In the Bible, “anxiety” is used in two ways, as healthy concern and as fret or worry.
Anxiety in the form of realistic concern is neither condemned nor forbidden. Although Paul could write that he was not anxious (that is, worried) about the possibility of being beaten, cold, hungry, or in danger, he said that he was anxious (that is, concerned) about the welfare of the churches. This sincere care for others put a daily pressure on the apostle and made Timothy “genuinely anxious” (concerned and interested) as well.
Anxiety as fret and worry may have been in the psalmist’s mind when he wrote that “anxiety was great within me,” and that God’s consolation brought joy. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that we should not be anxious (worrying) about the future or about life’s basic needs, such as food and clothing. We have a heavenly Father, Jesus said, Who knows what we need, and He will provide. In the New Testament epistles, both Peter and Paul echoed this conclusion. “Do not be anxious about anything,” we read in Philippians. Instead, Christians are to bring their requests to God with an attitude of thanksgiving, expecting to experience the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. We can cast all anxiety upon the Lord because He cares for us.
Anxiety as fret and worry comes when we turn from God, shift the burdens of life onto ourselves, and assume, at least by our attitudes and actions, that we alone are responsible for handling problems. Instead of acknowledging God’s sovereignty and power, or seeking His kingdom and righteousness first, many of us as members, officers, and pastors slip into sinful reliance and preoccupation with our own life pressures.
According to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with honestly facing and trying to deal with identifiable problems of life. To ignore danger is foolish and wrong. But, it is also wrong and unhealthy to be immobilized by excessive worry. Our persisting concerns must be committed in prayer to God, Who can release us from paralyzing fear or anxiety, and free us to deal realistically with the needs and welfare of others and ourselves.
Everyone knows that it isn’t easy to “banish anxiety” or to “not be anxious about anything.” It is difficult for people to “cast their burdens on the Lord,” to trust that God will meet their needs, to wait for His help, and to know when they should take some responsibility for meeting a difficult situation. Anxious people often are impatient people who need help in handling their pressures realistically, and within God’s perfect time schedule.
The Christian church leader or minister can be an example of one who is calm and trusting in God to meet needs. Committed brothers and sisters in Christ can help other church members and other community people see God’s promises, recognize His power and influence in our daily lives, and take action when appropriate. For many of our brothers and sisters, it is also helpful if they can understand the causes and effects of their persisting anxiety. A Christian counselor is often helpful in this.
Finally, whenever we find ourselves in a threatening, challenging, or potentially dangerous situation, most of us ponder the circumstances and try to determine how we might cope. Here is a tried and proven strategy going forward: “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” Philippians 4:6, ASV.
Southern Union | July 2017