Is Anxiety a Sin Problem or Medical Condition?

“Anxiety is a sin problem caused by a lack of faith.” To some Christians, this sounds perfectly biblical. To others in Christ, it brings confusion and shame. In reality, the word “anxiety” is a loaded term carrying two very different meanings.

The fact of the matter is that Scripture does teach that anxious thoughts – or worries – are caused by a lack of faith. This however does not seem to be the same “anxiety” doctors diagnose clinically. Most people wrestle with some level of anxiety – worry about uncontrollable future events- and can repent of that sin and trust God’s future sovereignty. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 6 when He said to not worry about your life.

However, clinical anxiety is different. It’s important to differentiate these two types of “anxiety” to bring peace and freedom to Christians who rightly desire to repent of sin but could benefit from medicine to treat their mental health.

Let me be clear. Medication can not cure unbelief or worry. Only faith can do that. Medication simply lessens the severity of uncontrollable physiological symptoms – such as unexplained panic, fear, racing thoughts, elevated heart rate, interrupted sleep, shortness of breath, etc.*

Many women experience some of these symptoms during times of hormonal fluctuation such as PMS, postpartum recovery, and menopause. Something many people don’t realize is that even poor gut health can cause clinical anxiety. It is a real medical condition that the common grace of medication can aid.

As my friend who has struggled with this for most of her life put it,

“I think many people think of anxiety as just a general feeling of anxiousness over things they can’t control, like being nervous for a test. Not that I’m not guilty of worrying about things in the future. I pray about those things and those worries generally melt away, but clinical anxiety is much different. It’s like a disconnection in your brain that brings a constant feeling of uneasiness even in the most mundane of circumstances…”

I can personally attest to this. When I was battling clinical anxiety before medication, I experienced fear and panic at all hours for no apparent reason. Like a child, I found myself profoundly afraid of the dark as a grown married woman in my own home. I would wake up in the night to use the restroom and get into such a state I couldn’t fall back to sleep.

This is not normal behavior and was not caused by any lack of faith. I can honestly say I was growing tremendously in my faith during this season. Every believer needs to seek to honor God in their theology about mental health, submitting to the authority of Scripture, and acting in faith.

Though clinical anxiety is one area of concern, it would be remiss to not also elaborate on the remedy for sinful anxiety. We know we are to combat anxiety with more faith, but how? An excerpt from Beautiful Eulogy’s “Devotion,” answers that:

“Is your faith weak? It is owing to the fact that you don’t know the object of your faith well enough. But when Jesus Christ becomes progressively bigger, or better yet, your understanding of who he is progressively conforms to reality, your faith will become increasingly stronger.”

“Is your faith weak? It is owing to the fact that you don’t know the object of your faith well enough. But when Jesus Christ becomes progressively bigger, or better yet, your understanding of who he is progressively conforms to reality, your faith will become increasingly stronger.”

To have more faith, we must continually pour the truth of who God is into our hearts. Below I’ve listed some passages of Scripture and helpful resources that guide the way.

*I am not a health expert, so you should consult your doctor regarding any medical questions and decisions.

Writer’s Note: I recognize my inability to do justice to this topic. There is much more to be said and far more seasoned saints who I’m sure could have said it better. I do have one additional post on this topic you can read here. My aim is to shed light on the dual nature of the word “anxiety” to bring clarity to this topic for the edification of the Church and the glory of God. If you have questions or concerns regarding the content of this blog post, I invite you to leave a comment below or email me at taylornbwalding@gmail.com. If you made it this far, thank you for reading.

Scripture Passages to Meditate on:

  • “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV
  • “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 ESV
  • “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV
  • “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV
  • “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34 ESV (for full context and deeper study, read verses 25-34)
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
  • “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25 ESV
  • “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
  • “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

Other Helpful Resources:

  • “Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace (31-Day Devotionals for Life)” – Paul Tautges
  • “Anger, Anxiety and Fear: A Biblical Perspective” – Stuart Scott
  • “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament” – Mark Vroegop

Jesus, Anxiety, and the Common Grace of Medication

Until recently, I believed that although anxiety can have physical symptoms, it is an entirely spiritual problem with entirely spiritual solutions. I believe now that anxiety is both a spiritual and physical problem that often requires holistic care.

