Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

Some Thoughts on the Sin of Anxiety

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus provides extensive teaching on the subject of anxiety. Meditating on this passage of Scripture will renew our minds as we submit to God’s truth and feed our sometimes-feeble faith. We learn seven lessons from this passage.

  1. Anxiety often stems from a preoccupation with the temporal and material. Jesus begins verse 25 with “for this reason.” This phrase takes us back to the previous passage (vv. 19-24) which confronts the issue of materialism and ends with the simple truth: You cannot serve both God and money. In other words, anxiety over material provisions is a fruit of losing our eternal perspective, which flows from the direction of our worship. We cannot worship both God and financial goals. Ultimately, we must place our trust in only one.
  2. Anxiety fails to recognize God as the faithful Creator and trust Him as the ultimate Provider. Jesus instructed His audience to look at the birds of the air and lilies of the field, both of which do not worry about tomorrow for even one moment. Yet God cares for both. If God cares that much for birds and flowers, which display His power and glory, but do not reflect His image, He will indeed be faithful to care for those who are worth much more (v. 26).
  3. Anxiety will not help us live longer. Jesus asks, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?” (v. 27). Medical research has long affirmed that anxiety is bad for our health. It does not lengthen our lives, but actually shortens them. God has numbered our days (Psalm 139:16) and all the worrying in the world will not stretch them out.
  4. Anxiety is caused by a lack of faith or faith misdirected. When we allow worry to control us we demonstrate that we are men and women of little faith (v. 30), or that the faith we do have is misdirected (earlier point on v. 25). I have concluded that fear is basically misplaced trust. We fear the future, become anxious, when we place our trust in someone or something other than God.
  5. Anxiety is a worldly response. Jesus gently rebuked His worrisome listeners when He confronted them about being anxious over material provision because their focus was the same as that of “the Gentiles” (v. 32). The point is that those who belong to the God of the universe should not be thinking and acting like those who do not. By virtue of our relationship with God through faith in Christ we now love, serve, and trust Him. 
  6. Anxiety directs our attention away from kingdom matters. Anxiety sends us off on senseless detours. When worry governs our lives we end up going in the wrong direction. Jesus teaches that the antidote for worry is to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” As a result, all the things we trouble our minds over shall be taken care of by God (v. 33). Therefore, our highest priority as believers should be the Lord and His work rather than intricate details about everyday provision or the future. God is the One who holds the future. 
  7. Anxiety robs us of the enjoyment of today’s blessings. When we are consumed with the potential problems of tomorrow we are not able to fully enjoy the good things that God has given to us today. Enslavement to negative, false thinking patterns drives away the positive and truthful. Our responsibility is to care for today, for tomorrow will care for itself (v. 34). Does this mean we foolishly live for today with no thought at all for tomorrow? No. God’s Word says it is wise to plan ahead and be prepared for the future (E.g. Proverbs 6:6-11).

“Trust God” should not be carelessly thrown around as a reason to be foolish. God wants us to be wise servants who are prepared for tomorrow, but not to the extent that our trust is transferred away from Him. We who know the living God have no legitimate reason to trust anything else. When we do so we diminish the glory of our good and faithful God. Ultimately, this is the reason why anxiety is sin.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Paul,
    I am attending NANC conferences and really appreciate your articles. Learning a lot these days!
    I’ve never equated anxiety with worry. I don’t really know why…maybe I’ve missed it all along. I’ve had the tendency to be anxious all of my life, but in the last few years the Lord has been replacing my anxiety with his peace and joy. I have found that it is a choice and that I am never helpless or hopeless as child of God.
    There are lots and lots of women my age who deal with anxiety/worry due to menopause, hormonal issues/imbalances, etc., who take low or high doses of meds. Usually something for depression or anxiety.
    How do you feel about this?
    Loretta

    • Thanks for your comment, Loretta. The biblical counselor’s relationship to medical issues is one that requires great care, caution, and discernment. We are not medical doctors and should readily admit it. Occasionally, biological factors are a factor in depression/anxiety, but most people realize we live in a hyper-medicated society and need to be careful we are not trading off the eternal profit of sanctification (growth in Christ), which takes place while we learn to persevere in faith, for the temporal profit of merely “coping” through trial. Personally, the Holy Spirit has in the past year opened my eyes considerably to how much my thinking patterns affect my own struggle with anxiety. The more I choose to have a Phil 4:8 kind of focus, which requires rejection of false thinking patterns, the more my emotions fall in line. A recent article you will profit from is “More on How to Understand Biological Factors in Counseling.”

  2. I am a ompulsive worrier and seem to always be stressed. My father and his father worried and had anxiety as well. I am a Christian with a beautiful family – 5 kids and a wonderful wife – Most of my stress/anxiety/worry is work related – i do not fear things at home – but I worry about work and have irrational thoughts about what could happen all the time. I am going to speak to my pastor about it as well as our church counselor.
    I appreciate what you wrote above but I am afraid that just stopping worrying sounds easier than it is – then adding how worldy of a response to your article does not help either. Believe me, If I could stop – I would love to. I hate it. It steals my joy and all the things I have to be thankful for.
    I wonder if you have any practical advice as to how to stop worrying. My former pastor has told me to turn my worries into prayers- I am starting there. Thanks

    • Hi Chad. Boy, can I relate! Your pastor is right. Prayer is a huge factor in combating anxiety. But also, renewing your mind concerning who God is and how faithful He is to us in Christ. I have noticed a direct link in my life between worry and wrong thoughts about God. Meditating on Psalm 73 has helped me immensely the past 6 months or so. Here is a sermon on prayer and anxiety that others have found helpful. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=111406165117