DEAR FATHER PAUL: My wife and I are in our 60’s and are believers. She often accuses me of being a “world class worrier” to which I respond that “I am simply concerned and anxious about a particular subject, not ‘worried’ about it. No big deal.” Is worry a sin? – Bill
DEAR BILL: Health issues, finances, and family problems lead the list. Henry David Thoreau said that, “the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation,” meaning, I think, that multitudes of men (and women) live out their lives with deep and lasting worries that they seldom, if ever, deal with or share with anyone.
Any psychologist, counselor, or pastor will affirm that unchecked worry and anxiety can become more than merely troublesome. It can lead to severe psychological and mental problems, not to mention relationship issues.
You ask about worry vs. anxiety and concern. Sorry, but I think that they are very similar, if not identical. One dictionary I consulted gave these same exact words as a definition for both words. It said that, “worry …is anxiety … ranging from mild to severe” … and under anxiety it said …”anxiety is worry, etc., etc.”
So what does God think about worry, especially when it becomes so severe that it interferes with an enjoyable and productive life? Basically, even a casual review of the literally dozens and dozens of Bible passages on the subject of worry warn us that God’s will for his children is that we not be plagued by worries, concerns and anxiety.
Jesus himself tells us what God thinks about worry in a passage in Luke 12:21-26: 29-30 (New Living Translation) Jesus says, “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God. Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, that is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life … whether you have enough food to eat or clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use in worrying about bigger things? Why do you have so little faith? Don’t worry about such things. These things (are what) dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world.”
Basically, Jesus is talking here about worry as opposed to faith. And … LISTEN …THIS IS IMPORTANT … in the Kingdom of God, worry and faith are exact and total opposites! The truth is that if we have faith, we won’t have lots of worries, and if we have lots of worries, we probably don’t have much faith.
In my own life, decades ago, once I understood this simple kingdom principle, I realized that faith and worry are totally incompatible for a Christian. That meant that, in God’s eyes, (again) if I had lots and lots of worries, it meant that I didn’t have much faith. Period. That’s truly a simple, but painful thing to hear about ones self.
Later God led me to one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. Here it is: Hebrews 11:6 (New International Version) “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Bottom line … worry will keep us from having the faith it takes to please God. Finally, a dear friend shared this wise thought with me that sealed my freedom from worry. He said this: “Paul, think about this fact. Nearly 100% of the things we worry so much about never, ever happen! Think back over your life. Am I right?”
I did and indeed he was! Think about that fact yourself, it’ll help set you free from worry!
So, your question again, is worry a sin? Yes, I think so, especially when we realize that worry means that our faith in God is weak at best.
But, here’s the good news. We – none of us – have to be tormented by worry, concerns and anxiety! God has provided an antidote. Again, its called faith. And to repeat for emphasis:
FAITH IS THE OPPOSITE OF WORRY… AND, FAITH NEGATES WORRY.
Best of all, when we feed, nurture and grow our faith in God and in his word, the Bible, our worries, fears and anxieties are swallowed up and cancelled in God’s love.
Since the day I discovered this simple Kingdom principle more than 45 years ago, I have enjoyed a worry free life. And you can too. So have faith in God today and stop worrying.
Father Paul Massey is Canon To The Bishop of The Mid-South Diocese of The Charismatic Episcopal Church. He is assigned to Christ The King Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia. Father Massey also serves as a volunteer chaplain to the Peachtree City Police Department.