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Is Anxiety a Sin?

A family had put their Grandma on her first plane flight, but she hadn’t been very confident about the experience of leaving the ground on this contraption. When they met her at the airport on her return, one of the family members kidded her by asking, “Well, did the plane hold you up okay?” She grudgingly replied, “Well, yes,” and then quickly added, “But I never did put my full weight down on it!”

Many Christians are like that Grandma. The truth is, they’re being sustained completely by God, but they’re afraid to put their full weight down on Him. As a result, they’re plagued by anxiety and aren’t able to enjoy the flight.

Few of us are strangers to anxiety. It creeps in over big and little things, gnawing away at our insides. Arthur Roche graphically described anxiety as “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

We often feel anxious about our finances, our health, or our children. Sometimes we can’t identify any specific reason for our anxiety, but it’s there, nagging away at our insides. If we don’t learn to deal with it properly, it can cause all sorts of health problems, which in turn feed our anxiety!

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that anxiety stems from a lack of faith and from a wrong focus on the things of this world instead of on the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:25-34). If we excuse our anxieties by saying, “Well, it’s only human,” or, “Anybody would feel anxious in this situation,” we will not overcome it because we are not confronting the root cause of it, namely, our sin of not believing God and of not seeking first His kingdom and righteousness.

To those who follow Him, Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). If a non-Christian sees you as a believer weighed down with anxiety and care, he isn’t going to be asking how he can have what you have! Anxiety and joy are mutually exclusive. So for the sake of our testimony of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we learn to experience the peace of God, especially in the face of trials.

There are many people who come to Christ because they are anxious and they want the peace He offers. But if they do not confront the fact that they are living to please themselves rather than God, they will simply settle into a self-centered life where they “use God” for their own peace and comfort. Jesus said, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). The peace Christ offers is the by-product of enthroning Christ as Lord and living for His kingdom.

Christians should care deeply about people and their problems and should work hard to resolve problems. As members of the same body, we are to have mutual concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25). Paul mentions the concern that he bears daily for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). He tells the Philippians that Timothy is genuinely concerned for their welfare (Philippians 2:20). In each of these verses, the word concern is the same as the Greek word for anxious, but clearly it is not sinful anxiety but proper concern.

But proper concern turns to sinful anxiety when we lack faith in God’s role as the Sovereign Lord and provider—when we put self at the center instead of God’s kingdom and righteousness. So the first step in dealing with anxiety is to examine whether it is due to lack of faith or to a wrong focus on self. Confess the sin to God and yield to Him. —Steven J. Cole

Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us. —Billy Graham