Many times in my life, people have tried to comfort me with
1 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given you a spirit of fear.”
I hid this word in my heart and used it as a weapon against anxiety. However, that did not lead to any lasting comfort. It would stop the spiral, but it was never fully banished.
Instead, I felt like I was lacking faith when I would fall into an anxiety spiral. God did not give me a spirit of fear, and therefore, it should not be here.
Was I sinning? Was I faithless? Am I poor in spirit? And on and on, the layers of anxiety were piled high.
I have a very clear memory from preschool when I was 4-years-old. I remember being in a light blue room and the lights were off, but it was still really bright with afternoon sun. My preschool teacher was about to give each student a reward for being good that day.
As she started handing out deflated balloons, she said to the class, “now be careful putting these in your mouth; I don’t want anyone choking.”
And with that, my world froze like in an episode of That’s So Raven when she’s about to have a premonition.
“YOU MEAN I COULD DIE IF I PUT THAT BALLOON IN MY MOUTH?!?! I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!!”
I proceeded to have a major meltdown.
In second grade, I was sent to the school counselor several times a month because I thought chewing bubble gum was going to kill me or assumed metal scissors and crayons were potentially toxic.
The school counselor “evaluated” me and determined that my “fear” was due to a grandfather passing away when I was less than a year old.
Of course. That was definitely it.
Thirty-ish years later, we now have a better term for this: generalized anxiety disorder, not necessarily caused by anything and can be treated fairly easily through therapy or medications.
My parents and the school counselor did nothing wrong. That is not what this was about. They just did not know and thought I was a bit weird. I mean, I am, but that is not the point.
This week, I got up while it was still dark out. (Aiming for that Proverbs 31 woman, ya heard me?!) And although I was aiming to read up on love, I ended up at The Last Supper in the book of John.
Ok Lord, where you lead, I will follow. Jesus is about to announce to His disciples that Judas will betray him.
John 13:21, “When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit.”
Record. Scratch. Jesus (the Son of God, Redeemer, Savior, Messiah) was Troubled in Spirit.
Wait a second. That was the New King James Version. Let me check some other versions.
Was Jesus really troubled in spirit?
ESV: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit”
NLV: “When Jesus had said this, He was troubled in heart.”
NIV: “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit”
Living Bible: “Now Jesus was in great anguish of spirit” (different, but not really)
My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ was troubled in spirit. He was anxious about something. But wait, Jesus was sinless. That is why He was the perfect sacrifice. If Jesus was sinless and yet He still experienced anxiety… ANXIETY CANNOT BE A SIN.
As this revelation hit me, I was immediately taken to 1 Timothy 1:7 and suddenly it read differently.
“GOD has not given you a spirit of fear.”
It is not that the spirit of fear should not exist. The point is that it does not come from God. We are not sinners to experience anxiety no more than Jesus was a sinner to be tempted by Satan. Jesus was God, AND He was man! Anxiety is part of being human. It is a temptation that we should flee from, but having worries and anxieties is not a sin.
As with everything in life, we should constantly strive to be Christ-like. Thank you, Lord, for scripture because here in John, we are not only told that Jesus was anxious, we are shown what Jesus does immediately as he experiences this anxiety.
Step 1: He does not bear this burden alone, but instead he confesses to his community what is weighing on His heart. God built us for community so that we do not have to suffer alone.
Step 2: After sharing with His people, He went alone to meet with His Father.
Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Again, this is not saying that anxiety is a sin. It is instructing us not to hold onto it.
If you or someone you love deals with anxiety, whether it is constant or situational, know that it is not a sin. You are not a bad Christian for having anxiety. You are not faithless.