We are commanded in Scripture by Jesus (Matthew 6:25-34) and the Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:6-7) to not be anxious. Instead, we’re to trust God’s perfect sovereignty. When we trust Him fully, casting our cares on Him, we find peace that surpasses all understanding.

This is true. Christians can root out anxiety by having more faith. It is also true that real, biological imbalances can wreak havoc on a person’s brain regardless of their faith in Christ. In more severe cases, medicine is sometimes needed to clear away the mental fog and allow these truths to seep in.

I had to come face to face with this reality in my own life very recently. A hormonal imbalance, pregnancy, and personal tragedy collided bringing debilitating anxiety and depression. I was experiencing an extreme range of symptoms, but I would not have labeled it that on my own. I simply knew I was having a hard time.

Several people close to me expressed their concern for my health and the health of my baby. My husband asked me to talk to my doctor about it at my next prenatal visit. For six weeks after my doctor gave a diagnosis, I tried to solve my troubles without the medication prescribed. I desired to treat it spiritually, clinging to Christ amid the storm.

I attended church every time the doors were open, read my Bible daily, listened to worship music, and learned to truly pray without ceasing. I saw a biblical counselor weekly. Under her guidance, I began a devotional on anxiety and read a book on the grace of biblical lament. They were phenomenally helpful resources.

All of it was good. However, I found that no matter how much truth I poured into my brain, how much I trusted that God would work it all together for His glory, the burden was too great and my symptoms too severe.

I felt on the verge of drowning every day. Even though I was desperately clinging to Christ as my anchor through the storm and growing steadily in my faith, the water kept lapping up at my face threatening to take me under.

My reluctance to be treated per my doctor’s orders was deeply rooted in the belief that anxiety is a purely spiritual matter with entirely spiritual solutions. My incomplete theology led me to one of the darkest places I’ve ever been. There, I found the gospel sweeter and promises of peace more real, but I also realized medication is a common grace and when taken in faith, can be a very helpful aid.

I needed medicine in the same way that a woman with a broken leg finds comfort in Christ but needs crutches to get back on her feet. Whether medicated or not, my hope is in Christ– the sure and steady anchor.

Evangelist Todd White Repents of Not Preaching Full Gospel

Lately, my husband and I have been trying our hands at gardening. In addition to our vegetable garden, we have two beautiful hanging petunia baskets that have been a joy to look after. Despite frequent drooping petals and dead blooms, our persistent pruning never fails to revive them, bringing even more vibrant life than was there before. We pull away the dead and make way for new growth. Earlier this summer, I was standing on the porch pruning, and pondering all that God has taught me about true, Holy Spirit revival this past year.

Not “revival meetings” where people come together for extended church services, but spontaneous, spectacular outpourings of the mercy of God to transform churches and communities by reviving saints and saving sinners. A few characteristic traits of every historical revival that brought true and lasting fruit are prayer, repentance, and confession of sin. Sadly, these things seem lacking in the church today. Prayer meetings are rare, and attendance is slim. Repentance isn’t preached and so there is little to no corporate confession of sin. As a result, the churches in America are increasing in cold indifference to the things of God.

So as I meticulously pruned my petunia, taking away more dead pieces than I thought a living plant could bear, it occurred to me that revival won’t come without pruning. After all, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2 ESV).”

To see revival, the church must repent of her sins. In doing so, pastors must preach the holiness of God, the seriousness of sin, the reality of judgment, and true repentance. Now imagine my joy when a prominent evangelist confessed his sin of not preaching the full gospel. Todd White, who is well-known and loved among charismatic Christians, shared that over the past six months, God has been painfully pruning him like never before.

“I am not perfect, but I am strongly convicted,” White said in his Sunday sermon on July 26, 2020. “This has been the hardest season of my life. I’m like, ‘Lord! What are you doing!?’ He said, ‘I’m pruning every branch that you have.’”

After explaining the seriousness of sin using the law and Ray Comfort’s parachute analogy, he says, “It’s hard for me because I feel like I haven’t preached the whole gospel! And I repent. I repent! You have no idea! I will not be responsible! I believe that when I preach that the blood of people is on my hands.”

