Do not worry

Do not worry

Matthew 6:25- “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ..

There are many verses in the Bible that tell us not to be anxious, worried, or afraid, but how do we stop? Sometimes, especially if you have an anxiety disorder it can feel overwhelmingly impossible to stop worrying, and verses like those in Matthew 6 can make you start to question your faith.

When looking at Bible verses it is helpful to understand the difference between being worried and having an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is an experience that is universal to us all. Whether it's taking an exam, going for a job interview, or even asking someone out, we have all felt its effects. The racing heart, quickening breaths, churning stomach, and restless legs are all familiar symptoms that accompany this feeling. Our bodies are naturally programmed to react to increasing levels of adrenaline, which provides us with the fight/flight/freeze response that we need in case of an attack.

However, in modern times, the likelihood of being attacked by wild animals or experiencing violent situations has diminished significantly. Nevertheless, our built-in safety systems remain in place and can be triggered at any time when we perceive a threat. This can be advantageous as it can motivate us to prepare for an exam or make sure we are wearing our best suit.

When anxiety starts to interfere with our lives and becomes more severe and long lasting it can be called an anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders experience anxiety that they have little control over, they may realise that it is not proportional to the threat that they face, but are unable to be reassured about it. Anxiety can be tiring and result in a sense of isolation and loneliness.

Worrying is different. It can be alleviated through reassurance, is generally focused on a single concern, and tends to be proportionate to the situation. Once the issue is resolved, the worry fades away.

The Greek word merimnate is translated as anxiety or worry in our Bibles, this word means to be pulled apart or divided. When we worry our focus is pulled away from God onto all of the things that concern us, our minds are divided.

Ecclesiastes 2: 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

We are called not to worry but to trust God for all we need, taking our worries to Him and trusting that whatever the outcome, it will be what our loving Father wants for us.

When the Bible talks about anxiety, it is often referring to the worry that we feel about the stresses in life rather than an anxiety disorder. When we can choose our response to this worry, we should choose to trust God rather than ourselves. Anxiety should make us turn towards God but sometimes that is hard to do that when anxiety gets out of control.

1 Peter 5: 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

If you have an anxiety disorder you may find that you are unable to let go of the anxious thoughts you are experiencing and give it all to God. This does not mean that you are sinning or are weak in your faith. When your brain is in an anxious state it can be impossible to choose how you react, the adrenaline takes over the rational, thinking part of the brain leaving you with the fight/flight/freeze system. Sometimes all that you can do when you are so overwhelmed is survive and get through the day. Doing relaxing things to help you bring the levels of anxiety down and talking about how you feel can help. There will be times when your brain is calmer and you can start to remind it of the goodness of God.

Psalm 94:18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. 19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Remember when you are feeling anxious that there are better days ahead. I always take great comfort from these verses from 2 Corinthians which reassures me that anxiety is a reminder from God to not rely on our own strength but His.

2 Corinthians 8 We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.