Worrying the Days Away Day 1: Worry vs. Anxiety
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6, ESV)
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34, ESV)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)
Worry and I go way back. In fact, Worry is one of my oldest friends. I honestly don’t remember a time when my mind wasn’t racing with anxious thoughts, even as a child. I have truly been worrying my days away for probably two decades at this point. This is not uncommon. Many believers and non-believers alike are burdened with worries that can often seem far too difficult to bear. However, I want to be clear: there is a big difference between worry and anxiety. While worry is more a state of mind, anxiety is a legitimate mental disorder.
What is worry? Worry is allowing your mind to dwell on troubles, stresses, or pain points in your life or the life of others. It is the overwhelming feeling that all the worst possible outcomes will come to fruition. The interesting thing is that our brains were actually programmed to use anxiety and worry as a response mechanism. Our brain is supposed to produce anxiety as a gentle nudge to do the right thing, get our work done, or warn us about something. This reaction in our brain kicks us into fight-or-flight mode where we will either fight to protect ourselves or run from a potential threat. It’s the dwelling on that feeling or thought that can lead us down the wrong path.
What is anxiety? Anxiety is a malfunction of the brain, an imbalance of chemicals. Our bodies function properly when the neurotransmitters (chemicals) are sending the correct messages to our brain. When you suffer from an anxiety disorder, your brain has a chemical imbalance between what we will call “happy messengers” (neurotransmitters) and “sad messengers.” This imbalance can be caused by many things, such as illness, genetics, and stress. Far too often, believers mix up worry and anxiety, and the fear of looking weak or sinful keeps them from getting help. Let me be the first to say that if you are struggling with anxiety, it is okay to get help, whether it be through medication or therapy.
When does worry become sin? For a long time, believers have condemned worry as a sin. Even when I have brought up my anxiety disorder to some, I have gotten the classic “Don’t you trust God?” response. I’m not sure it’s as black-and-white, though. Worry is a natural response in our brains, just like anger, sadness, or joy. Some of us are more inclined to worry than others, just as some are more likely to become angered. While neither of these emotions in and of themselves are sins, they become sins when we let them rule our actions. Worry in excess is just as much a sin as anger in excess or acting wrongly on that anger. When we let worry overtake our thoughts rather than turning that feeling over to God, we are taking our trust off of God and onto ourselves. We are telling God that we do not trust Him with these issues, while seeking ways to ease our worries ourselves. With this in mind, let us learn to respond correctly to worry and take it straight to the source of peace and trust!
My challenge for you today is to take inventory of your worries. Whether you make a mental note or a written one, access the things that are weighing on your mind. Repent before the Lord for holding on to these worries and lay them at His feet in full acknowledgement of His authority and control. Leave it all up to Him. And if you pick those worries back up again, repeat the process. He is always willing and able to take on our fears and frustrations.