Ask A Pastor: Is Anxiety a Sin?
Is anxiety a sin?
This is a great question, but one that really needs a longer discussion to adequately address. Our understanding of the meaning of words is important because differences of meaning can cause people to be divided on these issues when they need not be. I encourage you to first define to yourself what you understand by the word anxiety and then compare it to how the Bible uses the word. Certainly, the Bible does speak about anxiety directly. Anxiety is spoken about in relation to commands. We are not to be anxious, read Matt. 6:25, 34 and Phil. 4:6. It seems clear that we are commanded by God to not be anxious. This would seem to indicate that anyone who is anxious is therefore sinning, they are doing what the Scriptures have said they ought not to do. I also suspect that there is no person alive who has not struggled with anxiety. Perhaps a comparison would be helpful. The Bible says “Fear not” over 350 times. Does this also mean that any time a person is afraid or fearful they are sinning? If you are 10 years old and your older brother jumps from behind the door and scares you, were you afraid for a moment or for 2 minutes? Have you sinned? You see how discussing a simple question can quickly become complex.
Let me try to approach it this way. We are all sinners, and our anxiety, our lack of trusting God, our fear of circumstances or people rather than God, are all sins. However, if we have come to Christ by faith and repentance, we know that we are being transformed. To me the question then becomes, am I growing in greater trust of my Savior and am I consciously putting to death anything in my thoughts that contribute to things contrary to His will for me. No one will be able to do this perfectly in this life. Therefore, the question is, “Are we actively striving to overcome our anxiety?” And, “Are we trusting God and being transformed more and more into Christ’s image?” What profit would there be if someone answered this question with no, anxiety is not sin. Does that mean I can be anxious a little bit, or a lot, before I sin? Does that mean if anxiety can be traced to a bodily problem, I am not responsible for it? That is not a helpful answer.
Another example might help. If a child was abused much of their childhood by several men, does this mean if they become anxious now when they are around men that they are sinning? The answer is obvious. No. This is a response to past abuse when others have sinned against them, and although they are seeking to not allow that situation to happen again at times fear can still creep in. Does that mean they should live the rest of their life this way? Again, no. If they have come to Christ, they are able, even with these feelings, to flee to Him and trust Him in whatever situation they find themselves in. This is a sanctifying process. Now whether we should say the person is still sinning in the process or not, seems to me to be a somewhat moot point. The real question is, “Am I striving to overcome my anxiety and be more like Christ with each experience of anxiety or am I actually becoming more anxious over time?” If that is not the case, then we need to deal honestly with the question of why this transformation is not happening and the question, while connected, is a much larger one.
There are various books in the Biblical counseling movement that address this issue. I would suggest you begin reading these and seek out a biblical counselor to meet with, if you believe that anxiety has gotten out of control in your life. Sometimes these thoughts may be connected to other physical issues, but to address this would take even longer to answer here. Meet with someone who is spiritually mature and begin a discipleship relationship with them that will help you gain answers and insight into your anxiety.