1. God is near me to help me.

Philippians 4:5-6: “The Lord is at hand; [therefore] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

2. God cares for me.

1 Peter 5:7: “. . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

3. My Father in heaven knows all my needs and will supply all my needs.

Matthew 6:31-33: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

4. God values me more than birds and grass, which he richly provides for and adorns; how much more will he provide for all my needs!

Matthew 6:26-30: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

5. The worst someone can do to me is to kill me and take things from me!

Matthew 6:25: “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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” [I.e., you still have eternal life even if you have no food; you will still have a resurrection body even if you are physically deprived.]

Luke 12:4: “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.”

Luke 21:16, 18: “Some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish.”

Romans 8:31-32, 35, 38-39: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

6. Anxiety is pointless.

Matthew 6:27: “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” [Answer: no one.]

7. Anxiety is worldly.

Matthew 6:31-32: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things. . . .”

James 4:4: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

8. Tomorrow has enough to worry about and doesn’t need my help.

Matthew 6:34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Lamentations 3:23: “[God’s mercies] are new every morning.”

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49 thoughts on “Eight Reasons Why My Anxiety Is Pointless and Foolish”

  1. Pete says:

    Not to mention anxiety is sinful.

  2. SirBrass says:

    Good to be reminded. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

  3. John says:

    Just to add a twist, what would you (or a commenter) say about panic attacks? I completely agree that day to day anxiety about items, or health etc is pointless, but I would tend to think that an actual mental health diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (perhaps due to chronic abuse/neglect, etc) may be a whole other topic altogether?

    1. Melody says:

      There is healing through faith and trusting in Christ. Anxiety isn’t something that is conquered over night. But as someone that has had panic attacks and general anxiousness, I recognized that it is based on fear. Applying those verses to whatever situation is gripping you does make a difference. If you want to believe that psychologically it has more power over you than the Holy Spirit then you are believing the lie that Satan is giving you.
      When I was reading through a thought popped into my head. Over and over we have been told that gays are born that way. Well that may or may not be true. I don’t know. But when I read that first comment “Not to mention anxiety is sinful.” My initial response was “oh yeah, well some of us are just born anxious”. Which is true. As a mother I have noticed to that some of us are just more prone to that emotion. If it is sin then it can be conquered but it may take a lifetime of submission and taking captive of thought to Christ.
      Take the panic attack to it’s very worst conclusion.

      For one of mine, the car is going to plunge off the side of the mountain. A silly thought because we were on a four lane highway without a scary edge and I was the driver. So the fear was of death – there is a verse for that.

      Another panic attack, going into a country club for a banquet alone that I have never been before and looking like a fool not knowing where to sit or what to do. Well that is just plain fear of man and pride. I don’t want to be humiliated.

      Anxiety all comes down to the fact that we want to have control over our environment and the people around us. A guaranteed outcome. We have to put our eyes on the eternal outcome and let go of present circumstances. It still comes down to faith, even with panic attacks.

      I hope that isn’t too simplistic but that is how I have been working through it.

  4. Amy says:

    I had the same thought as John and while I know the intent is the “day-to-day anxiousness” (inability to control everything) being talked about, I didn’t much care for the title. Some people cannot control their anxiety.

    1. Melody says:

      That’s not true. God has power over everything.

      1. Laura Ortberg Turner says:

        Melody, that is exactly the kind of glib answer that does so much harm to people dealing with anxiety. The statement itself is true enough–God has power over everything–but that doesn’t mean that people don’t still have significant issues in their lives.
        I appreciate the spirit in which this was written, but this post is a significant example of what is wrong with the Christian community’s response to anxiety. Listing Bible verses under reasons that anxiety is pointless and foolish only serves to alienate those who truly do struggle with it.

        1. Melody says:

          No it doesn’t Laura because I struggle with it and I already answered at length in an above post. Saying that it alienates those that truly struggle with it is an EXCUSE. You are either continually being made in the likeness of Christ or you are not. You either surrender your need for control or make the excuse. It is no different than people than people that have anger issues. You can give them a pill for that too. Yes there is righteous anger and Christ obviously got angry. But let’s face it, we don’t do things like Christ most of the time.

          Speaking the truth is NEVER foolishness except to those that do not want to hear it.

