Anxiety Is Not a Sin

Phil Christman

Read: Psalm 34

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (v. 4)

Growing up, when I read verses like Psalm 34:4, I took them to mean that negative emotions—fear, anxiety, depression—were a sign of insufficient faith. When I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety, I had to learn to understand such verses another way.

With clinical anxiety, your body produces a panicked feeling much like a cancer patient’s body produces unwanted cells: it’s out of your control. For example, I expect to enjoy today. I like writing these devotionals, and after I’m done with them, I will teach a roomful of bright and good-hearted students whom I adore. I will go to the gym. I will take my wife to the movies. And yet, all morning I have been short of breath, restless, and irritable. This is a very typical day for me.

Nowadays, when I read verses like Psalm 34:4, I take them not as statements about what our thoughts or emotions are doing, but about what our will is doing. Whether fearful or not, the psalmist seeks God. This is something you do, not a mere feeling. The change in feeling is secondary. You can make the decision to seek God even as fear gnaws at your heart.

Later, the psalm tells us, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (v. 19). We cannot smile them away. But we can say, with the psalmist, “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (v. 8). —Phil Christman

As you pray, confess your fears to God, and affirm God’s goodness and love.