CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
How to Deal With Anxiety
A Scriptural Perspective
By Jerry Smith
Dictionary.com (Anxiety n.d.) defines anxiety as, "distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune." The Greek word used in the New Testament is often the word merimnao (3309, 2015), and supplies several connotations; one being divided, as in 1 Corinthians 12:25, "That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another" (KJV) where the word schism is used; another, care, as in Philippians 2:20, "For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state" (KJV); in other translations such as the NAS, the word care here is replaced with concerned for or concerned about; worrying as in Luke 12:25 "And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span" (NAS), additionally Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, and 34 (NAS). The NAS offers various translations for the Greek root word merimna such as anxious, care, concerned, have...care, worried, worry, and worrying (merimna, 1998). Relative to worrying, it is explained as "feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem...With excessive worrying, your mind and body go into overdrive as you constantly focus on what might happen (Goldberg 2015: 1). In my own words, anxiety is a human response to the unknown that follows fear and creates a variety of health issues.
Anxiety Causes Health Problems
Worry, when it is prolonged or chronic can cause "a host of health problems" that are the result of the "fight or flight" response (Goldberg 2015: 1) built-into all of us which releases "stress hormones such as cortisol" that can "boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides". The problem occurs when fight or flight is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. The fight or flight response causes the body's sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel. The hormones also cause physical reactions such as: dizziness, a fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, irritability, muscle tension, nervousness, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath" and lead to more serious medical conditions including reduction in the effectiveness of the immune system, digestive disorders, short-term memory loss, premature coronary artery disease, and heart attack (Goldberg 2015: 2). Furthermore, "stress can have wide ranging effects on emotions, mood and behavior" (Stress Effects, n.d.).
Psychological Effects of Anxiety
There are several anxiety-based disorders: General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Phobias, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Separation Anxiety Disorder, that "may be caused by environmental factors, medical factors, genetics, brain chemistry, substance abuse, or a combination of these [but] It is most commonly triggered by the stress in our lives" (Crosta 2015: 1-2). Clearly, anxiety is not something the Lord desires us to have.
The Lord Cares about Our Physical Well-Being as Well as Our Spiritual
As can be gleaned from the information above, anxiety poses a serious threat to our physical (including psychological) well-being. Because of this, it is reasonable to suggest, that the Lord is concerned about our physical as well as spiritual health:
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (3 John 2)Additionally, when Jesus fed five thousand men, the Bible tells us He was concerned for the people's welfare stemming from their physical hunger:
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)Furthermore, in the Disciple's Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord, teaching His disciples how to pray, begins with our heavenly Father and His glory: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" (6:9); proceeds to the Father's will: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (6:10); then, right after that, does not go into a spiritual request for ourselves, but rather begins the physical request of, "Give us this day our daily bread" (6:11) before going into the spiritual aspects of a disciple's life (6:12-13). This gives the distinct impression that God cares about our physical needs and our earthly concerns. God's concern for our earthly needs is magnified in Matthew chapter six, when the Lord teaches, nay commands us, not to worry, as we read in the well-known Sermon on the Mount, specifically, Matthew 6:27-34:
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.Clearly, with such words as these that convey not only instruction, but a sense of concern for His creatures, we can ascertain the love of God for His creatures and His people. Highlights of this passage, as they relate to anxiety, paraphrased for this subject include:
• (v. 27) Which of you by worrying can make yourself grow?
• (v. 28-30) Why do you worry about clothing? God takes care of the flowers, why wouldn't He take care of you?
• (v. 31-33) Don't worry about food, drink, or clothes, your Heavenly Father is aware of your needs — follow me and these things will be given you; and
• (v. 34) Don't worry about tomorrow, because it is tomorrow, keep your eyes on today.
The Lord created us, and is well-familiar with our body systems, our neurological systems, or digestive systems, cardiovascular systems, and the like. As such, He has already known what medical science has only recently discovered within the past century or so: that over-anxiety, worry, fear, or stress is detrimental to our physical fitness. But, not only that, anxiety is a poor witness to the power of God in our lives.
