leave us to battle it on our own. There is supernatural power to fight sin. And we are called to enter into warfare every day of the Christian life. Through daily practice similar to our workouts at the gym, we will strengthen our reflex to rely on His promises and character, growing more like Jesus. But let’s be realistic; we will not eliminate anxiety 100 %. Therefore, we can expect to have to engage this enemy of the faith daily, WITH the resources God provides. Even my hero of the faith, George Müller, admitted that the decade of his 90s were the hardest. I imagine his struggles had to do with declining health and increased physical limitations. There are always new fears to confront. But God promises fresh mercies each day (‘our daily spiritual bread’)
It’s not for rhetorical reasons that Paul exhorts young pastor Timothy in his first letter, chapter 6, verse 12:
- Fight the good fight of faith
This same Paul is the one who explains how to dress daily for the warfare. Besides defensive armor, he reminds us that there is ONE offensive weapon – God’s word.
The only way to drive the worry dragons away is by saying or singing or shouting or meditating on God’s many promises to BE our strength, to BE our peace and then to bank our life on those promises given to us by a Loving Father whose character is trustworthy.
Here’s one more look at a desperate psalmist and how he deals with danger or suffering
- If your law had not been my meditation I would have perished in my affliction. Psalm 119:92
The fact that he mentions his affliction is significant. Like us, he had a choice of mediating on how bad his circumstances were and how he couldn’t see a way out OR he could chew on the truth of God and what He has said. This Old Testament man of faith makes it clear had he chosen the former course of limiting his view to the present, he would have died.
Aren’t we blessed to have the Bible which does not sugar-coat life’s sufferings? Instead, it tells us that pain is real and there is help that is equally real and available.
I’ll leave you with an ‘oldie-but-goodie’ sermon link of the man who is teaching me to read my Bible and mine it for MORE than the explicit words: