Request your free, three-month trial to Tabletalk magazine. You’ll receive the print issue monthly and gain immediate digital access to decades of archives. This trial is risk-free. No credit card required.Try Tabletalk Now
Already receive Tabletalk magazine every month?
Verify your email address to gain unlimited access.
Anxiety is sinful when it reflects a spirit of unbelief in the gracious promises of a heavenly Father. Christ commands us not to seek what we should eat or drink and not to have an anxious mind (Luke 12:29). Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6, NKJV).
Anxiety involves a troubling or tormenting fear about “what might be,” a sense of being left hanging. Neither Christ nor Paul demands stoical impassivity. Christ could be troubled in spirit (John 12:27; 13:21)—He felt deeply, without ever sinning. Paul says to be anxious for nothing, but uses the same word to express that he has no one who will “sincerely care for your state” (Phil. 2:20, NKJV). He explains to the Corinthians that he has a daily burden of “deep concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28, NKJV).
While there is clearly such a thing as legitimate and godly concern, our anxiety is often interwoven with a lack of trust in God, His providences, and His promises. That was clearly not the case for the Lord Jesus, though His faith would be tested to a degree far beyond ours. It was clearly a challenge for the Apostle. In our examples above, anxiety (actual or potential) is countered by explicit declarations of confidence in God concerning what lies ahead, or testimonies or instances of prayerful dependence on God in the midst of those troubles. Paul tells the Philippians to be anxious for nothing because he is doing precisely what he told them to do: taking all his concerns to the Lord in believing prayer, just as Christ did perfectly.
We should not heap on tender consciences burdens they need not or cannot bear. We remember, too, that some people are constitutionally inclined to anxiety or may have a medical condition that prompts this kind of agitation and for whom counseling or medication may sometimes be an appropriate part of the response. Even so, for the spiritual dimension of anxiety, the antidote is faith.
If a characteristic agitation about what might come to pass reflects a lack of belief in God and His care, how should we respond? What does obedience to Christ’s command look like? In the most difficult times, we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt us in due time; we cast all our cares on Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:6–7). The antidote to sinful anxiety—the kind of unbelieving fear that grips, conditions, and overwhelms as a matter of course—is a prayerful grasp of the good and gracious God who has assured us of His loving care for all those who trust in Him. That may not always be as simple as it sounds, but when doubts and fears arise and our hearts are overwhelmed, we must flee to the Rock that is higher than we are (Ps. 61:2).