Freed to live through the death of another.

Is Anxiety Really Sin?

“Stress” is not a biblical word. “Worry” and “anxiety” are. And they are sins.

That’s the thought that started a conversation the other day. Can we actually say that something like anxiety is sin? What makes it a sin? Isn’t it just a weakness to be delivered from? Or, rather, shouldn’t we conceive of it as a mental illness?

There are a few different ways that we could go about answering. Let’s try beginning with the commands of Jesus himself.

It’s a Command

The command “Do not be anxious” is repeated several times by Jesus in Matthew 6 (Matt 6.25, 27, 31, 34) and it is repeated again in Matt 10.19.

While those commands deal with specific situations, the underlying reality at play is that if Jesus commands people to “not be anxious” we know that (1) it’s not just a chemical imbalance or a mental disorder, and, (2) there are at least some ways in which anxiety is a sin, simply because Jesus commands against it.

Jesus’s Theology of Anxiety & Trust

When Jesus commands people to not be anxious in Matthew 6 and 10, he is charging them not to be anxious about specific things: food, clothes, length of life, what happens tomorrow, and giving a defence for yourself when suffering because of the gospel. I think it’s safe to say, those are some of our most basic needs. By arguing from the most basic and elemental things, he is making the case that we ought not to worry in general.

In other words, if you shouldn’t worry about the most elemental things necessary for life, then what should you worry for? Nothing.

Jesus teaches in a metaphor in this passage, saying that we’re slaves of one master: either worldly “stuff” or God. He says we should follow God, because as a just and righteous master, he will provide all we need for us as we serve him. By way of contrast, if we serve ourselves, or labour to ensure that we provide for ourselves, we can guarantee nothing: “Which of you, by being anxious, can add a single hour to his span of life?”

At root in the issue of anxiety is the question of trust. If you say you are a servant of God and then you are being anxious, you’re acting like he’s a pretty wicked master. What kind of master would demand from his servants and not provide for them? If even human masters provide for their servants. then that is a very untrusting view to take of God!

Trusting in yourself is what produces anxiety. And it’s vain: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6.34). Trusting in God, on the other hand, frees you from anxiety and enables you to obey the command to “Not be anxious.”

The Apostles Agreed

All this is why the apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4 that the believers there should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4.6). There is one right place for trust. That’s what’s at stake when we battle anxiety.

Peter argues along similar lines:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Peter, having just reminded his readers that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Pet 5.5), now tells them what humility looks like. Humility looks like a casting of anxieties, off my shoulders and on to God.

To not cast my cares on him is pride. To hold on to my anxieties is to contend for his supremacy.

When I’m anxious, I’m trying to take God’s job. I think that either he doesn’t care enough for me, or he doesn’t have the situation in control. When I’m anxious, when I’m refusing to ‘cast’ my cares on him, I’m thinking that the situation is better handled by me than God.

That is the opposite of humility. It’s the opposite of trust. That’s why it’s sin. And it invites his opposition (in a Romans 1, giving over to more sin sense, which is sometimes why it can manifest in physical and behavioural ways that the world describes in strictly physical terms, attributes to strictly physical causes, and then offers strictly physical approaches to healing).

Is There a Right Kind of Anxiety?

So is all anxiety always sin? I don’t think it can be, in one sense. Paul speaks of the anxiety he has for the churches (2 Cor 11.28) and elsewhere he speaks of the anxieties that a married person will always feel for pleasing their spouse (1 Cor 7.33, 34). And he contrasts that with the anxiety that one should ideally feel for pleasing the Lord (1 Cor 7.32).

So some form of anxiety is not sin. But anxiety that is free from sin is not free from sin because of some mental or physical excuse, but rather because the nature of that anxiety is different. It seems more like eagerness or zeal than worry. It expresses how concerned one is with their need to carry out God’s prescribed will for their life.

How far that is from the anxiety I typically feel!

The only excusable anxiety, it would seem, is that which is actively “seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” with a heart of trust already in place, believing that “all these things will be added” in God’s way, by God’s means, in God’s time (Matt 6.33). I wish that I had more.

** UPDATE: Please be sure to read the follow-up post before commenting. Some of your questions or concerns or observations may be addressed there already. Thanks! **

Image credit & source.


  1. Omar

    Good stuff, thank you Julian!

  2. David Murray

    Julian, I think you might benefit from thinking through this article.

  3. Louis Allan

    As someone who has a severe “anxiety” disorder, I find this article troubling. Oh, I do agree that anxiety/worry as I think you mean it is sin; I repent of that daily. There is, however, a physiological process in the brain that processes the stimuli that is input. Using your criteria with a computer, all computer problems are due to user error, or faulty keyboards, never the CPU. You then, so lightly dismiss the possibility of mental disorders.

    Much harm is done to people by articles that take a complex brain process and reduce it solely to a neat little article on sin. We need the anxiety function in our brains to survive. When you see a vicious dog ready to pounce, you become anxious for survival, is that sin (you are not trusting God)??? Well my brain, for no apparent reason, goes into that mode at times, even when asleep or with not a care in the world.

    Bottom line: Being anxious as in worry is a sin. The anxiety process in the brain (a gift from God for our survival) can go haywire. The two are not the same.

    • Michael

      How do you know the difference between the "sin" and the "brain disorder"?

      • anxious in ulster

        Anxiety caused by a brain disorder will have an irrational object (a bizzarre thought, for example) or no object at all.
        Sinful fear has loss of status, social standing, the future etc. as its object

    • anxious in ulster

      I agree Louis…such physical ailments are not addressed in the Sermon on the Mount. There is a preacher in Ulster who tells us to beware of foolish Christians who claim to have lost the fear of death."Put him in a field with a bull. See if he runs."
      The point is – sometimes fear is involuntary! That simply isn't the sort of fear that Jesus is critquing here!
      Furthermore, this illustrates that fear can be wise! (As does your example of a wild dog!)

  4. Lauren

    I agree with Louis. I've had panic attacks before, and when you literally get sick before a big event, that's something entirely different. There's a real problem in the church today when people just brush off mental illness as some spiritual sin. It's absurd and, quite frankly, abusive. There is no reason to distrust psychiatrists or therapists when it comes to things like that, and pastors must acknowledge that. Otherwise, they're not caring for their flock.

  5. R.L.

    I agree with Louis….I have been dealing with anxiety which has often lead to panic attacks for ten years. For years I struggled with the guilt of this thinking I must not really trust God and His Word. I have learned through this "sanctified affliction" that it is a physical thing that keeps me humble and always running to the arms of my loving Heavenly Father. For anyone out there who struggles with this read "The Anxiety Cure" by Dr Achibald Hart. Anxiety and panic attacks cause real psyical symptoms that can be very scary…..we are told to be anxious for nothing and we should strive daily to trust in The Lord but worry and an anxiety disorder / panic attacks should be viewed differently.

  6. lookmom

    Beyond a need for awareness of chemical and biological causes, we should also be aware of deep traumas that lead to a life of anxiety. You can't just throw a Bible verse at these deeper problems. Healing of trauma comes from open relationships in the body of Christ. Changes That Heal, (Cloud and Townsend) is an excellent resource for understanding the connections between past hurts and a lack of trust in God. I am very anti-psychobabble, but this book is Biblical and life-changing.

  7. jackjrose

    Like other commentators, I think that you need to distinguish between anxiety/worry and an anxiety disorder/psychological afflictions. I agree that the whole person – physical and spiritual – is integral and connected, and that a chemical reaction can have spiritual triggers. My wife doesn't worry much. But she has an anxiety disorder. It's not brought on by concern over finances, children's schooling, keeping up with the joneses, etc. She's learning it does have a spiritual dimension to it – namely that in learning false views about herself and reality from her parents, she has brought those into her relationship with God, so that just as she felt an unrealistic need to be perfect for her family, so she now battles with that feeling before God. So that plays into it, though there are other dimensions as well. It's not a garden variety worry/anxiety as in, "I hope my company's stock doesn't tank today!!!!" It's not what will I eat, or wear, or do?

    I actually think that Panic/Anxiety Disorders ought to be renamed something more appropriate like hyper-adrenalism or something.

    My guess is that this article is meaning to take aim at those garden variety anxieties that we do all deal with from time to time….some more than others, and in failing to differentiate b/w those anxieties and the poorly named anxiety disorder, it's caused confusion and at least a little hurt. Though bringing up "mental illness" as one of the cop-outs in the article itself seems to mean that the author intends to lump all anxiety together. Maybe Part 2 will clarify some of these things.

  8. John

    I have an anxiety problem as well. I shared this with my pastor and some close Christian friends and I learned that I will NEVER do that again. I'll just keep it to myself. This article is the prevailing view and it is usually shared by those who have never suffered a panic attack and have little understanding of the physiological processes behind some anxiety.

    • John

      To clarify, I do believe that anxiety is a sin but it's complicated and hard to explain. Sometimes I am anxious about absolutely nothing. I have a physcial manifiestation of anxiety and I couldn't tell you why. Is that a sin? Being anxious about nothing?

      Sorry if my comments sound argumentative. I'm not trying to be. I just think this is hard to understand for those who don't have the problem. I apologize if you do.

      • John

        And I'm praying and asking God to help me not be anxious. I'm not accepting it.

    • Concerned

      Here here, John. You don't know what a panic attack is until you have one! You feel like you are truly dying. Choose your counsellors carefully! Some ministers have no idea. John Bunyan's Grace Abounding is a great read- he knew about anxiety!

      • John

        Thanks for the Bunyan reference. I'll read it.

  9. Sarah

    I think there are a few things at play here. First, Julian did not say there was no such thing as a medical form of anxiety, just that anxiety is not "just" a chemical or medical phenomenon. But I confess that as someone who struggles with medical anxiety, when I read things about anxiety and sin, I am quick to overlook clarifying words like "just" and quickly get defensive. Admittedly, that was my first take on this post, but in rereading it, I think it is quite correct to say that anxiety is not "just" a chemical or medical phenomenon, and that you should be able to say so without seriously offending those of us with physical issues. My physical anxiety symptoms can be, and often are, brought on by no discernible emotional or mental anxiety. I can go through a day full of stresses and pressures and not feel worried by it, but when I lie down to sleep at night, feeling mentally at rest and trusting God, I may have heart palpitations, dizziness and sometimes a feeling like an elephant is sitting on my chest and I can't breathe. Those symptoms are not sin, and the stresses that bring them on are sometimes things I can't avoid.

    • Sarah

      But I can't say that these things are totally divorced from sinful anxiety, because often, those physical symptoms will set off mental and emotional anxiety about my well-being that only exacerbates the physical issue. Instead of trusting God with my health and life, I can give in to the temptation to fear that he won't care for me in my distress.

      Secondly, I think there's an issue of semantics here, because current medical terminology calls these physical symptoms "anxiety", but I'd be pretty sure that in biblical times, that word was never used as a medical term. When Jesus and Paul and others spoke of not being anxious, they weren't commanding us to not have an illness or disorder that causes physical symptoms–that would be like commanding us to never have the flu. We can do things to prevent illness, but ultimately, it's out of our control. Maybe we need a different term for the medical issue.

      • Sarah

        At any rate, I do think it's a good idea, when addressing anxiety, to include some kind of caveat about physical "anxiety" because so many people in our society have some experience with this disorder. A few months ago, I wrote a post on my blog about my experiences with physical anxiety, and was surprised by the number of even close friends who, after reading the post, admitted that they struggle with this. If anyone's interested in that post, it's here:
        I will say, though, that from what I know of Julian, his intent with this post was to build up and push us toward greater maturity in Christ, not to tear down and destroy those of us with a certain physical weakness. And whatever we may have to deal with in terms of physical symptoms, there is room for all of us to grow in greater trust in our good and sovereign heavenly Father, who holds even these difficult medical issues firmly in his hand.

        • John

          Excellent blog post Sarah. Also thank you for sharing Altrogge's post. The physical anxiety can often cause sinful anxiety about things, sometimes important things but often just silly things. In my mind, I know the truth but my body doesn't listen. It even makes it hard to focus on prayer or scripture.

          I'm not using the physical aspect as an excuse, but it definitely makes things more difficult.

        • Michael

          Does the Bible make a caveat? Is there an example there for two separate classes of anxiety?

          • Sarah

            The Bible doesn't make a caveat for actual anxiety or worry. A lack of trust in God is clearly something we should not have. I'm just saying that because we have a modern medical term that uses the word anxiety (but may or may not include feelings of anxiety/lack of trust), I think there's a place to clarify that you're not calling an uncontrollable physical response (e.g. heart palpitations, dizziness, shaking) "sinful".

          • Barbara H.

            No, but it doesn't mention cancer, Asperger's syndrome, or any other number of physical and mental problems. That doesn't mean they aren't real problems.

          • Michael

            Is cancer, Asperger's, or any other number of problems associated with sin the Bible? Anxiety is a real problem. The question is whether it's sinful or not. Can something called a sin in the Bible, and not a sin by modern medicine, can exist as two different classes of "anxiety"? Is homosexuality a sin or a genetic condition, or should we have two classes: those born with it and those who choose it? Is murder always a sin or do psycopaths get an excuse?

          • Sarah

            It is entirely possible to have a physical response to stress or unbalanced hormones that mimics the response had with actual anxiety, without being anxious. It is still called physical "anxiety" by physicians (not necessarily theologians). I think this may be difficult to understand for those who've never had the experience, but what I am saying is that when your homones are out of whack and your body reacts with panic-like symptoms even though your mind is at peace, that is a physical disorder and not sinful. So yes, I believe there are two different classes of something we call "anxiety". I can, however, choose to respond to the physical symptoms with faith, and continue to be at peace mentally, trusting God to uphold me, or I can choose to respond in fear and anxiety, at which point you can call it "sin". (And yes, physical anxiety can also be brought on by sinful anxiety.)

  10. Karen Butler

    I think anxiety is both a physical disorder and a sinful condition. Sometimes the physical side is not accompanied by sin. But our response to it can be sinful, as Sarah has pointed out.

    I have much lived experience with this disorder. I suffered trauma as a young child, and from an early age learned to trust no one to meet my needs. I thought a clenched jaw, knots in the stomach, and the heightened sense of flight or fight were normal life , and was astonished to learn as a new believer that these were not everyone's regular experience. But God in his mercy allowed a psychotic break in my life, and I was healed of it, and eventually of the crippling depression and anxiety that remained, using the ancient Christian practice of "taking thoughts captive." Secular psycholgists call this process Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Most recommend this kind of treatment for anxiety, recognizing that benzos and antipsychotics are short term pain relievers, and the best outcomes result from therapies without drugs. "Benzos alleviate anxiety symptoms, but do not resolve the disorder in the long term, with posttreatment relapse rates as high as 63%. Associated learning impairment “significantly diminishes the effects” of cognitive-behavioral therapy, according to this paper presented at the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

    And even the military has reccommended against the use of off label antipsychotics for PTSD.

