Is Anxiety Sinful?
Most people are not strangers to anxiety. Its expression is usually in fear and uneasiness about something in the future. It can manifest in physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, pounding heartbeat, aches and pain; racing thoughts and restlessness; and even changes of behavior to avoid activities, places or people.
While feelings anxious from time to time is part of the human experience, there are three very common assumptions about anxiety.
1- It’s a sin to feel anxious.
2- I’m anxious because I don’t trust God enough.
3- God may be mad at me or judge me if I’m anxious.
However, when we look at Scripture, we find three freeing truths:
1- You are not the only one.
2- You are not crazy.
3- God is present in your anxiety.
The book of Psalms has plenty examples of David, a man after God’s heart, who gave himself permission to express his anxiety before the Lord as many times as he needed. See Psalm 13:
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
In this chapter, we see three things happening.
1- David comes before the Lord with honesty when he was most likely feeling alone and experiencing racing thoughts - “how long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”
2- He then asks the Lord for help – “Look on me and answer, LORD my God.”
3- And on the last verses, we see David making faith statements, even though he was likely still experiencing anxiety – “I will sing the Lord’s praise”.
Instead of judging ourselves for feeling anxious, we can take a curious approach and explore in what ways that anxiety is communicating a need for safety. Human beings are wired to seek protection when feeling unsafe. Our mind and bodies react at the presence of danger. When there’s no actual danger, we can learn to manage those reactions instead of letting them take over.
Here are some options that have been found helpful to manage anxiety symptoms:
- Guided breathing
Breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds. Breath in through your nose and breath out using your mouth. Focus your thoughts on anything you may be experiencing in your physical body. Repeat it for 2 minutes or as many as needed.
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Tense and relax different muscles of your body, starting from your head and ending at your feet. Hold the tension for about 10 seconds and notice how your body feels it. When you relax, focus your thoughts on the feeling of relaxation.
Writing down your thoughts can be helpful. You cannot write as fast as you think. Therefore, as you are writing them, you are addressing the racing thoughts by slowing them down and possibly getting more clarity to your mind.
Be honest with the Lord about your feelings and allow him to give you peace. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phi 4:6-7)
- Share with your trusted friends or family
There’s no need for you to manage anxiety on your own. God created us for relationships, and we can find healing when we offer vulnerability and receive support.
- Seek counseling
If your anxiety is overwhelming, professional help will face it, manage it and heal in a safe environment.
For Additional Resources, Check out the following:
- Mindshift App
- "Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts," Charles Spurgeon
If you or someone you know is struggling with chronic anxiety, reach out to us at 817-457-6728 to talk about how counseling can help you find peace.
Patricia Silva, MA, LPC-Associate
Supervised by Dr. Dan Clement, Phd, LPC-S