Is Anxiety a Sin?

Is Anxiety a sin?

Growing up because I struggled with anxiety, I felt like a failure as a Christian. I was seriously struggling with fear, anxiety and panic attacks on a daily basis. I was told over and over again that fear meant I didn’t trust God, that I wasn’t depending on him. My dad, a pastor, would often say, “tell yourself the truth.” If only I could. If only I could actually tell myself the truth. But the truth is that when you are struggling with anxiety your brain literally shuts down the logical, linguistic part of your brain. Every single time I tried to tell myself the truth, I failed miserably. I’d read verses commanding me to “fear not” and I just couldn’t. I tried but without fail, a wave of panic would take over. Some argue that the fact “fear not” is so often repeated throughout scripture means that fear or anxiety is a sin. For if it continues to command us not to and yet we continue to, that we aren’t keeping his commandments and thus, we must be sinning. But yet, would God give us an emotion and then expect us to never experience it, and if we did, declare that we’re sinning. That seems pretty cruel and not really the God that I know and serve. He loves us. He cares for us and he empathizes with our struggles. I think the biggest problem is that we the church have not done a good job defining anxiety and fear. We refer to all anxiety and fear as sin but there is a HUGE difference between “simple every day worries” and ongoing, persistent clinical anxiety.  Everyday fears and worries which are within our control are very different from fear and anxiety that is outside of someone’s control. God allows us to experience fear to protect us, to point us to him.

 

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this. That it should leave me. But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

I cling to 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10. I have pleaded with the Lord to take this from me so many times, but he hasn’t. I don’t think this means he doesn’t care or he doesn’t hear but rather that  he reminds me on a daily basis that his grace is sufficient for his power is made perfect in my weakness. This thorn that is in my flesh is not something I have chosen. It is not something that I have done anything to bring upon myself. It is not a sin, that I continually choose…it is beyond my control. It is a symptom of living in a fallen world, where Satan loves to torment Christ’s followers.

 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

The truth is that fear is the kryptonite that keeps us from being the hear that we were called to be. It keeps us from living the life we long for and the life God designed for us to live. As someone who knows full well the gravity of a life of fear and the ability of fear to shakle us – my hope is to share the freedom I have found in Christ and the all surpassing grace that has been showered on me. My whole life I have struggled with fear and anxiety…it grips me on the regular. But I can confidently say that the power of Christ rests upon me and has empowered me to live a life that is fearless. And while I still shutter and shake in my boots, I step out in faith trusting that my saviour’s got me and the truth he whispers in my ears is available to all.

 

"Fear Not"The Bible

Did you know the phrase “fear not” is written 365 times in scripture? That’s a daily reminder from God to live every day being fearless. I recently read this and it amazed me. I’m not sure if it’s true and it probably depends on what version of the Bible you’re using but still it took my breath away. God reminds us daily to fear not – to trust him – to lean into him. I am living proof that life lived with God can be fearless. Now don't get me wrong, I still have fear...lots of it, but I am fearing less and less every day because he is with me and guides me. He calls us each to live a fearless life. A life that fears less because it depends on him and trusts him with our anxieties and worries. It's a life that reads that reminder to fear not and decides to get up and leave the house and trust him today, trust him with this hour, this minute, this moment. Every moment we have a choice. The choice to trust him, to lean into him and believe that he can help you through this...whatever "this" might be. 

I think when people think about living fearlessly they think it means living without fear, reckless bravery that charges forward with abandon. Actually, I think our society has co-opted the word fearless and associated it with superheroes, soldiers, leaders and victors. But can anyone truly be fear free? 

Fear doesn’t have to be a bad thing…I mean in healthy doses.  Fear keeps you from making irrational, thoughtless, rash decisions. Fear keeps us from walking up and petting a lion or playing with poisonous spiders.  Fear makes us wear lifejackets when we go white water rafting, build cars with airbags, take out insurance and double check our parachute before we jump. Fear can be a good thing.  It’s when it becomes immobilizing and life altering and restrictive that it becomes a problem.  It’s when you are too scared to leave your apartment because you might have a panic attack and people might look at you - that it becomes a problem. 

