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.
The Tenses of Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and your glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life…
… my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you (when I remember you in the future!) upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
“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.