  5. Andrew from bonnie Scotland says:

    While I understand what is being said here I think on a pastoral level it needs to be said in a different way. If I was a parent in hospital anxious about my child who has cancer I’m not sure that being told that my anxiety was “sinful” or “foolish and pointless” would be all that helpful.

  6. Chris Schrader says:

    From someone who has spent numerous hours counseling brothers and sisters with anxiety issues/problems, I wonder how saying it is “pointless and foolish” or telling them it is “sinful” (as one comment states), will aid them in transformation. Both may be true, but is it the best way to deal with the issue when someone already feels like a failure? Would it not be more beneficial to focus on the glorious provision of God in the title…as Scripture does throughout the passages you have posted? The title, and some comments, will not necessarily have the intended effect of helping our brothers and sisters who ‘do believe’ but need help with their unbelief.

  7. Bruce Russell says:

    Christians need to remember that God often appoints years and decades of languishing before the days of flourishing. Study Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David.

  8. drwayman says:

    I think of anxiety (worrying) as being the same mental activity as prayer. Worry is focusing thoughts on self. Prayer is focusing thoughts on God. If you can worry, you can pray. That’s my $0.02

  9. jimmy says:

    You might want to reference this. Isn’t this from Piper, the otline of Matt 6 that is?

  10. James Swift says:

    While some of the points in this post are helpful, I find a wholesale rejection of anxiety and worry as “pointless and foolish” to be highly simplistic, unfaithful to Scripture, and dismissive of the complexity of emotions.

    After all, Jesus experienced an extreme form of anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46). If one is to reject anxiety as “pointless and foolish,” then Jesus’ experience was “pointless and foolish.” Trusting in God and experiencing anxiety are not diametrically opposed in Scripture. If the verses quoted in this post imply that the one who completely trusts in God will never experience anxiety, then the Bible is commanding us to be more spiritual than Jesus.

    1. Gerald Peterman says:

      Amen, preach it James!

    2. Melody says:

      Jesus experienced anxiety because He KNEW the physical pain He was going to suffer and how bad it was going to be. He also submitted it to the Father. If you experience anxiety then give it over and move on. We use it as an excuse for not stepping out in faith. You cannot say that Jesus did that.

      Jesus also knew His entire life that it was going to end that way and yet we did not see the anxiety until the night before. And He submitted the control to the Father. We just go on that silly merry-go-round over and over and just end up in the same place with no where near the kind of faith of Jesus.

      1. Jono says:

        Melody, im sorry, in loving correction, Jesus did not experience anxiety because he was anxious about his physical death approaching and the pain of it, for throughout Jesus ministry and the Gospel accounts up until the Garden Jesus had been fearless and unshakable in concerns to physical suffering and pain, he boldly strides toward the city where he will be killed knowing full well of his physical suffering and pain and horrible death, rather, the anxiety that Jesus experiences in the Garden is as a result of something far worse and scarier, his utter anguish in the Garden is a result of looking into and realizing He must drink the cup of Gods wrath, and that the Father and His relationship would be torn, it is such a beautiful scene where we see our Savior’s willingness and what it cost him to bear our sin and drink the cup of Gods rightous anger and wrath against our sin that we deserved to drink. C.J Mahaney has an amazing sermon on it, titled ‘the cup’. God bless :)

  11. Gerald Peterman says:

    Is all anxiety sin? What would you call it when Jesus experiences this:

    And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:37-39).

    And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. (Mark 14:33-35)

    And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luk 22:41-44 ESV)

    You might call it fear, but anxiety is just a variety of fear. Is all fear sin?

    1. Bruce Russell says:

      Gerald:

      Since it is God’s pattern to grant his people incredible promises and then put them in jeopardy, I’d say that “anxiety” is mainly what overcoming is all about. It’s a process that takes decades, not minutes.

      Bruce

  12. MichaelS says:

    Thank you so much for this as I have been struggling with worry and anxiety for the last two weeks. I am going to print this out for future reference.

    Regarding Jesus and the Garden. While God will never abandon me, Christ was faced with the fact that the Father was going to abandon Him on the cross the next day. So while the anxiety for me is foolish (because it can never happen), it was quite real for our Lord.

  13. Pam says:

    “The worst someone can do to me is to kill me and take things from me!” Hmmm, really? There are things worse than death. (Of course nothing can separate us from the love of God, but I’m just disagreeing with #5.)

    love reading your blog, btw. Thanks for all the excellent work you have done =)

  14. Ron says:

    I think “worry” would have been a better choice of words than “anxiety”. There are medical conditions that have anxiety as a symptom. There are all types of anxiety disorders.

