Anxiety in Christianity
By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH
Phil 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Learning to let go of things that cause anxiety is not always an easy task. God calls us forward to present those things to Him through prayer and petition as found in the Philippians scripture. Learning how to manage anxiety is nothing new and there are many references regarding it throughout the Bible. Anxiety is a natural feeling and serves a purpose to protect ourselves from the threat of harm and danger. This is often exhibited commonly as fight or flight. However, if the threat is not real and only a perception of harm and danger it can lead to unwarranted feelings of distress.
Anxiety often is the result of worry and fear about a situation that creates feelings of uneasiness often found in the pit of the stomach. It’s the relentless worrying about something that is not within our control. Very often in our everyday lives we hear the phrase “get over it” or “just let it go.” This actually can be very helpful if the feelings are truly released versus stuffing them down inside. Jesus addressed this very issue in Matthew 6:27 saying “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” This teaching demonstrates how Jesus was around other people who were experiencing anxious thoughts and feelings. Anxious thoughts can be described by ruminating or entertaining thoughts. In other words, or by the example Christ gives us, let go of worrying or thinking about those things that we have no control over because there is nothing we can do about it anyway. Worrying and feeling anxious is not only unhealthy, it can waste time and become a distraction away from more important activities in our lives. It can also rob us of a good night’s sleep with the mind racing. Stomach issues can lead to poor eating habits depleting the body of fuel it needs to stay energized. If anxiety goes unchecked for too long, it can lead to other health problems such as panic attacks, ulcers or addictions as a coping mechanism.
I once heard a story about a man who decided after 12 years of marriage that he wanted to leave his wife. She begged him to stay and as a matter of fact she had been begging him to stay for the next 20 years of their marriage. She had severe anxiety about him leaving. She had a great deal of fear of the unknown and abandonment and what life would look like without this man. The idea of being alone was beginning to deteriorate her health. She no longer liked herself in the mirror, her face drawn and unhappy. Her husband finally divorced her after 32 years of marriage and she was able to let go of all the anxiety that been built up inside of her. Some time went by and she found herself somehow feeling much better and joy was beginning to return to her life. The crux of this story is what can happen to anyone. A spouse makes up their mind they are going to leave, regardless of what the other person says, does or feels. In this case, there was nothing wife could do about it. The husband made his decision. Much to the amazement of the wife, she began to feel the opposite of what she had been afraid of all those years that somehow things would get worse. At this point she was able to let go.
The point of the story is about letting go of the fear and the worry that is often the culprit of anxiety. When other people in our lives decide to make decisions for themselves and do not include others there is not much we can do about it. If this is the case, how can you begin to let it go? How can worrying or ruminating on the thoughts of other people’s behavior add a single day or hour to your life? Christ summarizes this in one piece of scripture saying in Matthew 6:34 “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Brian Murray is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern with The Lifeworks Group located in Winter Park Florida.