Sunday, August 3, 2014

Is Anxiety a Sin?

Below you will find the contents of a letter that I recently sent to the members of my small community. Perhaps you will find some value in it as well.

Is Anxiety a Sin?

There have been a couple questions about this topic since I made the proposition this past Thursday. So, give me a second of your time and I'll explain why I believe it is indeed a sin to worry.

Defining our terms:

Anxiety — is an ongoing feeling of fear, unease, and worry, whether rationally or irrationally induced. 
Stress — is the natural physical hormonal response to life’s circumstances. 

Sin — is breaking God's commandments and/or violating one’s conscience, whether by action or by affection (doing a right thing with a wrong motive is sin), whether intentionally or unintentionally committed.

Fear — there are two types of fear, natural fear and sinful fear, otherwise known as fret (both types of fear will be discussed below).

Worry — is concern gone wild. It is giving way to anxiety or unease; allowing one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.

What does God command?

Fear (Fret) — Do not fear men or life’s circumstances. Instead, fear God; trust in Him.

Worry — Do not be anxious for anything. What you will eat, drink, or wear.
(I can provide additional references, but much of this can be found in Matt 6)

If God commands that we not fear or worry, at what point does natural fear and concern become sinful?

Natural Fear (that gut level emotional response that emerges from life’s tough situations) only becomes sinful once it exceeds our trust that God is faithful to keep His promises to protect and provide for His children. It all comes down to unbelief in the trustworthiness of God, you see. So, your anxiety (your visceral unbelief in God’s faithfulness) is tantamount to believing that God is either impotent or lying about what He said He would do for you.

Think about that definition of worry for a moment, “...allowing one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” That’s key! Worry is meditating upon your difficulty and troubles rather than meditating upon God’s goodness and steadfast love. It’s obsessing about your belief that God’s love holds less power than your circumstances. And if you don’t believe God can help you, then you are going to try to solve your problems without faith and apart from the Spirit’s indwelling power.

Anxiety ≠ Stress

When you are faced with a problem in life it is perfectly natural to undergo stress. In fact, God designed us to experience it! The evidence of this is found in the two adrenal glads that he placed on the top of each of your kidneys. Experiencing stress is not a sin. However, the moment that stress eclipses your faith in God’s faithfulness, it becomes sin. We often unwittingly move from natural and acceptable God-designed-stress into unbelief. Unbelief leads to mistrust, and mistrust to transgression against God’s command to trust and obey.

Repenting of Anxiety

Repentance means to turn, to change one’s mind about something. But, remember, repentance has less to do with what we are turning away from — anxiety in this case — and much more to do with the One to Whom we are turning. It is turning toward and trusting in God, through faith, and turning away from sinful unbelief and self-dependence.

If anxiety can be rightly defined as unbelief in God’s trustworthiness, then repenting of anxiety simply means abandoning your current way of wrong belief and aligning your heart with the truth of God’s Word. Moreover, if worrying means that you are meditating upon your circumstances and not upon God’s steadfast love, then repenting of worry means meditating upon the gospel — the good news that God has provided everything we need in the person and work of Jesus the King.

Crack that whip!

So then, so there is no confusion about what I’ve shared, let me beat this dead horse one more time. It is not a sin to experience stress; whether induced by fear, sadness, or concern for the provision and protection of your family or others. Stress only becomes sin when it morphs into fret and worry; when it metastasizes from your head to your heart; and when you fear your circumstances more than you trust in your God.

Don’t lay your head on your pillow tonight, beloved, as though you were people who have no God.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7

If you are looking for a resource that addresses this topic in greater detail, check out Anxiety, available from Wretched Radio.

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