Reaction and Sinful Anxiety
by Gini Crawford, MSW
Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations. But as you know, all anxiety comes from sin - whether it is our sin, other people's sin, sin against us, or living in our sinful-fallen world. Remember Genesis 3. We need to bear in mind anxiety in itself isn't a sin in our lives, by the definition of anxiety. It is the mind's and the body's reaction to the sinful world we live in. This type of anxiety we will call reaction anxiety.
Anxiety becomes sin when we allow the source of our anxiety (what is scaring us, distressing us, worrying us, stressing us or putting us in a panic) to control us, instead of letting God control us. What I believe happens when anxiety becomes sin is, our mind and body are reacting to a fearful or worrisome source, which is reaction anxiety. But then for various reasons we forget to go to God with our anxious thoughts, or we don't trust God to get us through whatever is making us anxious (Psalm 38:18; Proverbs 3:5-6; Hebrews 11:6). This scenario becomes sin. We will call this anxiety - sinful anxiety.
Anxiety can also start from sin, which is of course sinful anxiety. Remember, Adam and Eve sinned and anxiety hit from their sin. Another example: A woman is addicted to drugs which is sin. The addiction makes her psychologically and physically anxious. The thought and need for drugs keeps her stressed. As you can reason, stopping sin in our lives stops a lot of anxiety in our lives!
Reaction and sinful anxiety lived out
Let's take a look at a person who has reaction anxiety but doesn't sin by trusting in God; and another person who has reaction anxiety but doesn't trust God thus ends up sinning. The first person has lost her job and can only make her house payment for three months without a job. This scenario would naturally make anyone feel distressed or worried. However, she knows what God's Word says, so she decides to pray, and mentally tells herself to trust God every time she starts to get anxious. The other person has lost her job too and can only make payments for four months, which naturally gives her reaction anxiety. This person figures God couldn't really help her, so why bother Him. She gets worried every time she thinks of her plight, and feels like she is drowning with the fear of not having enough resources - sinful anxiety.
Four principles on dealing with anxiety in God
The next four days we will cover four principles from scripture that will help you deal with anxiety. Dealing with anxiety through God's methods can set you free from sinful anxiety, and lessen reaction anxiety in your life. The themes for the four days are:
- Transform the mind
- Trust God
- Prayer, Philippians 4:6 Lived Out
- Jesus Christ and anxiety
Is it reaction or sinful or both?
Be aware, many times it is hard to tell if our source of anxiety (a fear or worry) is reaction or sinful anxiety. An illustration from my life: A source of constant worry years ago, when I first wrote this devotional, was whether my teaching - writing was decent and growth inspiring to the reader. This isn’t an unreasonable worry (reaction anxiety), since writing isn’t easy for me. Nevertheless it also was sinful anxiety because this thought told me, I was trusting in my own abilities instead of trusting the Spirit to touch others through my writing. I have learned over the years my writing can be par excellent or par awful, either one God can use. My job is to write to the best of my abilities in God then trust Him to use my teaching. Read Matthew 6:25-34.
Whether you are struggling with anxiety that is reaction, sinful or both, Jesus is with you to lead you out of anxiety and give you His supernatural peace - victory over any anxiety.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NIV
Give an example of reaction anxiety in your life.
Give an example of sinful anxiety in your life.
Meditate on Matthew 6:25-34 for a few minutes.