You might be stressing about an exam or work deadline or suffer from a full-blown anxiety disorder. While we may experience worry in different forms and intensities, we all go through it at some point in our life.
For a long time, churches have stigmatized mental health and anxiety — but let’s be clear about one thing: Worrying is not a sin. So why do some Christians say it’s a sin? And what does the Bible say about worrying?
What are some signs of chronic worrying?
- Feeling restless or like you “can’t get enough sleep.” You may also be tired or fatigued on a daily basis, even if you are getting enough sleep.
- Feeling “on edge” constantly. You may also startle easily or be sensitive to certain lights, sounds, etc.
- Excessively worrying about work, school or relationships.
- Not being able to concentrate on one thing — you may feel overwhelmed by simple tasks.
- Struggling to keep up with school or work deadlines. When worry takes over in life, work and school can be negatively impacted.
Why is worry sometimes misinterpreted as a sin?
In Matthew 6, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25-30 ESV).
Christians often take this verse as a specific commandment from God. Using that logic, they assume that worry is a sin because God commands us not to worry. Therefore, when we worry or are anxious about life, we are disobeying God’s commandments and doubting Him. However, Jesus isn’t commanding us NOT to worry in this passage — instead, He is simply reminding us that we don’t HAVE to worry, because He will provide for us. When we are burdened with worry or anxiety, we can rely on Him.
What does the Bible say about worry?
- We can be honest about our worries and anxieties with God. We don’t have to hide our feelings or worries from God out of fear that it is a sin — He wants to hear about them. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).
- God is the ultimate provider of peace. When we trust in God, He will provide us with peace, care and comfort. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27 ESV).
- Fear and worry do not come from the Lord. It’s not a punishment for sin or a sin itself. God does not give us fear or desire for us to be fearful; instead, He desires for us to put our faith in Him and let Him provide for us. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV).
- When we are struggling, we can still put our faith in God. When we are weary and feel like our worrying thoughts have no end, we can have hope and trust that with prayer and praise, He will renew our strength. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 ESV).