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Christian Counseling - Anxiety Producing Guilt

All of us experience anxiety (apprehensive mood brought on by perceived threats of impending danger or misfortune) as a temporary and manageable thought or feeling. Yet, for about 40 million Americans, it gets out of control and results in anxiety disorders, such as: generalized, obsessive-compulsive, separation, and social. Almost half of these people also experience depression and three times the incidence of cardiac disease.

Perhaps Christians experience less anxiety because of the loving and accepting relationship with God and because we know our blessed future. However, we are not exempt from anxiety, and many experience guilt from at least one belief that increases anxiety.

The belief is Christians should be anxiety-free. The phrase, "Be anxious for nothing" (Philippians 4:6), is often coupled with the idea that all anxiety must be avoided because it is a sin. Most Christians who feel anxious end up feeling guilty about it. That guilt serves to increase one's anxious feelings. It can be a savage cycle that gets out of control and leads to a disorder.

This is one of those situations where a Greek definition is indispensable. "Be anxious for nothing" is a command, but what is the proper understanding? It means we are not to be distracted by over thinking something. It is not about the feeling of anxiety, but about the way we permit ourselves to behave--to think or dwell on a thought or feeling. It is a care gone too far. A better interpretation might be,"Do not allow yourself to start over thinking or over caring about a potential problem situation." Instead, follow the next couple of verses in Philippians, which is also seen in the example of Jesus.

While Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His torture, humiliation and death, He experienced anxiety in the recognizable form of hematidrosis--bursting capillaries permitting blood to exit through pores. This stress response is due to a perceived life-threatening situation. Jesus followed Philippians 4:6,7 by turned from thinking about His cares to praying and asking God to help. I don't believe this solved all of Jesus' anxiety, nor will it ours. But at least we can develop competing thoughts and feelings to combat anxiety and not simply give in to it.

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