His presentation was filled with emotional expressions of his conviction of sin and admittance that this full gospel message is very different from the half-true ones his congregation is used to hearing. He said though it’s taken him 16 years, he now understands that he must bring the reality of the law into his preaching to show a person their need for grace.

“If we don’t see that we’ve sinned against a Holy God, there really can’t be repentance,” White said. He has a longing for true revival but recognizes up to this point his message has been incomplete. He expressed confidence that his church will see an intense revival in the coming days, then caveated that the true gospel must be preached.

“But we have to get it completely right and our foundation has to be completely solid,” he said. “There can’t be any holes. This is the gospel.”

Discerning Christians rejoice over his professed repentance, but as with any profession of faith, they know that only time and testing will tell if this repentance is the real deal, bearing lasting fruit. White will have much to retract and reconcile if he continues on this path. Just two months ago, he rejected the loving rebuke of a Christian who called him to repentance and shared the biblically-sound American Gospel film with him, with White later calling it “demonically inspired.” This was discouraging, to say the least, but since then Christians have been united in prayer for him and we hope this proves a true turnaround for his life and ministry.

*Though a clip of Todd White rejecting loving rebuke earlier this year is still available on YouTube, the original full sermon has been removed from his YouTube account, “Todd White – Lifestyle Christianity.” Let’s pray this is evidence of a changed heart – I hope he clarifies why the full message went missing.

Ordinary Preaching of an Extraordinary Gospel

After a frustrating Wednesday evening of unmet expectations and harsh words, we didn’t feel like going to church. But we went because we knew it was the right thing to do. We showed up a few minutes late and the service had already begun. Ours is a small congregation, with less than 50 people in attendance this particular evening. We now meet in the gym, to spread out appropriately and keep our 6 feet distance. Our music leader wasn’t there, so we sang acapella. We awkwardly croaked the words of a hymn we thought we knew to an unfamiliar tune. I breathed a sigh of relief as the next selection was more familiar: “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” All this to say, it was an ordinary service on an ordinary evening with ordinary preaching of one simple message: the gospel.

We turned in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15 and read the first 5 verses. In verses 3-5, we found the essential gospel, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Our pastor preached the gospel, thoroughly proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Throughout the entirety of this brief service, I wept and wept. Though there were no attempts at emotional manipulation through dim lighting or smoke machines or rousing music, I simply could not contain my tears.

I have attended this same ordinary church since before I could read. I have heard this same extraordinary message more times than I can count. At one time, I was cold and indifferent to these claims, on occasion antagonistic. But the LORD removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). He gave me a new spirit, with a new set of desires. Through the years, I have grown to cherish the wonder of an ordinary church faithfully preaching God’s Word. It’s a gift I don’t take lightly.

Before the service I watched a 10-minute video where a Facebook friend talked about the doctrine of justification. She emphasized the sad reality that most professing Christians have no idea what Paul meant in Romans 3:21-31 about justification by faith alone. I knew the principles as she explained them, but one part was new to me. The word “justify,” in its Greek form, is a legal term meaning in Christ we have a new verdict before a just judge. Legally, this standing can’t change. It’s final, secure, and independent from our actions following the verdict. It means we can’t lose our salvation. We can’t earn our salvation. We are justified by faith in Jesus, not the works of the law. This justification doesn’t give us a license to sin but frees us up to be servants of righteousness (Romans 6).

The thing is, lately I have neglected my walk with God. I have been apathetic toward His Word. I have slacked in the spiritual discipline of prayer. I have not acted as a servant to righteousness, but a slave to sin. I have allowed my eyes and ears to linger too long on entertainment I know would displease Him. I have been anything but a good Christian lately. If I could lose my salvation, I certainly would. But where sin abounds, grace abounds much more (Romans 5:20). That grace, so tangible and sweet, overwhelmed me that night. I praise God for the ordinary preaching of this extraordinary gospel. I pray you too will understand how beautiful the gospel of Jesus Christ truly is, that Christ suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

I can sing with confidence, “My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul (It Is Well with My Soul).”

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone bring up the financial situation of a young couple seeking to marry, I might actually have enough money to meet their standards. The lie that couples should be financially comfortable (with college degrees, a house, and retirement plans in place) before going to the altar has spread like wildfire throughout our culture. 

