As I peek my head around the corner and look down to the end of the dark hallway I’m able to see what made the noise. From the bedroom emerges a little girl. She’s got a blanket in one hand and her favourite stuffy gripped tight to her body with the other. Her hair is dishevelled; a mess that only a sleeping toddler could make.
When she spots me, she shuffles down the hallway with purpose. Without making any eye contact, she presses her body up close against my leg while I finish brushing my teeth. She waits for me and doesn’t move.
Stacey has been out of town on a mom getaway-planning-shopping retreat for the past couple of nights. I’m not sure why this particular child is up at this particular point of the night, but I know we’re all a little zapped from the feeling of just not having mom around.
I finish brushing my teeth and begin the inquisition.
‘Why are you up? Are you scared? Did something happen? Do you need to use the toilet? Are you thirsty? Do you feel sick?’
No answer. No eye contact. Just pressing against me and hugging my leg. No words.
This morning I just wanted to offer three follow-up thoughts to my reflections on anxiety. Thank you to all who commented and offered feedback!
1. A Blog Post Never Tells the Whole Story.
It’s easy, I’m sure, on the basis of one blog post, to assume that you know me as ‘that preacher’ who yells and tells you to get over your sin and doesn’t seem to deal with any genuine struggles of his own. But that’s just not the whole story.
A quick search of this blog for ‘depression’, for example, will land you on a couple posts where I’ve mentioned and reflected on my own battle with depression and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. There are many similarities, I think, between depression and anxiety.
And if you were to talk to me about anxiety — the real, genuine, gripping, out-of-nowhere kind — in a personal, conversational context, I could tell you about loved ones very close to me with whom I’ve had to work through these issues. I’m well aware — from first-hand experience — of how paralyzing mental states like these can be.
“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.