    I say of my experience, "I learned to call anxiety “My Tether to my Lord” because every time the enemy of my soul tried to batter me about with it, the struggle against it only served to wrap me around my Savior with even greater intensity. It drove me to Him with great ferocity, because I learned if I could only run to Him quickly instead of seeking to escape the gnawing turmoil within, the scary feelings would ebb, and I would be safe. I learned that often I was anxious or depressed because I had believed a lie, or a relationship was broken, or I felt abandoned. I learned to wait on the Holy Spirit to enlarge my heart — to show me the way out of these terrible feelings, and enable me to make things right — to give me the courage to humble myself before another, or the will to acknowledge what was true, and line my thoughts up with how God viewed things."

    I hope this will be helpful to those of you who struggle.

    • Shannon

      Thanks Karen for sharing your experience. I hope you are still running to the Lord in your times of struggle. Thanks for your transparancy.

  11. Amanda Cross

    This is a great article. Some people have pointed out they have experienced panic attacks and believe in mental disorders. I have also been diagnosed with panic disorder, but I have learned that my wrong sinful thinking is what has caused the physical symptoms I have experienced. I am no longer on medications and I am learning more and more to go to God's Word and find the truth. When I have a scary thought or feel fearful about something in the future, I go to His Word and I ask, what is the truth? What does God say about this? He tells me not to take thought about tomorrow. He tells me not to be frightened or dismayed. He says this over and over throughout his Word. Medications may help someone calm down for a time, but they can never get to the heart of the issue. Also, sometimes they increase anxiety. Many medicines include this warning.

    • Mike

      Interestingly enough, I don't see much any talk about medications before your post.

      • anxious in ulster

        Of course the Gospel can remove anxiety (praise God for your healing Amanda) and of course doctors over-prescribe. That isn't the issue. What are we saying here?
        We shouldn't take medications for thyroid problems? We shouldn't be worried if we hear our child has a terminal illness? We shouldn't fear if a madman breaks into our home?
        This is a mental health and wealth gospel…and not a great one. We're adding to scripture, foolishly!

  12. Amanda Cross

    Mike, that's true. I pointed this out because this is usually a physician's go to method of handling anxiety. Most physicians will not ask a person, hey, how's your relationship with God? Are you taking your thoughts captive? Are you dealing with your sin by confessing it and turning away from it? Are you having family problems? Are you acting out in anger much of the time? Etc. etc. Medication has almost always been the first prescription in my experience and I believe it is this way in most cases. What most people do not realize is that psychiatrists vote on various symptoms to decide whether to include them as a disorder or not. We've bought into the idea that we really do have an imbalance that can be cured with a pill. A psychiatrist told me once that there is no "cure" for anxiety. I believe this is true in part. As long as we live in this world, we will be confronted with how we will respond to various situations. For the believer, they will still battle with wrong thinking, but they know God's Word says they should be active at renewing their minds. How do we do this? We think on things that are true. We think on what God has said in His Word and we believe it. An unbeliever has no way to deal with these issues of life except to try and alleviate it himself through human means. As believers, should we follow in suit or should we follow God's prescription? I am not only taking of medication, but other ways that physicians try to handle these issues. One is relaxation and deep breathing. Of course, deep breathing can help relax the body, but this alone will not take away anxious thinking. If you have ever looked into CBT, they will tell you thinking needs to be changed. Only they do not point people to the Lord to change thinking. It's all about what one can muster up themselves. It is true though. Thinking does need to be changed. We have to turn our minds from anxious thinking and turn our minds to God's Word. Here is an excellent resource for anyone interested:

  13. Shari

    This is a great article. It is hard for us to accept anxiety as sin because it is so common. Also our pride does not want to allow us to admit we are sinning. In our world we like to label everyting as an illness or disorder or symdrome or some such thing. OK, maybe my personlality causes me to be anxious more than others. Therefore I have more of a struggle with the sin of anxiety. Someone else's personality causes them to covet. So the struggle with coveting more than I do. Or do we have a disorder for coveting too? There may be folks with serious issues in worrying, anxiety, panic, etc., but God is bigger than all of that. He can help us to overcome any sin! God reigns!

    • Mike

      Coveting is a weak comparison. Try lust.

    • Mike

      I don't struggle with coveting so much, so maybe I just don't understand that one.

  14. thinkpoint

    When assessing crippling emotions like anxiety or depression, we must respect the physical, social, spiritual and mental dimensions of personhood. I encourage medical doctors not to give patients prescriptions for medicines to help anxiety or depression without making sure that other means of support are in place. Similarly, I am certain doctors wouldn't want me to point people to three bible verses to rid them of severe conditions of anxiety.

    As Christians, we must honor the way our Creator fashioned us and the effects of the fall by evaluating the whole person not just one dimension. When Christian counselors become one-dimensional, they bring disrepute on the Church. Sometimes they think they're just trying to be faithful to the Bible by putting spiritual things first. But faithfulness to the Bible entails respect for the physical, social, spiritual and mental dimensions of personhood. It also considers paths to restoration involving intellectual, emotional and volitional changes.

