Anxiety, Fear and Worry, Oh My!
My son and I waited in line over an hour. The line wound in and out and around through the basement of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It was a beautiful summer day, but we were glad to be inside where the air conditioning was blowing full blast. While we waited, I read the brochure about the significance of the arch, the gateway to the West while at the same time keeping one eye on the people stepping into the elevator cars going to the top of the arch. According to the brochure, once you got to the top, you could peer out a small glass window and see all of St. Louis.
The closer we got to the cars, the harder my heart thumped. Then it was our turn to join 6 to 8 other souls in the little elevator pod. I remember not being able to stand completely straight up as we stepped in and I was practically sitting on the lady next to me. And I don't remember there being windows.
As more people filed in I began to feel my chest tighten and I got a little dizzy. In a flash, I played out every awful scenario that could happen in that tiny elevator pod, and just as the teenage attendant checked to see if everyone in our pod was seated, I stuck my arm out the door to keep the door from shutting.
“Nope,” I said quietly. “Not gonna happen.”
I was not going to let the door shut. There was no way I could stay in that cramped pod for the several minutes it would take to ascend to the top of the arch and then do it in reverse to get down.
Nope, not me.
Staying in that little box was not worth the wide-angle view of St. Louis.
The anxiety spread over me and felt like a thousand bees were stinging. I had to get out of the elevator car, and it had to be NOW. Anxiety had me. It gripped me and was choking the life out of me. My poor sweet son was dumbfounded but patient and kindly said he didn’t want to go the top anyway.
Anxiety is powerful. It’s in the same emotional family as fear and worry. Each one, however, manifests differently.
Fear grips us when there is an apparent danger like a tornado in the neighborhood; anxiety imagines the tornado.
Worry, on the other hand, comes from our minds, and anxiety plays out in our bodies.
We often verbalized our worry, but anxiety comes to life in our imagination.
When we are afraid, once the threat is gone, it goes away.
Worry can move us to solve a problem; anxiety causes us to freeze.
Worry is concern for real problems; anxiety makes up problems.
Do you have bouts of fear, worry or anxiety? I am sure most of us do.
Have you ever considered whether fear, worry, and anxiety are sins?
The most straightforward answer is yes. We are admonished often in scripture “do not fear” and “do not worry.” We know that anxiety is not what God wants for us.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Matthew 6:25
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41.10 NLT
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:8
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Prov 12:25
So, yes, fear, worry, and anxiety are sins. The Word says “do not” so we should not. Our complete trust and faith should be in the One True God not in ourselves or others.
Reducing fear, worry and anxiety takes practice, and the best practice is to take every thought captive--immediately. Correct our fear, worry, and anxiety with truth and trust in Jesus. But, is it possible to be completely free of fear, worry, and anxiety? Pastor John Piper says, “There is no human being on the planet beside Jesus who doesn’t struggle with anxiety. All of us are flawed in our faith. If we were perfect in our faith we would be anxiety-free. And the more we mature in faith, the more anxiety-free we are.”
So the goal is spiritual maturity. How do we get there?
The first step is a relationship with Jesus. The path to ridding ourselves of fear, worry and anxiety starts by admitting we need Jesus, that He is the King of our life. Next, it’s a desire to grow in that relationship. We have to do the work to be mature. Paul offers a few next steps:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
The first thing to do is to pray. Go to God first before relying on our strength or the things of the world. In prayer, through humility, we admit our fear, worry or anxiety. Prayer builds our faith in God not in us. God already knows our need, and He is already fighting for us, but by praying our requests, we let go of the control and depend on Him.
Make a petition. In this verse, the word means to ask urgently about a real situation. Anxiety, worry, and fear arise out of real-life events, and we need immediate relief. God hears the urgency in our prayers. Sometimes He will remove the danger, or deliver us from the threat, or deliver us through it. We must trust God to take care of us.
Be grateful. No matter the situation, we can be thankful that God is sovereign and has everything in His hands. When we are grateful, we are growing.
We know that sometimes anxiety is much larger than a passing trip to the St. Louis Arch and may require professional help. God can be there, too. Prayer, petition and thanksgiving can be part of the healing.
If we can begin to let God handle our anxiety, fear, and worry, Paul says there is reward.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 7)
When we turn to God, we can exchange our fear, worry, and anxiety for peace that will guard our hearts and minds. The peace of Jesus.
Dear sisters, if you are struggling with anxiety, know that God is the way to peace. It takes practice, but in time, when you feel fear, worry, or anxiety rise up, you will be able to go to God first in prayer, make your urgent petition and thank Him for His sovereign grace and protection.
I hope I have another opportunity to see the Arch at St. Louis; maybe I will get in one of those tiny cars and reach the top. I am still working on that.
Dear Father, praise you that you are sovereign, you have everything in control, even when we feel fear, worry or anxiety. Help us to go to you first and know the peace that transcends all understanding. Thank you for your patience with us. Amen.