 

Over and over in scripture we read stories of people who were afraid.  Virtually every one who followed God and did big things for him was afraid. And over and over the word of the Lord came to them and said the exact same thing.  He said to them, “Fear not.”  When Abraham was afraid the promises of the Lord would not come true, the word of the Lord came to him and said,  “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield…” (Genesis 15:1).  When Hagar was left desolate in the desert, kicked out by Sarah her master, the word of the God came to her and said, “Fear not, for God has heard…” (Genesis 21:17).  In Genesis 26:24, the Lord appeared to Isaac saying, “I am the God of Abraham your father.  Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you…”. God spoke through Moses to the Israelites in Exodus 14:13, when he comforted them by saying, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today… the Lord will fight for. You, and you have only to be silent.”  Joshua heard the same words (Joshua 8:1 and Joshua 10:8), as Gideon (Judges 6:23) who heard the same words as Isaiah (Isiah7:4), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:10), to even Daniel. The Lord spoke to his servant Daniel and said, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12).  And these people had lots to be afraid of, lots!  Abraham was supposed to be the father of generations, Hagar had nothing, Moses stood before the most powerful man on earth, Joshua stood at the walls of Jericho and faced down the most powerful armies, and Daniel literally was thrown into a den of lions. Yet, the Lord told them to fear not.  The same message rings in the New Testament. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph (Matteo 1:20), the Shepherds (Luke 2:10), and the women at the tomb (Matthew 28:5).  Later we hear Jesus speak to the disciples about fearing not too (Matteo 10:26-28; Matteo 17:7). I think the key thing that stands out to me here is not just the repetition of the phrase “fear not” but that it was essential for the phrase to be said that many times to that many people. There is absolutely no need to tell someone to “fear not” unless they are already struggling with fear. If many biblical heroes struggled with fear, worry and possibly anxiety, the lesson we need to learn here is that we are not alone in our fear. This is a human struggle - a struggle that God knew we would be challenged by. Knowing this he gave us example after example of trusting him and how he continues to be faithful.  365 examples of his faithfulness so that every single day we can be reminded that he is God, we are not, we need him and he will be faithful.

"Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your rewards shall be very great." - Genesis 15:1



I was reading Genesis 15:1 the word of the Lord came to Abram and said “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Abram had cause for fear: in Genesis 14, he had rescued Lot from his captors and had literally just attacked 4 kings. He had cause to fear retribution and that the kings of Canna might attack him back. God knew he was struggling with this fear too - which is exactly why he showed up and the word of the Lord came to him and told him to “fear not.” Did God tell him that he was sinning by being afraid? No. Did God chastise him for being afraid? No. Instead God shows up - he is present…he comes to Abram in his fear and sits and speaks to him. Not only that, but God also says “I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” God doesn’t tell us to not fear without giving us a reason to put away fear. He is that reason. 

Over and over throughout scripture when we find these words, “do not fear” or “fear not” we see God reiterating that He is with us, He will help us, He will strengthen us. Why would he need to tell us so often and so frequently this message? Because we need to be reminded often and frequently. This doesn’t mean it’s a sin to be afraid but rather when we are struggling with fear or anxiety that we should turn to the God of all Gods, the King of all Creation and trust him and find refuge in him. 

PROTECTS us. POINTS us. PRESENCE felt. PROVIDES grace. POWER displayed.

Fear and anxiety can protect us but when it becomes overwhelming it should point us to God so that his presence can be felt and we can be reminded that he provides grace so that his power can be displayed in us. When I am feeling anxious I am pointed to God who is with me and provides grace that is sufficient for today because it is his power which is displayed in me. Standing here in Kenya I am a living and daily example of a God who's power is sufficient. My anxiety tells me to stay home in my comfortable bedroom in Stouffville Ontario and let fear over take me. But my God says my grace is sufficient for you Tori and when you trust me, follow me and lean on me, my power will be displayed in your weakness. 

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