    There are helpful medications people can benefit from if they are in the grip of life-controlling anxiety. Consultation with a family doctor is essential for this step. Efforts to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs are destructive in the long run. They also reflect a kind of stubborn pride that chooses artificial control over the transparency necessary for true help.

    If a doctor prescribes a medicine and it proves helpful, please do not see it as a problem solved. Rather, it's wise to see it as a first step toward restoration of life on many levels. The medicine often enables a person to receive benefit from other sources of help. In most cases, social and spiritual areas of life need attention along with the physical. This usually requires the assistance of a wise counselor and some trusted friends. It sometimes requires a kind of restructuring of life and relationships to experience full restoration.
    On a spiritual level, I agree with the connection between anxiety, worship and humility (

    • Karen Butler

      "There are helpful medications people can benefit from"

      Which ones? Benzos are highly addictive, SSRI's increase suicidality, antipsychotics cause tardive dyskinesia, akathisia and violence — so what meds do you suggest? Shall the trusting general practioner who believes in Big Pharma's rigged studies just give his trusting patient whatever sample is left by the last drug representative to visit, as the psychiatrist Daniel Carlat confesses is his common practice? Not even an art, not even science. Pure quackery, rather. There was good reason for the black box warnings for antidepressants, and the lawsuits against them in particular for off label prescriptions for adolescents. Here a retired psychiatrist details how the data was massaged in the Treatment of Adolescents with Depression Study. (TADS <a href="http://)” target=”_blank”>) Also, Ben Goldacre in his book "Bad Pharma" indicates how common this practice of data manipulation is in medicine, and psychiatry in particular.

      Please read my comment where I link to the study discussing a study evaluating treatments for anxiety. There is a paywall to view it's entirety, but it concludes that CBT alone is the best therapy for anxiety over the long term. The military agrees, and no longer recommends psychotropic drugs for treatment of soldiers with PTSD. Here is a collection of articles on the horrors of benzodiazapenes, with helps for withdrawal,
      And here is a helpful forum for those seeking support for tapering off antidepressants and anxiety meds. Sadly, it can sometimes take years. Don't go it alone. And get informed.

      It can be very dangerous to go cold turkey for these toxic chemicals. Make sure you get support. I wish these were Christian forums, but sadly Christians are not well informed or organized enough to support drug withdrawal — but the science is very good on these sites, and the people are kind.

      • John

        If it's on the internet it's true!

        • Karen Butler

          Mickey, the retired psychiatrist I linked to, has posted copies of the actual data — comparing fluoxetine (Prozac) to other treatments, including placebos and CBT, and in combination. He painstakingly explains how the results were "hidden in plain sight", and thus children and adolescents were prescribed dangerous drugs that markedly increased suicidality. I linked to him because you can see the data with your own eyes.

          Here is a Psychology Today story that discusses this issue.

          This is not the only instance of the lack of data transparency in the marketing of drugs to practitioners. Look up Study 329 — children and adolescents were drugged, and well meaning doctors were duped by reports ghost written by GlaxoSmithKline, who paid 3 billion to the feds recently for settlement of a lawsuit regarding data manipulation.

          These are notorious cases. Don't be duped by drug company shills and their reports– distrust the Key Opinion Leaders who are bought and sold by Big Pharma.

  15. Heather

    Worry is a sin, but anxiety can come in other forms. I had a constant knot in my stomach and tension in my shoulders for years before a hormone imbalance (due to a haywire thyroid) was corrected. I couldn't believe how the anxiety suddenly evaporated and how much relief I experienced with the sudden peace.

  16. Nathan

    I can't help but think there's a problem with confusing the brokenness that results from sin, and requires a pastoral response, with sin itself, that requires a strong command.

    I'm not sure that "do not be anxious" is anything more than pastoral reassurance that God is in control even while bad things happen and you may not be able to provide for yourself. I just don't think the emphasis of the passages on anxiety is "be stronger" rather than "rely on Jesus' strength"

    The "is this a sin" question is a bit dumb, if you assume that all our actions and feelings are going to be, to a greater or lesser degree, tainted by sin, because of the ongoing struggle that goes on inside the heart of every Christian who is still in the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus, and if "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin"…

    • Nicholas

      Nathan – – Totally agree with this comment. When Jesus said "Do not worry" it was NOT as a command, but as assurance from Him that God knows and cares about our needs. When Paul said to "Rejoice always" he didn't say it as an apostolic command to never be anything but joyful. Same thing with "Be not anxious."

      • anxious in ulster

        Amen! Although, it seems more like a proverb. More than advice, less than law. It is to be applied with wisdom, and to be turned into a way of life over many years. It is not at all comparable with "thou shalt not murder!!

