Paul commands the Philippian believers to “Be careful (anxious) for nothing (Phi 4:6).” Jesus taught, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on (Mat 6:25).” In both instances the word for careful/thought is merimnaō. Very simply it means one’s cares or worries. Biblically, anxiety is caring about something to the point of distraction. Anxiety and fear tend to go together. When you are anxious over something it can very easily lead to a whole host of largely irrational fears. When we begin to carry a worry to the point where it consumes almost our entire attention we have grown anxious.
Anxiety can cripple a person to the point of almost entire inaction. Fear can breed more fears, which breeds fear of fears. Anxiety can lead to severe health issues, and fear can lead to severe relational issues. The stress of anxiety can cause heart attacks, high blood pressure, whereas fear can result in being unable to function normally in our relationships. Headaches, sleeplessness, and difficulty concentrating on one’s responsibilities are often the result of merimnaō taking over someone’s life.
We all have responsibilities and “weights” to carry. Scripture doesn’t say that we have no concerns, but rather emphasizes that the things which we are to care for do not grow to dominate all our focus and energy to the neglect of all our other “cares.” The old adage carries a load of wisdom, if you count your cares they’re sure to grow. The Psalms show us that when our cares come to weigh us down, burdening us with their load, we ought to cast them upon God (Ps. 37:5).
When faced with the weight and paralysis which anxiety brings, you must first turn to the simple wisdom of Christ: worrying never made anybody taller (Mt. 6:27). Scripture admonishes us to set our mind on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2), which means that although we have responsibilities to take care of, our primary focus should not be our cares, but upon God. He tends to our needs by upholding us each and every day, and we should walk with a “care-free” disposition trusting him to supply all our needs. This doesn’t mean we do nothing, but rather that we actively work to do our duty, trusting God through it all to protect and provide for us.
A very simple strategy for beginning to deal with anxiety is simply to take a page and begin to list things for which to be grateful, followed by ways in which God has provided and protected in times past. The simple exercise of “looking back” at God’s prior faithfulness emboldens us to face todays trials and troubles. It is easier to number up your worries and think they are innumerable, because they multiply like vermin. But when you begin to look, really look, at tall of God’s kindness to you, your worries all begin to melt away like wax. Like the hymn says, “What have I to dread? What have I to fear? Leaning on the everlasting arms.”