To the one who deals with anxiety:
Though you feel fearful or anxious, do not beat yourself up. Don’t condemn yourself. Feeling a certain emotion does not mean you have committed sin. Anxiety is not a sin. By itself, an emotion we feel is is not a sin. Feelings arise in us, often outside of our ability to control them.
That said, we do have a choice in how we respond to our anxious feelings. What we feel can lead to action very quickly, especially when it comes to anxiety or fear. We can choose to respond by doing something sinful (like worrying), or we can choose to resist the temptation and respond in a better way.
People often equate feeling anxiety to acting out of that anxiety, such as by worrying, but it is our response to an emotion that can be an actual sin or not.
It’s not easy to respond rightly. The temptation to respond to what we feel in a sinful way instead of in a way that pleases God is very real.
Worry Is Not the Same as Anxiety
Take the example of worry. It is often used interchangeably with the word anxiety. That said, the good news is that they are not the same. To reiterate, anxiety is a feeling that arises in us. Worry is when, in response, you give way to that feeling of anxiety, when you dwell on the concern or situation. Anxiety can lead us to worry, and anxiety can also arise when we entertain worried thoughts.
Worry then is a response to the feeling of anxiety, and anxiety can be felt as an effect of worry. But the feeling of anxiety is not itself a sin, the response of worry is.
Here’s another example: Recall the Scripture that says “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26, NKJV). Being angry isn’t the sin, otherwise it would say something like this: Do not be angry so that you do not sin.
Remember, you can sin in response to an emotion like anger–whether through your thoughts, words, actions or attitude. The same applies to fear and other emotions.
God’s Comfort for the Anxious
Often when God said in His Word, “do not be afraid,” it was followed by a reason why we should not be fearful: …because I am with you, I care for you, etc. Likewise, He wants to encourage us in our anxiety to trust Him, choose not to sin but also not to condemn ourselves for feeling anxious.
Do not condemn yourself when an emotion like anxiety arises within you. Instead, turn to the Lord, asking Him to help you respond to it in a way that honors Him. Make this closing verse your prayer:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
— Psalms 19:14 (NKJV)