The Second Part of a Ten Part Series on Anxiety and Stress Which Began on February 23, 2016
What is Anxiety?
Fear relates to a person, an object, or an event taking place right in front of you. It is a reaction to a dangerous looking person, a loud noise, or seeing an unfriendly animal on the path ahead. Anxiety, on the other hand, is vague and ill-defined.
Jesus Spoke to His followers concerning Anxiety and Worry
Anxiety is best understood by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matt. 6:25). Five times in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus uses the word anxious. It is more vague than normal fear, and constantly gnaws at a person’s soul. The Greek word merimnao has the meaning care in the sense of anxious worry.
(Goetzmann, J. (1986). Care, Anxiety. In Colin Brown (Ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, second edition pp. 276-279. Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
Commenting on the words of Christ, John R. W. Stott points out that “Jesus mentions both today and tomorrow. All worry is about tomorrow, whether about food or clothing or anything else; but all worry is experienced today. Whenever we are anxious, we are upset in the present about some event which may happen in the future.”
(Stott, J. R. W. (1978). The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (pp. 168-169). Downers Grove: IVP Academic).
Jesus provides us with one primary goal in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things wiall be added to you.” The more we focus ourselves on this goal, the less concerned we are with the details of our future and the less anxious we become.
Jesus is saying that we should not be anxious, but should have faith in God. This sounds simple, but remember that he said other things in the Sermon on the Mount as well: don’t be angry at another person, if anyone asks you for something – give it to him, love your enemies and pray for them, forgive anyone who has wronged you. “These are the standards, the values and the priorities of the kingdom of God.” (Stott, 1978, p.222).
We all face concerns for the future. When someone we know is anxious, we need to be humble, to pray for them, and to encourage their faith.
Dr James P Porowski Licensed Psychologist Raleigh NC February 24, 2016