Is anxiety a Sin?



Since today is Sunday, I thought it was as good of a time as any to address the question of whether anxiety is a sin.

If you are not particularly religious, this may not be a question you have ever worried about.

But for someone like me who grew up in the Bible Belt and has been involved in church all her life, this thought does bubble to the surface from time to time.

There are so many Scriptures that tell us not to worry but instead pray and have faith. There are also all those accounts where Jesus responds to people who are in fear, “Ye of little faith.”

So is having anxiety a sin?

Well, in my book the answer is yes and no. (Real clear and helpful, I know).

As a Christian I believe that all people have sinned and fallen short. Fallen short in that we are a fallen people. We are mortals, imperfect. We have faults and problems and shortcomings.  All of us.

Some people struggle with substance abuse, some people live with a greedy and ungenerous heart, and some people like me have issues with anxiety. We all have a thing we struggle with. It makes us remember we are human and not God.

As a friend said once, “My anxiety is what draws me over and over to Christ.”

But instead of calling my anxiety a sin, I prefer to think of it more as part of my brokenness. With anxiety in my life, I cannot live into the fullness of who God has created me to be. However, I do not think God is angry or judgmental about this. I think mainly God desires to show mercy to me in my fear and bring healing to this part of my life.

Through this process I come to know more and more of the love and goodness of God.

Now, let’s go back to some of those Bible verses I was talking about earlier.

I think one reason there are so many verses that tell us to pray and have faith instead of worrying is that it is a pretty hard thing for all of us to do. One of the most common phrases in the Bible is actually “Do not fear.” The reason it is said so much is because it is assumed we are afraid. It is normal to be afraid sometimes.

But God does not wish for fear to rule our life. God wishes for God to rule our life.

And there lies the rub. When we can let go of holding onto things with our controlling little hands and begin to trust in God’s hand, things turn a bit. The fear loses its power. But this is OH SO HARD. Like it may take a lifetime to work on hard.

When writing our yet to be published anxiety management book, Calming the Storms, my husband and I spent a lot of time talking about the passage where the disciples are in the boat with Jesus when a big storm hits. They are all on deck worried for their lives when they realize Jesus is missing. When they find him below deck sleeping of all things, they ask him if he cares or not that they are about to die. After taking time to calm the storm, Jesus turns to them and asks, “Why are you afraid, have you still no faith?”

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

After praying about this verse a lot, I finally came to the conclusion that this statement was not made in anger, but with compassion and maybe a touch of sadness. The kind of sadness I have when I find my daughter hysterically crying when I am ten minutes late to pick her up from an after school activity. The kind of sadness a parent has because their child does not know inherently you will always come for them, even if for a moment it does not seem that way.

When the anxiety storms have hit recently, I have tried to visualize this image of Christ sleeping below in my rocking boat. Don’t get me wrong, I still wish he’d wake up and calm the storm already. But it helps to know Christ is there with me and will never let me perish. This is the beginning of trust for me. Of me coming to understand who this one is that calms the wind and the wave.

So yeah, maybe anxiety is a sin as much as it is a sin not to trust fully in God. But that is a sin that 99.9% of us struggle with if we are honest. And debilitating anxiety is an illness that God very much desires to heal us from, as God’s nature is to heal and deep desire is for us to be made whole through grace.

So friends who struggle with anxiety, please let go of any guilt you may be holding onto because of your fear. It does not make you a bad person of faith. It just makes you a broken human being like the rest of us.

I pray that you would be able to sense God’s love and mercy breaking through the fear and that God’s healing hand would be upon you as you move from living in the bonds of anxiety to living into the fullness of abundant life.


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