  15. Rhett Smith says:

    Justin,

    Hey, I appreciate your blog. You won’t remember me, but I was one of the co-authors of the Crossway book, The New Media Frontier (just a reference point to say I’ve been reading your stuff for a long time).

    I think anxiety is a very human emotion that we all experience. The Bible is full of characters who have experienced anxiety. I think as Christians we throw out the verse in Phil. 4:6 a lot to people, expecting that verse to cure all their anxiety…and it may. It is truth. But, I think what we often miss as Christians is that by just referencing verses I think we tend to paint a picture for people that if they just read the verse and believe..somehow all their sufferings, worries and anxiety will disappear.

    Paul is able to say “do not be anxious” because he is someone who has faced his anxiety head on. He has been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked…met the risen Christ on the Damascus road. His anxiety was not pointless or foolish, but something that propelled him closer and closer to the Christ he loved and gave his life for. But he is someone who went through that journey…

    I think in our Christian communities we just want to give someone a verse, hoping it will cure all. But what does it really look like for us to enter into that anxious space with other people and come alongside of them through all the anxieties?

    I just finished an entire book on this topic: The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? http://www.amazon.com/Anxious-Christian-Your-Anxiety-Good/dp/0802404448

    The response I have been getting from people has been amazing. The most common theme is that they thought that something was wrong with them because they were anxious. That they were a bad Christian, or a not good enough Christian. If people believe that because they are anxious that is a real shame, because shame drives us into hiding and away from God. Rather, I believe anxiety to be a tool that God uses in our lives to help us grow. It ‘s a catalyst for growth when we have the courage to face it. A lot of people and a lot of Christian don’t have the courage to face their anxiety so they bury it under the surface — and unfortunately that is not a good thing. It only comes back tenfold in some really negative coping behaviors (depression, pornography, anxiety disorders, disconnection, fractured families and relationships, etc.).

    I believe that God wants to transform our anxiety and reimagine it in an amazing way. Anxiety as an issue that moves us closer to God has a rich tradition in the Christian church, beginning with Kierkegaard and following him through the last few decades.

    I think that these verses can be very helpful for people suffering through anxiety…but I believe that they have to be coupled with and reality that anxiety is real…that it doesn’t make us a bad Christian. And that God is right there beside us saying, “I will journey with you through this anxious time in your life.”

    I have spent the last 20 years as a pastor and the last 5-6 as a licensed marriage and family therapist. All my experience as a theologian, pastor, therapist points me to the reality that we all suffer with anxiety at various points in our life. But those who have the courage to enter into that space and lean into it…will truly move closer to God on their journey through life.

    A helpful metaphor that I use with my clients and in my pastoral care is that of a dash light in a car. The light goes off to tell us that something is up. We need to pay attention to the light, otherwise we risk ending up stranded or in an accident…broken down.

    Anxiety is like that dashboard light in our live that says “hey, pay attention to me! something is stirring under the surface and it needs to be faced.” So rather than dismiss anxiety as pointless, I think that it’s point is exactly to face our fears in live and in the process move us into a more intimate relationship with Christ.

    If you are interested, I would love to send you a book to look at and review…or just dialogue with.

    I appreciate your blog…I read it quite a bit and I’m thankful for our ministry.

    Sincerely,

    Rhett Smith

    1. Rhett Smith says:

      sorry for the typos in my post….

    2. Anne Jackson says:

      Well said, Rhett. Thank you.

    3. Justin Taylor says:

      Great comment, Rhett. Thank you!

      1. Rhett Smith says:

        Justin,

        Thanks.

        Definitely a big issue that’s worth all of us talking through….as we all handle it differently and our ministered to differently in the midst of it.

        Rhett

    4. Jason says:

      Rhett,
      Like others have said, thanks for your comments. Having looked at the comments section, I think a number of people are pointing out the deficiencies in the way Justin’s post was written. I’m not wanting to sound too harsh, but Justin’s post was very simplistic and had no empathic pastoral edge to it. I think your reply filled in some of those gaps.

      A friend FB’d the link. And we had some great discussion come out of reactions to it.