  17. Concerned

    Mr Freeman, I am happy for you that are free from anxiety. But you are making a rod for people's backs that is not there. Much like the 'your not healed because you do not have faith' people. It is not in the sense of a commandment that this is said, but to encourage people to trust in prayer. The sense is anxiety and fear are natural, we do not know what God knows, things can be scary. But don't worry God is in charge here, pray about it. You don't tell your scared kid 'Johnny don't worry about the bully at school, but boy if you do worry you are sinning, you naughty child, come here you need a good spanking. And what is worse according to Romans 1 you may end up a homosexual and malicious covenant breaker if you keep worrying.'
    You cannot read the letters without getting a sense of Paul's concern for his people. If we have no cares for people, if we do not feel anxiety for a person's welfare what kind of person are we? The verse in question simply says that you will have cares, so turn them into prayers.
    In Philippians chapter 2 we read of the cares of Epaphroditus and how he was sick – Paul does not rebuke him for worry, in fact he mentions his relief from sorrow, and he praises him as of the highest reputation.Would you rather that Paul should have censured Epaphroditus for his anxiety?

  18. jodi

    Also, the scripture in question is focusing on our not being anxious as to our daily needs- food, clothing, etc. The point being, that the Lord will provide. I do not believe it was His intention to tell us we should not have a moment's stress ever over anything. That would make us robots and inhuman. I have struggled mightily with anxiety due to an abusive marriage-I also struggled very much with the thought that I was in sin because of this-which just put me into more bondage. This is an unfair burden to put on suffering people's backs without helping them carry it.

  19. Pat M.

    I am not averse to being called out for my sin; it is an unpleasant (but fruitful) necessity of the Christian walk. That being said, I still have difficulties with the author's approach. If I could speak to him directly, these are the questions I would ask:

    Have you considered that the tone of your article encourages an atmosphere of impatience in church settings where the exact opposite is necessary? If I worry a lot and you tell me in great detail and with great biblical clarity that my worry is a sin, how exactly does that help me out of my "fear paralysis"? You can't rebuke someone out of a fearful state. Even if you were bone-tired and sleep deprived, would you rebuke a beloved child who is (irrationally) cowering in the darkness after a nightmare, or rather patiently sit with him, take his hand, and show/teach/convince him how really safe he is? I imagine you would choose the latter, and suggest that there are no age or relational boundaries for this approach to remain correct.

    Are you concerned that Christians tend to judge their fear-laden brethren with a sinful excess of compassion and patience (i.e., that they are being too soft on this "sin")? Because the truth is that it's downright RARE to find Christian people who can wisely and compassionately engage those who struggle with mental-health issues (depression, OCD, anxiety disorders…etc.). And it's discouraging for believers with these issues to be constantly subjected to naively simplistic (although well-meaning) "counselors" who think they're doing God's work by insinuating that s/he could get better if s/he'd simply repent (or pray enough, or have enough faith, or do so and so word studies…..).

    About anxiety and mental illness:  Wouldn't you agree that the multitudinous array of chemical and electrical reactions/interactions which take place in our brains and nervous systems are just as tainted by sin and its curse–as our endocrine, digestive, and other body systems are? Because we don't totally understand the amazing complexities of the brain and its pathways, should we foolishly deny that real, organic disease does often happen there–and that emotional symptoms (like irrational anxiety and fear) can be the result? Why is there such a strong denial, in some Christian circles, of the existence of brain disease (or mental illness)? You'd think that there is no historical evidence of strong, productive Christians who struggled with real, agonizing, debilitating mental oppression.

    Finally, you state at the outset that stress not a biblical word. But neither is trinity! Is every reality limited to the biblical vocabulary? And as far as all those instances of Jesus instructing His followers not to fear, have you considered that He meant (at least some of) those "admonitions" to be *extremely comforting,* in the same way that a mother would gently comfort her frightened child with the words "Shhh, don't fear"? And that they could be interpreted to be a lot more like a reassuring hug than a strong rebuke?

    I am concerned that, as zealous Christians, we not add heavy burdens to those who are already struggling–and it disturbs me that I see this happening all too often in the name of defending truth. Shallow and merciless truth is what Pharisees are made of. It is harder to NOT be a Pharisee than it is to be one because being a Pharisee is so neat and tidy. Real Christianity is very messy–and heavily laden with the real anxiety that comes from living in a dark and messy world. It is this anxiety that keeps us pleading with God for His wisdom, protection, and sufficiency–and looking to Christ for the comfort and reassurance of His words.

  20. anxious in ulster

    You can't say "there is a blanket command not to worry in general because God is in control" and then add "but we can worry, in general, about the Kingdom" Is God somehow less sovereign in the Church? .

    I also have to ask – if you are told that there might be a poisonous snake in your house, would it be a sin to worry? Would it be wrong to obsessively check your children's rooms? Wouldn't worry be an appropriate response? An indication of love, perhaps?
    And was God wise in giving us a flight/fight response? We cannot even enjoy sports without it! You need to reflect on creation a little more.

  21. anxious in ulster

    Going deeper…is "correct not a fool according to his folly" a command? If it is, inerrancy is in trouble! The same book quickly tells us NOT to correct a fool! This is the language of wisdom and proverbs; as is the Sermon on the Mount. You need to think more about genre.
    Finally, you need to think about context. The Sermon was given when people could save money – in fact, encounter money – for the first time. You could put aside riches for a rainy day. This has the appearance of wisdom – but Jesus tells us to invest in the Kingdom instead, and leave our physical well-being to God. We are being given a guide for life in the Kingdom, and not a set of commands, as in the decalogue.

