“ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.”
How do we know if our depression-anxiety is wrong: an evidence of a lack of faith or the result of valuing-trusting something more than God? There are many experiences of a depressive-anxious mood which are clearly not sinful.
- Suspense over a good book, movie, or close ball game.
- Crying with a friend who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
- Anticipating a significant event (e.g., the birth of child).
- The forethought of unpleasant circumstances that allows for wise planning.
- The drive of an athlete who channels the possibility of failure into practice.
What would you add to the list of experiences that belong to the depressive-anxious family which are not immoral?
Read Philippians 4:4 and Matthew 5:4. Based upon the non-contradictory nature of Scripture, we must remind ourselves that the command of Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” does not negate the decree of Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” God does not require that his children perpetually live at the positive end of the emotional spectrum. The command of Philippians 4:4 should be understood in two senses.
- A warning against allowing unpleasant experiences to rob our capacity for joy. When fear, despair, bitterness, or other unpleasant emotion removes our capacity for joy, we are in spiritual danger. God’s commands are an expression of his concern, not a theistic power trip. When we trust his purpose in giving a command, it gives us freedom from the fear of punishment and, thereby, allows us engage the process of change with an attitude of appreciation instead of compulsion.
- An expression of concern like that of a parent who says to their children in the imperative verb tense, “Drive safe.” This is technically a command, but primarily an expression of love. The parent is saying, “You are precious to me so please be safe.” Similarly, God is saying, “If you have lost the capacity for joy, then something is wrong which concerns me and I do not want you to ignore it by simply thinking the problem will fix itself eventually.”
Beyond saying not all anxiety-depression is sin, we can go so far as to say that some experiences of anxiety-depression are actually good. The capacity for a down mood and the ability to anticipate the future are not simply byproducts of the Fall. These emotions can warn of danger (good), motivate us to change (good), be used to consoled ourselves or others (good), or distract us from God (bad).
One way (but not the only way) to see where this line is crossed is to examine how anxiety affects our ability to be effective and productive. The correlation of our stress level and effectiveness follow a bell curve.
The prefix “eu” means “good or beneficial,” so eustress is that level of concern or pressure which enhances our senses and raises our level of performance. We usually use positively connotated words to describe these experiences: anticipation, eagerness, hopefulness, or a phrase like “I can’t wait.” The neurochemicals of these experiences are nearly identical to that of unhealthy anxiety.
At some point, which varies from person to person and by subject to subject, this eustress begins to be counter-productive and we call it distress. We should not equate productivity with morality, but we can begin to see more clearly that the capacity for depression-anxiety has the potential to enhance or diminish our quality of life.
So now, let’s engage the question directly, “When does anxiety-depression become sinful?” Something becomes sinful when it offends God or violates his design. Therefore, the stronger you answer “yes” to these kinds of questions, the more likely your anxious-depressive experience are revealing sin.
- Does your depression-anxiety come from or cause doubting of God’s goodness?
- Does your depression-anxiety come from or cause trying to control things that are God’s to determine?
- Is your depression-anxiety rooted in other sins such as bitterness, greed, jealousy, or discontentment?
- Is your depression-anxiety rooted in a sense of entitlement or comparing yourself to others?
- Is your depression-anxiety the result of shame about or a fear of being “found out” for another sin?
It is important to distinguish anxiety-depression that is caused by sin from anxiety-depression that results in sin. In the former (questions above), we repent of the emotions themselves, or least what they reveal about us. In the latter (questions below), we repent of how we’ve allowed these emotions to manifest themselves in our life.
- Does your depression-anxiety result in sins of omission?
- Does your depression-anxiety result in a sense of helplessness and passivity towards life?
- Does your depression-anxiety result in destructive habits as a form of escape or self-medication?
- Does your depression-anxiety result in self-centeredness where it is hard to consider others?
- Does your depression-anxiety result in pride (e.g., a sense that you’re the exception to what would be helpful)?
Use these questions to help you to “sort your emotional laundry.”
that Reveal Sin
that Result in Sin