Well-meaning Christians misinterpret passages about a man being able to provide for his household, twisting it so that he should provide a standard of living far higher than what I believe God intended. If we held people everywhere to the same standard, the majority of the world’s population would suddenly become ineligible for marriage. 

For whatever reason, we have replaced “provision” with “riches” and acted as though being poor is one of the seven deadly sins. Spoiler alert: it’s not. So far as I can tell, if you have somewhere to live, food to eat, are able to make ends meet, and have the blessing of your parents, you aren’t sinning by getting married at a young age. By the way, “young” is a very subjective term. 

In Trey and I’s case, we married at 20 and 23, midway through my junior year of college and just after he graduated with his first bachelor’s degree and began his second.

I can’t fully express how richly the Lord has blessed and provided for us, meeting our every need since we married six months ago*. But alas, I will do my best.

God has provided for us in such a way that we have not yet paid a single bill of rent and as of May we no longer have to pay a utility bill. And no, it’s not because we’re bumming off of our parents. In the original situation, He gave us just enough scholarship to pay for our university-owned apartment and a campus meal plan to share. It was a 600 sq.ft, cinderblock-walled, humid, dark apartment with no dishwasher or laundry machines. Not to mention we could hear our neighbor’s conversations. Yikes. It was by no means luxurious, but it was ours to live in and we were exceedingly grateful for it.

Because it was paid for with scholarship money, we expected to live there until I graduate in May 2019, a total of 18 months. However, we were going to have to pay out of pocket for the summer months. This was causing some stress, as we did not have a steady cash income and were trying to calculate exactly how much we needed to spend on gas, groceries, etc. with no extra room to be especially generous, go on dates, or travel.

Money was going to be tight.  We canceled trips and were considering putting off summer school, but we were expectant that God would carry us through, as He had so faithfully done before. Around this time, my husband accepted a better job than his nearly minimum wage job and we were ecstatic! He loved the new office environment and felt nothing short of blessed to have that job.

Within a few weeks of working there and enjoying every minute, he received a phone call with an offer for the summer job of his dreams and we proceeded to literally jump for joy around the living room. At this point, our financial needs were met and we were simply praising God for the incredible opportunity He placed before us. But, the fatherly care became all the more apparent as the ensuing weeks unfolded.

To our shock and boundless joy, we were contacted at the end of April by an elderly couple through a mutual acquaintance with an offer to live in their country cottage in exchange for yard work. They had an extra house situated right next to their’s on their land, but wanted help maintaining the place. We gladly accepted and moved in a month later. It was just in time for us to miss the summer months’ rent for our apartment.** And, it’s beautifully situated in the country and has the coziest log cabin feel.

During the school semester, we shared a campus dining plan that supplied the majority of our food. Now at the cottage, our generous neighbors are constantly sharing every kind of fresh vegetable they can grow, including red potatoes, squash, peppers, tomatoes, etc. Some other dear friends of our’s gifted us the beef from their butchered cow, as they don’t have space for it in their freezer.

I can’t tell you how many meals we have enjoyed this summer that have been fully provided for us by God through various generous people. That’s an important point to note here. While we fully recognize God’s hand in our lives, we also praise Him for the kind-hearted people He placed along our path as vessels for His glory.

By this point it seems to have become a trend: our entire married life has been one long string of God providing for us so intimately, like a father caring for his children.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11 ESV)

Consider the Lord’s Prayer. Through it, Jesus teaches believers to petition God to provide their daily bread. Such vulnerability and reliance upon God is a rarity in our culture of plenty. 

It has been so humbling to acknowledge that God, our Creator, has been intimately involved in our care and well-being. We are truly dependent on Him for our livelihood, as He has orchestrated our jobs, home, and daily bread. 

If we had listened to the culture and waited for a 401k before getting married, we would have robbed ourselves of the deep-seeded joy we are experiencing now, knowing that our Heavenly Father is caring for the tiniest details of our lives. 

*This blog post was originally published on July 9, 2018 on my former blog. We have now been married just over two years. A few adjustments were made for clarity.

** Little did I know at the time I wrote this, when I returned to school in the Fall, my scholarship that had previously paid for our university apartment was unexpectedly cut by 60%. This was a shock to us, but not to God. Months before we knew our need, He had already taken care of things. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!