  22. Christian Girl

    It's nice to wax philosophical about something you obviously have never experienced and wrap it up neatly in a bow. You may not mean any harm, but in reality a post like this is a wicked form of cruelty. I am a bible believing evangelical Christian with a rock solid relationship with Christ. I also happen to suffer from an anxiety disorder. I can quote the scriptures about anxiety to you backwards and forwards and I have read them over and over again. Anxiety is a complex phenomenon that is chemical, emotional and spiritual.

    There are physical measurable changes in the brains of people who suffer from anxiety. Many medications cause anxiety. Certain illnesses, especially of the endocrine system, cause anxiety. Magnesium deficiency which can be in your cells and not show up on blood tests cause anxiety. Spiritual attack causes anxiety.

    Sadly, there really isn't much help for those who suffer from anxiety in the church because of cruel, dogmatic, arrogant, lacking in empathy, unkind, people like you who like to throw out bible verses and tell us how we are screwing up as Christians with our sin of anxiety. So many Christians suffer from anxiety in secret and they tell me in hushed tones because I am open and public about mine. I know that people like you are full of garbage and have no clue what you are talking about. If you want to judge me as sinful for suffering from this, I could care less. What bothers me is that you have done a nice job of optimizing your blog so it comes up pretty high on the page when I searched. Someone in the throes of this ailment who hasn't developed the tools and found the help that I have could be serioulsy harmed by crap like this, maybe even driven to suicide in the most extreme case. Irresponsible theology is no better than outright atheism. When your theology is cruel, heartless and harmful to those who are weak and suffering, then the whole "Whatever you do to the least of these" concept goes right out the window.

    Believe me, if simple repentance and prayer could get rid of the curse of anxiety mine would have been gone a very long time ago. Cruel Christians like you will have much to answer for on judgement day and I have to think that a just God as ours is would have something to say about people who do crappy things to others when they ought to know better.

  23. Anxiety sufferer

    This article is really and slap in the face to Christ because it is so completely devoid of grace and so full of foolish judgement. The difference between Christianity and all the other religions is grace. Our God is a gracious god, in ways that we can't even comprehend. Those verses in the bible weren't meant to rebuke us and make us feel even worse. They are supposed to be encouraging.

    A little bad theology in the wrong hands can be so destructive to the body of Christ. I wasn't raised in the church. I became a Christian about 22 years ago, despite having so many negative experiences with Christians like you. I started reading the bible in college and I felt the presence of Christ. What I was reading in the New Testament made so much sense to me. But what I saw from Christians did not fit. I literally prayed one night "Jesus, I like you and what you have to say but I cannot stand your followers."

    The church will embrace drug addicts and alcoholics with open arms and give them all the grace they can muster. But someone who suffers from anxiety is told that they are sinning, that they don't really trust in God enough, that they aren't Christian enough and all manner of insults in the name of Jesus.

    Going through trauma rewires the brain. It affects the way the brain processes information and causes physical and chemical changes. I personally have suffered a tremendous amount of trauma the past few years. I have had numerous health problems and nearly died a year and half ago. My son nearly died in childbirth and was extremely sick the first couple years of his life. I have had 2 miscarriages and lost precious babies. A good friend and my father died within a few months of each other. My best friend who is a Christian, back stabbed me and was cruel to me and my 5 year old son and then dumped me as a friend when I got ill. My other best Christian friend turned away from Christ, dumped all of her Christian friends and became an alcoholic. Losing those two friends felt like people had died and my grief was intense. My marriage was on the verge of divorce because of all the stress we had been through. A family friend who is like a daughter to me was date raped at a party her first week away at college and I was the one who supported her through it and helped her. I love her like a daughter, so it was traumatic to me to feel helpless that this horrific crime happened to her.

    When someone goes through that much stuff, the brain rewires itself. Once you start having anxiety, your brain automatically goes there for big things, little things and everything in between. The anxiety is under control for me now, but it still rears its ugly head at times. It takes a multi faceted approach to overcome it. I refuse to take medications because they are too toxic, so I have had to do many things to rewire my brain and relearn how to be strong. Before this tidal wave of difficulty and tragedy I was a strong, vibrant, athletic woman. Life has kicked me… hard. I have become much closer to Christ because of these trials, but they have also left indelible scars on my psyche that it takes time and effort to heal.

    To be told by some trite young preacher who has a perfect little cute wife and a perfect little life that it's just a simple matter of sin is frankly disgusting. It's not surprising. It's the way Christians treat other Christians all the time because people have not changed one bit from the Pharisees. But it's still hurtful and sad, too. Maybe one day you will grow up a bit, experience some difficulties in life and learn some compassion. Thankfully I'm very happy in my relationship with Jesus, because I certainly would not be a Christian if I looked to other Christians for my example and I keep seeing people like you in the church.

