Why “Don’t Worry” Doesn’t Work For the Anxious Heart

Most of us have seen them. They’re ubiquitous on Pinterest, Facebook, and elsewhere on the internet. If you claim to be spiritual, they’re aimed at you: those “encouraging” mantras like “Give it to God and Go to Sleep!” and “Let Go and Let God!” Some people take it a step further and assert that worrying is a form of arrogance, since it seems to assume that we know better than God how to run our lives.
The real question is, do these kinds of comments help? How many of us who struggle with anxiety and depression have felt uplifted after reading such soundbites? If I can use myself as a gauge, I can say with certainty: not many. In fact, they usually cause the opposite result, making me more anxious than ever before. Now I’m worried about how much I’m worrying! I’m not a good Christian, obviously, and I am offending God every time I stress out about anything.
The fact is, the worrier is not doing anything wrong in worrying. The depressive is not doing anything wrong in being depressed. Rather, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain is almost always to blame. Implying that they are committing a sin every time they feel anxious of depressed or worried is useless at best and downright cruel at worst.
Instead of pointing fingers and exhorting those who are struggling to simply cease and desist, how about we come alongside to comfort and console? How about we offer to pray with them when they are at a loss for words? How about we ask “What can I do to help?” instead of browbeating them for not being a strong spiritual example?
Next time you feel tempted to post an “encouraging” exhortation to the anxious/depressed community, ask yourself “Is this truly beneficial?” and if in doubt, don’t. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and remember that there is no magical “switch” that people can flip to change their brain chemistry. If you are lucky enough to never struggle with anxiety or depression, don’t preach. Say no to platitudes. Rather, be proactive and reach out with real concern. Your struggling friend(s) will thank you.

1 Comment

  1. I read this out loud to my daughter. Just yesterday she asked me about worrying being a sin! (I didn’t say it was). But coming from you, who struggles with it, spoke to her. Thank you.

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