      I think a far more pastorally productive line would be to have anxious people evaluate against the Scriptures the kinds of beliefs/thoughts about God, themselves, and the world, and the kinds of activities (sinful or not sinful, but unwise) that are triggering the anxiety. But also it’s useful to have an awareness that some medications, and things like caffeine have side effects of anxiety and to talk to a Doctor about those.

      The last thing an anxious person needs to be told is that their anxiety is foolish and pointless. 99% of the time, they know and feel how intensely foolish and pointless it is, and they beat themselves up about it – about their lack of trust in God, about failing God yet again.

      1. Rhett Smith says:

        Jason,

        I appreciate your comments here. I was thinking a lot today about this issue. I agree on the “pastoral.” As someone who has lost lots of loved ones to cancer I’m constantly aware of the tension between the Truth in/of God’s word, but how that is relayed, displayed, and lived out in the context of hurt, suffering, anxiety, depression, etc.

        Rhett

    5. Well put, Rhett.

      Let me add a little to one thing you said:

      “I think that these verses can be very helpful for people suffering through anxiety…”

      This is true because these verses give us confidence in God when we face anxiety so that we don’t fall into despair. I think that’s the distinction between sinful anxiety and sanctifying anxiety. Sinful anxiety is when we don’t trust God in the midst of it. Sanctifying anxiety is when we trust God even though the world seems to be crumbling around us. In this case, we can use the anxiety to clear away any dependence on what will fail us.

      This is what it looks like:

      Bible: “Do not be anxious…”

      Me: “Well, I’m already anxious. But how can I stop? Why does the Bible say not to be anxious?”

      Bible: “…because God cares for you and is faithful to fulfill what He has begun in you.” [summarized teaching]

      Me: “Lord, you are worthy of praise! Thank you for being with me through this struggle. Help me to trust only in you. Forgive me when my anxiety doesn’t honor you. Help me find practical ways to deal with the situation that is causing this anxiety and alleviate the anxiety itself.”

  16. thesispieces says:

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been having to constantly remind myself of these things lately.

  17. Jason Estopinal says:

    i knew of a missionary couple who died in china for lack of support, god was indeed NEAR them, but what good does that nearness do if it cant even keep them alive? And how is God CAREing for them when they starved to death and watched one another die? God KNEW their need for food, yet he didnt SUPPLY it,if he VALUED them in the context that he would supply for them like the birds, but it didnt happen, then this isnt a promise, but a mere general statement about how God rolls sometimes, yet, they died and went to heaven… How are we to take these realities?

  18. Pete Thompson says:

    Tough issues here. I think the meta-question is, ‘when does “pastoral sensitivity” cloud the call to repentance?’ You could frame it the other way too.

    I also think it’s worth noting that Justin’s title is “Eight reasons why MY anxiety is pointless and foolish” (my emphasis). Maybe Justin was being more DEscriptive than PREscriptive?

  19. Chris Penner says:

    Those verses are powerful truths, but they must be coupled with pastoral concern, and thoughtful suggestions regarding application.

    For someone who wakes up and has anxiety wrap barbed tentacles around their mind before they can even get a foot out of bed the task of applying these verses can be overwhelming. Some people can be truly worn out and be in need Christian community. I think it was Bob Kelleman who said one time, “helping someone with anxiety is a discipleship process not an exortation event.”

  20. RONALD SSENDIKADDIWA says:

    My ignorance of this biblical truth has on many occasions plunged into anxiety but now i have learned it, no more of it,i will always trust YOU MY GOD IN EVERYTHING! and I pray for many still in the prison of anxiety that God will free you.

  21. Regina says:

    Everything Jesus took for us, He did it so we could have freedom from it. Remember the crown of thorns, the anxiety in the garden? His head suffered long before the rest of His physical body did – for our healing and our salvation.

    He died so that we would live – we live when we focus on Jesus and all He’s done for us.

    “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face – and the things of Earth WILL grow strangely dim, in the light of His Glory and Grace.”

    Keep your eyes on Jesus and the fear and anxiety disappears – over time. It really does. But we have to be willing to learn how to let it go – by holding on to the Word and verses that talk about fear. There is a learning curve, but I’m a living testimony to peace and joy because of what I’m learning and what is coming out of my mouth – I meditate on His Word day and night. He is a good God and He loves us so much! We have no human capability to understand what God does for us when we allow Him to – and we need to stay out of His way! :) Peace, shalom! Be Blessed!

