Worry vs. Anxiety

worry

Some of the literal translations of the Bible do not do not contain the word “worry” anywhere in the contents. Search a KJV or ESV Bible for the word worry and it will not be found. Many people think that the Bible tells us not to worry because God is in control. While it is true to a degree it is not true in the way we might think. Dictionary.com defines worry as “to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts” and that sounds awful. The Bible does use a similar word, “anxiety”, that many people use interchangeably with “worry” in every day speech. In fact many of the newer translations use “worry” and “anxiety” interchangeably. The KJV does not use the newer words “worry” or “anxiety” but uses older words like “Be careful for nothing” or in Christian speak one might say they “cast their cares to God”. But in modern language worry and anxiety have taken over the conversation. Anxiety is the primary word used by the ESV when it translates the Greek μεριμνάω (me-rēm-nä’-ō). This Greek word, μεριμνάω, means “to be anxious or to be troubled with cares”.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

I do not think of myself as a worrier. Crazy scenarios like bears attacking me in my sleep while camping might pop in my mind but then I just shrug my shoulders and go back to sleep. My wife on the other hand worries about all kinds of plausible ill-fated scenarios while camping. Moms by nature are known for their ability to worry. Is that a bad thing to be concerned about the pitfalls of life and want to avoid them? I don’t think so and I doubt God would want his people to not worry about clear and present dangers. The greatest danger of all that every person alive should worry about is where they stand with God. If you are not saved by Christ then you should be gravely worried.

I may not worry about much but I am anxious. I have been an anxious person my entire life. My anxiety is in full force when it comes to interactions (like parties) with people. The nervousness of it all wears me out. Dictionary.com defines anxious as “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune”. Reasonable worries might be used in a productive way to keep one safe. Anxiety however is full on mental trouble that may be crippling in any productive life. Psychology Today has a great article that breaks down the difference between Worry and Anxiety. Here are two key points.

“If you’re concerned about getting fired because you did really poorly on a project, you’re worried. If you’re concerned about getting fired because your boss didn’t ask about your child’s piano recital, you’re anxious.”

“Worry tends to be more focused on thoughts in our heads, while anxiety is more visceral in that we feel it throughout our bodies.”

That last one really hits home for me. My anxiety around people impacts me physically. On occasion I have a duty that requires that I speak publicly. The last time this was required my anxiety got the better of me and while practicing the presentation my blood pressure spiked so high that I went into a full headache and nose bleed while practicing my first run through (I know that sounds crazy but it is true). The energy I need to get on stage and speak to a crowd is consuming of all my physical and mental energy. The insanity of this is that logically I know that I am prepared, capable, and encouraged to present. Why my body reacts with such stress is beyond me.

The question then dear reader is your life full of worry or anxiety? How much do the cares and troubles of this world paralyze your life? Hopefully we are all fortunate that worry is limited to practical and productive problem solving in a sin cursed world. While I do live an anxious life (at one time even writing this blog in front of the world would have been too much for me) I prayerfully live that life in submission to God’s desires for me. I serve him and if he wants me on a stage speaking before a crowd then I will summon courage not from myself but from Christ.

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Luke 12:22-25 ESV

The reality is that anxiety does not add to life but takes away hours and days. Jesus speaking to the disciples tells them not to be anxious in serving him. If they can learn to trust him and draw strength from him for the basics like food and clothing then the they can trust him with power that changes lives.

26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Luke 12:26 ESV

It is natural and normal to worry about practical issues that are right in front of you. But take to heart the words of Paul and submit your cares and anxiety to Christ. Bring him everything. Nothing is too small or too trivial for God provides even our daily bread.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

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