We all have had a time in our lives when we have experienced anxiety, stress or fear, but the three experiences have differences. Let’s look at the definition of each to discover their similarities and differences. Then we will look more closely at what the Bible itself says about anxiety, stress, and fear.
Anxiety – a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
Fear is a synonym of anxiety.
Fear – an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.
a mixed feeling of dread and reverence.
Example: “The love and fear of God”
Stress – a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
Example: “he’s obviously under a lot of stress”
I would venture to guess that we’ve all experienced one or all three of those things. Obviously at times both fear and anxiety are helpful to us, keeping us from making poor decisions or protecting us from harm.
As the great Billy Graham says – “Historians will probably call our era “the age of anxiety.” Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.”
The funny thing is Billy Graham wrote those words in 1965, but they are still true for us today, maybe even more so true today.
Something to consider about all three of these things is how they affect our relationship with God. I have found this to be true in my life, so I am sharing this from experience.
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As the Bible states in Phil. 4:6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
He even instructs us and tells us exactly what to focus on instead in the next couple of verses, Phil 4:8-9
“8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
We aren’t the first people to deal with anxiety, fear, and stress. The Bible mentions all of these things in different forms.
You might remember the story of Esther. In Esther 4 the Jewish people were anxious because of a royal decree that had been set that said they were going to be killed. However, Esther was working to save them. She too was anxious as she was risking her life on behalf of her people. Fear of death and the unknown is a key element of anxiety.
This is why not all anxiety is sinful, but we do know that God tells us in Matthew 6 to not worry about the necessities of life. This is probably the verses that stick out in our minds when we think about what the Bible says about anxiety or worry.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Another example from God’s word that I am reminded of often when I think of fear and anxiety is the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat during a storm. The disciples easily became distressed because of the storm, but Jesus remained calm. He even rebuked them for their lack of faith, but he also rebuked the wind and the waves. One thing that we must always remember is that as long as Jesus is there, there is nothing to fear.