Worry or Anxiety?
Are you worried? Should you be?
Worry is familiar to each of us!
Loving parents worry about their children. Business owners worry at times about decreasing sales while expenses increase. College graduates worry about how they will re-pay their student loans!
Even those who maintain an outward appearance of confidence, poise, and self-assurance, are acquainted with “worry.” It’s part of life!
Life offers us a smorgasbord of issues, which appeal to our “worrier.” And you don’t get through life without worrying about something!
However, Jesus tells us not to worry:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
So how is it possible to obey Christ and not worry?
Is Jesus commanding us not to be concerned? Are we to go through life aloof, indifferent, dispassionate, and apathetic? Should nothing trouble us?
Any parent whose child is dabbling with drugs has not only a right — but an obligation to be concerned. The business person cannot be careless about financial matters. A student must not become indifferent about their debt. Failure to pay attention to any of the above areas will ultimately create harm.
Are you worried? Or are you anxious?
If worry is showing concern, then it’s not the same as being anxious. To be concerned is appropriate. However, we are to guard ourselves against becoming anxious. There’s a difference.
Unfortunately, we’re inclined to use these words (worry and anxiety) interchangeably. While both words hold a shared sense of concern, Guy Winch, Ph.D., reminds us: “how we experience them is quite distinct—as are the implications they have for our emotional and psychological health.”
To be concerned is one thing. To allow the concern to create anxiousness is another.
Worry is head oriented. We find ourselves thinking about our concerns. Often, because we’re focused on what’s troubling us, it serves us in problem-solving. Our worry motivates us to find solutions.
However, anxiousness is experienced in the body. Anxiety is more scattered, general, and difficult to pinpoint. Worry is more specific.
Recently, I had an early morning flight. I was delayed in leaving my house. The morning “rush hour” traffic was unusually heavy due to road construction. I was worried that I would be late. “What alternative route can I take to avoid this traffic,” I thought.
My concern led me to discover a solution to my delay, allowing me to arrive in adequate time for my flight.
However, I was not anxious about flying. My body was not tense or disturbed in any way. I’ve observed “anxious passengers.” They grip their arm wrests until their knuckles turn white. Their anxiety impacts their bodies.
In the words of Guy Winch, unlike worry: “Anxiety is like a hamster wheel that spins us around but doesn’t lead us to productive solutions.”
I’m not a psychologist or doctor. However, I understand how stress can take a toll on the body. I painfully recall a time when I laid in bed in a fetal position for hours, tormented by anxiety. Paralyzed by fear, my body refused to move!
Medical science confirms how anxiety contributes to many physical, emotional, and cognitive disorders. Recognizing the difference between worry and anxiety is essential!
Jesus’ “worry” is that we will not become “anxious!” Jesus’ “concern” is that our “concern” does not become “anxiety.”
When Jesus uses the word “worry” (μεριμνάω: (derivative of μέριμνα ‘worry,’) he is admonishing us not to have an anxious heart based on apprehension about possible misfortune.
Proverbs 12:25 underscores why Jesus encourages us not to be anxious:
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
The apostles, Peter and Paul, give us practical steps to take when we are experiencing anxiety:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” - 1 Peter 5:7.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” - Philippians 4:6-7.
If, like me, you have many things that can cause worry. There’s a lot of issues in life in which we cannot control.
Jesus’ words: “Don’t be anxious,” are a timely reminder for me. How about you?
1 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Mt 6:25.
2 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 312.