Anxiety Is Unbecoming to a Christian
Anxiety is a response to "outside forces emotion" that reflects "negative self-talk" that develops into a habit of "telling ourselves [that] the worst will happen" (Crosta 2015: 2). "Worrying paralyzes you, making you too upset to accomplish anything productive" (A Worried Christian n.d.: 10). However, the Christian has a God who has overcome the world:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33The Christian has a God who tells us that we do not have to be afraid:
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. Matthew 14:27The Christian has a God who has given us a lasting joy:
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. Psalm 56:3
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. John 16:22The Christian has a God who has given lasting and inexplicable peace:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:7The Christian has a God who is always with us:
Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9Therefore, excessive anxiety is not becoming to Christians or to their God. One writer puts it, "If you worry, what kind of faith do you manifest" (A Worried Christian n.d.: 3)? We, as believers can trust Christ for salvation from sin, death, and hell; to become righteous in the sight of God; that He lived, ministered, lived a perfect sinless life, gave His life on a cross to pay for our sins, and rose again for our justification and eternal life. Yet, we:
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5
[J]ust don't think He can get [us] through the next couple of days. That is pretty ridiculous, isn't it? That we can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one reveals an embarrassing lack of faith. (A Worried Christian n.d.: 4)"Of course, for those who do not know the Savior, worry and anxiety will be part of life" (What does n.d.: 3), but for the believer, it should not be.
So, How Can We Deal With Anxiety From A Scriptural Point of View?
Christ told us not to worry as we read in Matthew chapter 6 previously. The Lord doesn't leave us with only removing the negative, but shows us the positive to replace the negative with rational actions that we can do for our spiritual well-being:
1. Cast your cares upon Him and tell Him what concerns you:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7Do you have a care? Share your care with the Lord. The word "cast" here means to literally throw your cares to the Lord. The implication being that we are not to carry our cares but cast them at the Lord's feet. Remember Hebrews 4:15-16:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.2. Pray about your worries:
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7The Lord tells us to simply present our requests to Him; our cares and concerns included. "Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there" as the old hymn goes. If we will bring them to God and leave them with Him to do with as He sees fit, according to His will; resting in His will; we need not worry about tomorrow, for the passage tells us, "and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep [guard] our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus".
3. Spread your cares before the Lord:
And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. Isaiah 37:14One of my favorite verses in the Bible on prayer: When you have something that concerns you, bring it before the Lord and spell it out; spill your guts; let it all out, and just talk to Him. Hezekiah did not give some hefty prayer when his kingdom was being threatened with annihilation, he took the message from the enemy and took it to the temple and shared it with God.
4. Pray one for another:
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16Confess your anxieties (faults) to a trusted brother or sister or spiritual leader, and ask for prayer. It is amazing how much the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man can avail.
5. Bear one another's burdens:
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2Bearing one another's daily burden is not the idea here. The idea is to share those burdens (including cares, worries, and fears) that you cannot bear with another and ask them to help you bear them. This is part of being in the family of Christ. We look out for one another.
6. Trust God and keep following Him:
Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. Psalm 37:34Amidst the cares and anxieties, keep following the Lord. Wait for Him to accomplish His will by "waiting" on His will. This means that we are to continue in our daily walk with Him and not forsake His word.
7. Take Christ's advice that we cannot change anything:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:34Whenever I encounter high anxiety levels, this verse tends to come to my mind. The Lord is so wise here: there really isn't anything we can do about tomorrow. Let's then enjoy the day and tomorrow will take care of itself.
I do not wish to come across as overly pious here. I have written with caution and have even trembled a few times as I have written this. It is easy to say, and terrifying to live. However, by God's grace, "through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come. It is grace that brought me safe this far, and grace will lead me home". I can speak with a certain amount of experience on these matters, and writing this was somewhat therapeutic for me as I have delved deeper into the effects of anxiety, the care which the Lord has for our physical well-being, the shame of being over-anxious, and the acts we can be involved in to reduce such anxiety.
Bibliography 3309 Merimnao. (2011). Helps Word-Studies. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/greek/3309.htm on May 31, 2016.
A Worried Christian. (n.d.). Grace To You. Retrieved from http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A112/a-worried-christian on May 31, 2016.
Anxiety. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 30, 2016 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/anxiety
Crosta, P. (2015, August). Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/anxiety on May 31, 2016.
Goldberg, J. (2015, August). Physical Effects of Worrying. WebMD.com. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body?page=3 on May 31, 2016
Merimna. (1998). NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/greek/3309.htm on May 31, 2016.
Stress Effects. (n.d.). The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/stress-effects/ on May 31, 2016.
What does the Bible say about worry? (n.d.). GotQuestions.org. Retrieved from http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-worry.html on May 31, 2016
Image Credit: Free-Photos; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Depression | God-Father
comments powered by Disqus
Published on 8-1-17