Is Worrying a Sin?
Christians are fond of reminding each other that God is in control and that He has a plan for each of us; so if we believe that, is worrying a sin?
I’m a worrier. I’m not as bad as I used to be, but there are things I still worry about.
I come by that “talent” honestly, however. Both my parents are worriers, and my mother’s mother was the family’s grand champion of worrying. She worried about things enough for her family and you as well. Seriously, when it came to worrying, she was a pro.
On top of that, I used to have issues with panic attacks and anxiety; over time, I learned how to detect when a panic attack was coming on and how to stop them in their tracks, but when I was in the grip of one, worrying wasn’t something I could easily turn off. And since they would, most of the time, hit without warning, it wasn’t like I had the choice not to experience the anxiety that comes with their sudden onset.
It’s probably common sense that worrying isn’t an ideal way to live your life. But from a Biblical perspective, is worrying a sin?
The Bible has plenty to say about worrying. One of the most-often quoted verses on the subject of worry is Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Another favorite is Isaiah 41:10:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
The Rev. Billy Graham put it best, I think, in response to a reader question: “Graham responded that while it’s “not necessarily wrong” to have concerns about the future, excessive worrying is unhealthy both spiritually and physically.”
He said that while he wouldn’t call worrying a sin, it’s not the ideal way God expects us to live, either.
Graham went on to quote another verse, Matthew 6:27:
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
The problem is, in today’s society, where we feel more and more driven to do more with less and then be concerned about how much more we’ll be asked to do next (and whether we’ll be replaced by someone who’ll do it better), it is practically impossible not to have some degree of worry in our lives. Would that it wasn’t so.
But from Christ’s own words to His disciples in Matthew, it doesn’t appear that even He was calling worrying a sin so much as suggesting that it was a waste of time.
Can worrying be productive?
Given there are times when I know worrying is going to be an automatic, even when I set out to mitigate it as quickly as I can, I try to at least make the most out of the annoying practice.
I’m the type of guy who always likes to have a “Plan B.” The advantage I’ve found in worrying, then, is in helping me imagine alternate scenarios and how I might respond to them. Maybe turning the disadvantage of worry into an advantage of better strategic planning might be a gift from God. It feels that way at times, at least.
There have been times that I’ve been able to use those pesky “what ifs” to help dodge potholes that I might not otherwise have anticipated.
If you’re the type of person who’s going to worry at least a little, it seems to me that it’s better to turn it into an advantage rather than a disadvantage. And maybe, when those feelings of worry come about, you could offer up a prayer for guidance or wisdom to turn that worry into a better plan.
There’s one other interesting piece of advice I happened across on Facebook recently, and I’m sorry to tell you I don’t recall who first said it. But the quote was essentially this: Don’t spend any more time worrying about something than you do praying about it.
If you’re the type to worry about things that you can’t control, it sounds like a plan worth considering.