Faith and Anxiety
Jul 23, 2020 · Scott Hoezee
Most of us have experienced the familiar twinge of anxiety in our lives. Maybe you’ve anxiously waited for test results, worried about a loved one’s safety, been stressed about finances, or burdened with anxiety over a relationship or social situation. Maybe it’s a more clinical, lingering anxiety that you need professional help addressing. Whether anxiety has affected your life in big ways or small, it’s probably also led you to ask questions about your faith and God. Is this an issue of not enough faith? Am I just not trusting God enough? Is anxiety a sin? Can faith help me in my anxiety, or do I need to deal with it first? You are not alone.
In the Groundwork episode “Faith and Anxiety,” guest Chuck DeGroat joined co-host Dave Bast and me to discuss what anxiety is and study Scripture, so that together, we can better understand a faith-filled perspective on anxiety in our own lives, and how we can support each other with God’s peace.
The Bible and Anxiety
The Bible frequently warns us about experiences or emotions that frequently crop up in our lives. The more often the Bible brings up certain subjects, the more obvious are the things that consistently arise in our hearts. Otherwise, the Bible would not work so hard to address them. Think, for instance, how often Scripture warns us against anger. Not only is anger a common problem, but too often, it can lead to deadly consequences. So the Bible talks about anger a lot.
We see this for anxiety and worry as well. Anxiety comes up often in the Bible:
- “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you,” (Psalm 55:22).
- “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7).
- “Do not worry about your life . . .” (Matthew 6:25).
- “Do not let your hearts be troubled . . .” (John 14:1).
- “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” (Philippians 4:6).
If we never had reasons to be troubled, worried, nervous, or anxious, we would not have to be directed so often in Scripture to give it all to God.
What Is Anxiety?
Most of us recognize that anxiety or worry can vary significantly in cause, intensity, and duration. On some level, you might feel anxious while you wait to hear what you expect will be good news: about a hoped-for pregnancy, a response to a marriage proposal, or about a promotion at work. Excitement at the prospect of good news can feel a little like anxiety. We don’t find this kind of anxiety problematic. We also expect a certain level of anxiety while awaiting lab results that might reveal cancer, or waiting for news from a loved one caught in a natural disaster, or going about daily life when a son or daughter is deployed to a war zone. Not all anxiety can be avoided.
However, anxiety and worry may so consume a person every day that it renders him or her incapable of functioning or concentrating on a task, perhaps even praying. This can be a clinical disorder in need of serious attention, a medical problem requiring medication and perhaps longer-term counseling and therapy. No one should presume to judge the quality of a person’s faith on account of a seeming inability to just cast one’s cares upon the Lord and go on with life in some carefree, trusting manner. It’s not always so simple.
Faith and Anxiety
Is there a form of anxiety that could be considered more of a spiritual issue of faith than a clinical one? Perhaps. If we insist on trying to deal with our anxieties completely on our own and never pray about them or entrust them to God’s loving hands, then we may produce in ourselves a potentially long-term faith issue. Worse, if we conclude that God does not even care about the things that worry us—to the point we don’t even bother to pray about them—we would need spiritual care and counseling to address our faith and core trust in God’s loving care for us.
Clearly Jesus does not want us to spend our lives fretting about every little detail of life, particularly if our lives have been so well provided for already. If there is food in the pantry and money in the bank and more clothes in the closet than we need, then nursing a constant anxiety about the stock market or obsessively searching for ways to make even more money could result in a discontent that amounts to sin, or at the very least a spiritual issue that needs to be addressed (Matthew 6:25-34). If we have evidence God is caring for us, then running around in life in a constant panic is not fitting.
A Faith-Filled Response to Anxiety
A popular song from the late 1980s had the comically infectious refrain, “Don’t worry, be happy.” If only it were that easy! But for Christians dealing with anxiety due to the circumstances we face, we know that we can and must pray about such worries. We can and must try to cast our anxieties on the Lord and ask for his Spirit to see us through dark nights of worry when sleep will not come. God does care for us. It is not always easy to rest in this truth, but we can trust God’s faithfulness above all other things.
With God’s help, may we feel our anxieties dim even as our faith grows brighter.
Study this truth with us, along with how it applies to depression, anxiety, and chronic conditions, in the podcast Bible study “Finding Strength and Support in Scripture.”
Subscribe to "Finding Strength and Support in Scripture"
A Bible Study Podcast for Times of Physical, Mental, or Emotional Suffering