I’m really sick of people telling me that my anxiety is a sin.
Like, beyond tired of it. So, I want to respectfully tell you to…
Stop telling me that being anxious is a sin and that I need “to stop.”
I believe that we all fall short of the glory of God. I believe that we all are sinful and children of wrath born into sin and are unable to fix it ourselves. Jesus- fully man and fully God- sacrificed his position in Heaven. He took on the limits of humanity to conquer temptation and sin in the ways that we never could. I believe that he lived a perfect life and was tried as guilty when he was completely sinless. He was sentenced to death and punishment of God’s wrath that we deserve. Three days later he rose from the dead conquering sin and death once and for all and offers us eternal life. The Life is given by grace alone in having faith that his sacrifice was enough to restore our relationship with God. I have full faith in all of it.
When it comes to my anxiety- it is not because I lack faith.
Let me say that again…
My anxiety IS NOT a result of a lack of faith. My anxiety is clinical- and although it’s manageable and there are ways to cope with it- it is an illness.
I’ve once sat through an entire sermon telling me and everyone there that the number of people who struggle with anxiety disorders is a result of our ineffective evangelism and communication of the Gospel. This pastor went on to give the “horrendous” numbers of people who struggle with anxiety and depression disorders in America and that alone was our evidence that Americans were lost and unsaved. I am righteously indignant when I think of it… STILL.
I will agree that my anxiety is a result of sin- it is a sign of sinful nature. Like cancer, like diabetes, like autism, like learning disabilities, like PTSD and anxiety- these are all results of sin.
You wouldn’t look at a child with autism and tell him to “stop sinning and be normal.” How could you ask a friend with diabetes, “What sin did you commit to get that- you should just stop needing insulin.” You wouldn’t look at someone who has PTSD and tell them to just stop being frightened.
Illness, disease, sickness- whether they are mental, physical, or emotional- are results of sin, and not the fault of the person who struggles with them.
Anxiety is a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Some people are more prone to this imbalance than others because of genetics and environment. It is when the brain- through some sort of traumatic or triggering episode- makes certain pathways that weren’t meant to be connected. Some brains are more susceptible to making these pathways because of an already-existing imbalance which decreases the brain’s resilience. Clinical anxiety is a physiological response in the brain that is involuntary and not something that a human can control. It is a fight or flight response that is housed in the amygdala in the brain- the fear center. Anxiety seems to be centralized in the right amygdala and those who struggle with anxiety have an overactive amygdala, even at rest ans security. (That is my relatively sorry attempt at summarizing this really complicated article written by brain scientists.)
Worry is still in the fear center of the brain-
but it’s not an abnormal or imbalanced amount. Worry is something that we can control to a certain extent. We don’t have to dwell on worry in our mind. We don’t have to focus on that one thing that causes us to worry. There are ways to solve problems when it comes to worry, and although there is emotional distress it is relatively mild. Worry is a normal psychological state- anxiety isn’t. A normal response in the brain that the Bible says not to dwell on. A normal human response that Jesus says,
“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…”
Worry and clinical anxiety are different.
I would love it if we could stop using these words interchangeably. Saying that they are the same thing is only perpetuating the stigmas and lies about mental illness. Using “worry” and “anxiety” interchangeably is making it hard for those who trust Jesus to be honest with those around them. It makes it hard to talk about the ways that they struggle and makes them hesitant to seek help when everyone just says, “Well… just stop.”
All of that to say- anxiety is truly an illness.
A manageable illness that people can learn to cope with, but an illness nonetheless.
Does that mean I get to use my diagnosis as an excuse to not grow in faith and maturity towards Christ? Absolutely not.
Does that mean that I get to dwell in my anxiety and worry and not work at growing in faith that my God can heal and will provide rest? Not at all.
Will God take my illness away if I “pray harder” and “have more faith?” Certainly not. Although I have full faith that he could if it would glorify him (but it would definitely have nothing to do with my works or amount of faith and prayer if he did).
Just like cancer, autoimmune diseases, learning disabilities, autism, and every other disease on this earth that completely sucks, I believe that God is sovereign over them and works them for good.
I believe that my anxiety is clinical and something that I will struggle with for the rest of my life. I will struggle with it for the rest of my life because it will ultimately bring glory to Jesus and I will know him more intimately because of it.
But stop telling me that I need to just stop being anxious because it is a sin.
It’s not helpful, its completely ignorant of what anxiety really is, and I do not believe that is how Jesus would approach the topic today.
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