  24. Ryukil

    Like Louis, I have a problem with this post. I also suffer from anxiety disorders. It's easy to say something isn't real if you don't have it. I mean, anxiety disorders are genetic. So you can't possibly tell me it's my fault. Anxiety has caused me a great deal of pain in my life. In fact, it has defined me (unfortunately) quite a bit. Are you next going to say that bipolar disorder is a sin? Or the result of demonic possession? In my opinion this crap is just the perpetuation of stigma under the guise of religion. Sorry, I'll say it like it is. And yes, I acknowledge that those verses are in the Bible. But there is a large difference between an anxiety disorder and being worried about something. People with anxiety disorders can't help their worry. If they could, they would. Trust me. If I could just get rid of my social anxiety, and my OCD, I would freaking do it! Duh!

  25. Anthony Mackin

    Much damage is done to people by content that take a complicated mind procedure and decrease it completely to a nice little content on sin. We need the stress operate in our minds to endure. When you see a terrible dog prepared to pounce, you become nervous for success, is that sin (you are not relying on God)??? Well my mind, for no purpose, goes into that method at periods, even when sleeping or with not a proper care on the globe.
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  26. depression

    I'm not sure that "do not be anxious" is anything more than pastoral confidence that God is in management even while bad the unexpected happens and you may not be able to offer for yourself. I just don't think the focus of the paragraphs on stress is "be stronger" rather than "rely on Jesus' strength"

  27. Patrick

    im not trying to say the Bible is wrong, but if an event were to occur in which say my mom was in the hospital because she was in a car accident or something and the doctor told me she might not live, i find it a little difficult to not worry. im not just gonna sit there all calm and collected while my mom could be dying. also i know you can pray instead of worrying, but my mom actually is really sick. she's blind, has diabetes, multiple sclorosis, and can only get around the house with a walker. she only goes outside to go to doctors. she worked extremely hard to become a nurse and was only one for a few years before she became blind. ive prayed for her ever since i can remember and it only seems she gets worse. now can you honestly tell me worrying about my mom like that, not to mention her worrying about herself, is a sin?

  28. Nathan

    I have anxiety and over a few days ago i read the bible it was Book of John and for some reason i felt better reading it. Its in my head i know it is but this article does not make it better and i respect Julian for his thoughts on the subject. I take medication for it to help me but not to cure it because the Pills don't cure anxiety…Its you and Jesus Christ that has the cure! The thing is that God loves us all and its normal to worry about things and God will not hate you for it but comes a time when how much will you worry that will effect your soul. We need to be strong but sometimes we will fall but the bible says take up the cross and follow him!

  29. Cheryl

    There is no gray area of sin with God, either anxiety or panic attacks are sin or they aren't. In Revelation, God's word says He would rather that we be hot or cold – not lukewarm. There is no room for middle ground for sin. But sadly, the world lives in shades of gray…searching desperately for teachers that will tell them what they want to hear. They have itching ears. People are no longer listening to "sound doctrine" but they are being tossed about by every "new wind of teaching." I believe that anxiety can be caused by medical reasons or traumatic events. But it's how people deal with that anxiety. Do they let it consume them? Hide from it? Obsess about it? Glorify it? How they deal with it becomes sin. We are all tempted daily. It's how we deal with those temptations. Do we give in? Or do we run to Christ, the rock and hope of our salvation.

    • Raewyn

      I have Parkinson. Anxiety is a recognised symptom. Parkinsons is a disorder of the brain. My anxiety is born of a disorder of my brain which I have no control over. Eventually I will not be able to walk, let alone run. I will not be able to smell, write, swallow and I may also develop dementia. You are right there is No shade of grey here. I am walking straight into the valley of death. I am a Christian, but I am not superhuman. I am tired, struggling, weak, broken, afraid, lonely and concerned that in all this my anxiety is sin. I do not need "sound doctrine", I need Christ, who has not promised to take this suffering from me. But he has said he will walk this road with me. Yes you are right that I am tempted daily not to trust Christ with this walk, at times I let my condition consume me and obsess over it, and yes I give in to it, as each day a new symptom robs me of the ability to function normally. Yes I am full of self pity. And yet, Christ is rock and hope. But, what a poor example I must appear to you.

  30. Bible Nerd

    We need to have an understanding of what sin is. The following verses are helpful: "He [Jesus] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”-Mark 7: 20-23; If you consider breaking God's commandments to be sinful, consider this commandment: "One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

    29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’f 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”-Mark 30-31 To have fear and anxiety does not mean you do not love God.

    It does say repeatedly in the bible "Do not fear", but there is no indication that fear and anxiety are sins. These are words of encouragement and comfort. Sin is something evil. Hurting others, blaspheming against the Spirit, and not taking care of people in need are examples of true sin. If a person has been through trauma, and they become afraid, this could the beginning of fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. People who have no anxiety are considered to have antisocial personality disorder according to secular psychology. In the bible having confidence with no concern for your own fallibility nor respect for more powerful things is considered at best foolish and at worst wicked.
    The churches under the Evangelical umbrella have lost sight of the teachings of Christ. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are not emphasized. "Anxiety is sin" is the widely accepted misinterpretation of "Do not fear" in the Evangelical church. It alienates good people, and empowers psychopaths.

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