  22. Neil says:

    This is exactly why reformed pastors sometimes make the worst counsellors. (And I am a “reformed” pastor.) There is an arrogance in this title that will turn away those who need to read it most. Those who suffer with anxiety and depression already tell themselves they suck. Now let’s have the pastor point out how the Bible proves it. My bride has suffered from anxiety and depression all her life, much of it due to the patterns set by her family and her childhood. Her grandfather suffered from it, her father has it, she has it, and now I see it in our young son.

    [BTW, #5 seems to indicate that the author has not spent much time in this particular trench. Perhaps that is the author’s fear, but it is not universal for those suffering with clinical anxiety. It’s far deeper and more paralyzing than the fear of death or theft.]

    To simply slap the “pointless and foolish” label on it and then say “You silly sinner, read your Bible more and you’ll get better” is such a gross misunderstanding of the trap they are in. In fact it’s legalistic and anti-grace. It has been so hard for my wife to find solid Biblical counseling in this area, as most of our contacts are in the reformed tradition and don’t know how to deal with clinical anxiety and panic attacks without condemning her. There seems to be no understanding of the process that has to happen as the truths and promises of Scripture become more real over time. She knows these Scriptures by heart. She has meditated on them. Yet the goodness and Fatherhood of God are so difficult to trust when the barb-wire is wrapped so tight around her heart, when trusting an earthly father has been an exercise in frustration and fear.

    Liberal Christian traditions understand this, but then water down the truth. There has to be a way for reformed pastors to get a grip on where their hurting church members are. Calling them foolish from afar and telling them to “repeat after me” only drives them deeper in the hole and away from the One who could save them.

    I pray that we as pastors of Christ’s Church will step out from behind the pulpit and the library and spend time with the hurting where they are, so that we might communicate these truths in a way that encourages, not condemns; that tries to understand those that want to understand but can’t; that reaches into death and pulls out life.

  23. Neil, you make some great points here. I especially like your characterization, “Those who suffer with anxiety and depression already tell themselves they suck.” That is the precise word that comes to my mind when I start on that downward spiral: “I suck.” When I hear that in my mind, I start the mental gymnastics I’ve learned that are necessary to stave off a depressive episode because it only gets worse from that point.

    I wouldn’t, however, characterize the title as arrogant. Some people may be arrogant thinking themselves spiritually superior. I don’t think Justin is like that, though. I can appreciate the desire to be helpful by using the scriptures that is evident in the sentiment represented by this title. But not everyone is equally gifted in mercy.

    “Liberal Christian traditions understand this, but then water down the truth. There has to be a way for reformed pastors to get a grip on where their hurting church members are.”

    I think you are onto something here. It’s somewhat helpful for people to simply be nice to depressed people so they get the idea that they are worth something. But it’s not deeply helpful because it doesn’t address the issue with truth. The fact is that Christians undergoing sanctification live in a tension between being so worthless we need Christ and being worth the blood of Christ. It’s like being a family of perpetual teenagers.

    Depression among Christians feeds off of external and internal tracks of this pattern. Externally, the observation is that imperfect people strut around like they are perfect while internally, one may be burdened with excessive morbidity recognizing that it’s dishonest to pretend otherwise. The morbidity is exacerbated by the isolation of realizing (whether true, false or exaggerated) that others don’t understand this.

    What is needed is a realistic understanding of our need for God, but also that God has called us to His service and will provide for that service with the gifts, abilities and opportunities that He has given us, including complimentary gifts that He has given others. If we are indeed inadequate, then it is realistic to recognize this. But it is also realistic to understand where God has gifted us whether He has provided immediately for the use of those gifts or not. One of the most therapeutic things to do is to get busy trying to plug those gifts in somewhere. At some point, one reaches a balance between being active in the Kingdom and having the time for necessary spiritual reflection through the scriptures without getting excessively morbid regarding one’s worthlessness.

    1. Neil says:

      Thanks, Jim. Well said.

      I must also apologize for the tone I started off with in my post. I was indeed arrogant. I’m sorry Justin.

      I do feel the reformed tradition recognizes and has the truth necessary to help those suffering from anxiety. I just don’t think we communicate it well (and I include myself in that statement). I know that the title itself would have driven many who suffer from depression and anxiety away from the truth expressed in the text of the blog. I overreacted in my tone, and I’m sorry for that.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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