January 13, 2022

Is My Anxiety Sinful?

Derek Thomas & Nathan W. Bingham
Is My Anxiety Sinful?

Fear and worry are never far from us in a fallen world. How should we think about our anxiety? Is it sinful? Today, Ed Welch reflects on the way Jesus speaks to anxious hearts.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Is my anxiety sinful? This week we’re joined by Dr. Ed Welch. He’s a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. Dr. Welch, is a Christian’s anxiety sinful?

ED WELCH: I know why you’re asking that question because one of the most common commands in all Scripture—I haven’t counted it myself, but I know people who have—over three hundred times, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. And if it’s a command in Scripture, then if you violate the command, it would seem sinful.

So on the surface of it, it would seem like anxiety is sinful. In which case, we don’t seem to be taking it that seriously because every one of us is riddled with anxiety at different times, and there hasn’t been a lot of repentance over our anxieties. But there’s a good reason why there hasn’t been a lot of repentance over it.

Let me give you two ways Scripture approaches that command. Jesus uses the same language when He talks to a widow who has lost her only son and is now utterly destitute. He says to her, “Don’t cry.” Don’t cry. Now we know for certain that Jesus is not rebuking her for crying, saying there’s something wrong and sinful in her crying. What He’s saying is more, “I am here, and I will give you a reason not to cry. Something good is going to happen.” That’s what seems to be behind the command.

So don’t confuse the command for a mere command that we would normally think of. Think of it as Jesus coming to you saying, “I am with you, and your anxieties have reasons to be a little less dominating because I am with you. And I am going to speak to you very, very comforting words.” Hear that as the details behind the command.

If that’s not enough to persuade you—the way Jesus approaches you and your anxiety—recognize that when Jesus, when we sin, we are called to turn away. We’re called to confess it and turn away from it. In the midst of anxiety, Jesus says the most beautiful words in all of Scripture to anxious people. That is not the way Jesus tends to deal with our sins.

And the words He speaks, “I am with you.” Now, they’re not the only words He speaks, but that particular promise that appears throughout Scripture is always brought to the fore with anxious folks. So anticipate that if you are struggling with anxiety, anticipate that you will hear the most beautiful words that are ever spoken in Scripture. That’s the way you should be hearing God speak to you.