Fear, Worry, and Anxiety

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Are you a ‘worrywart?” There are certain situations in which I find myself tempted to worry and fret. Many in our current economy are worried about political things, financial things, and have concerns for their safety. Our world is very conducive to worry!

Even before concerns of recession, global warming, and terrorism our Christian forefathers managed to worry! This is because anxiety, fear and worry are problems common to man.

Abraham (Gen. 12:13; 20:2) feared man more than God. His wife, Sarah (Gen. 16:1-15)

Sarah doubted God (root of fear is doubting God). Paul counseled the fearful young pastor Timothy. He was chiding Timothy when he used the word “timidity.” This word means denotes a cowardly, shameful fear caused by a weak, selfish character.

Personally, I think Tim had some great reasons to be afraid! He was living with the threat of Roman persecution under Nero (who was nuts) as he was ratcheting up executions and worse! He was dealing with hostility in the Ephesian church from those who resented Timothy’s leadership, and subjected to the accusations of false teacher. Do you think he was overwhelmed?

Paul reminds the young pastor that the fear does not come from God and that God has given him (us) every spiritual resource to overcome fear.

The problems of anxiety, fear and worry are common to man and a common component in many of our counseling cases.

The Bible has the solutions to these problems. (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pe. 1:3; Psa. 119:97-105)

A key passage to understanding and overcoming these common feelings is found in the teachings of Jesus in Matt. 6:19-34

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Matthew 6:25 (KJV)

The word “thought” in the KJV in the Greek is, merimnaoô (mer-im-nah'-o). From that we get the English “worry” or “anxious.”

The Greek word for fear is phobeoô ( fob-eh'-o). It’s where we get the English word phobia.

In English the terms fear, anxiety, panic, and worry are closely related and overlap each other.

Fear is one of the strongest emotions that God placed within man is fear. It is the quality that preserves us in a dangerous world. There are some very legitimate reasons for fear, such as a car heading straight for you in traffic, or the bite of a deadly snake or spider. In these cases fear is not always sinful for a rational fear preserves us from dangerous situations.

Worry is the fear that bad things will happen in the future.

Worry and anxiety are similar and related to the idea that something bad is going to happen. Worry is different than non-sinful concern in the sense that it dominates or controls a person. It’s a fine line between being concerned about the future and making wise plans and letting worry consume us.

Panic is fear that so dominates a person that he or she cannot control it or his reactions to it. Usually, irrational responses ensue. Panic stems from (and this is very important) the continual fearing of the feeling of fear itself.

Continuing to be fearful, being a “worrywart” or anxiousness often leads to panic attacks and irrational responses to life’s circumstances. I’ve seen people who struggled with anxiety threaten to quit their jobs even if they did not have another lined up. Others withdraw from life out of fear they will feel fearful at some point and those feelings are so uncomfortable for them that they avoid them by remaining in their home.

Panic attacks, irrational fears, chronic worrying are fears that are out of control and take over a person’s life.

More next time on this important issue!