“I worry a lot, but that’s not a sin, right?”
How would you answer that question? It was put to me by a Christian lady who had so many other struggles that her depression and worry seemed almost innocent. But is nervousness a victimless crime? Isn’t it kind of like having a stuffy nose?
As I have pointed out in other articles in this series, the feelings of depression are never sinful. They may come from something bodily like caffeine, fatigue or even serious illness (a prospect that can also dominate your thoughts if you are not careful). But we are not addressing the feelings themselves. We are addressing your response to those feelings. This woman’s worry was having a substantial impact on the others in her home. Her family was missing out on the loving care she could have given had she not spent so much time spreading her anxiety around the house.
Set aside for now the serious physical effects (digestive ailments and spikes in blood pressure to name two) that result from chronic anxiety. The bigger question—at least for a Christian—is: What impact does this have on my relationships and responsibilities?
The feeling of nervousness and distraction can look different in different people. For instance, in some people it almost seems like an attack from outside themselves. They feel agitated and cannot explain it. Still others have a specific object to their anxiety. Relationships, finances, coming events or re-playing past events dominate the thoughts.
Either way the nervous feelings sometimes associated with depression—even if they come from identifiable physical causes like caffeine or fatigue—usually keep you from the kind of neighbor loving that pleases God.
It is not difficult to find a biblical description of a symptom associated with depression that we all recognize in ourselves and others. Jesus described it this way in His clearest message about worry or anxiety:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34, NASB
So ask yourself some questions:
· What do my anxious thoughts say about the way I think God cares for me?
· Am I thinking true thoughts or are the voices of my nerves shouting louder than God’s word?
· What is God trying to do in the midst of this?
· What other people are being kept from service I could give them because of my anxiety?
Are you are nervous and distracted?
1. Maybe you need to retrain your thinking (Colossians 3:2). It could be that you have actually created the problem that controls your thoughts. Write down some of the Scripture texts found in this study and review them every day. The next time these feelings begin to creep into your thoughts you will have true thoughts to call to mind.
2. Maybe you need to find an other-focused mission to occupy your thoughts (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:1-11). The remedy for anxiety is found in obeying the two greatest commands. Write down ten tangible ways you can exert yourself to serve others in your life (e.g., writing encouraging notes, doing extra chores to lighten the load of another, asking questions and listening to others without complaining about your life). Start at home. Get to work on it.
Ten articles in this series: