The primary word for anxiety, merimna, in the New Testament has both positive and negative connotations. Of the 25 uses, five of them indicate a sense of caring; the other 20 refer to a distracting and negative sense of worry or dread. In the positive sense, you should feel a little anxious if you have an important responsibility to fulfill. It should motivate you to take necessary steps to assume your responsibility. Most of our anxious thoughts, however, are not profitable and can lead to psychosomatic illnesses. Worrying doesn’t accomplish anything. People have actually believed that if they worried about something they could prevent it from happening. But you are not going to help the plane stay in the air by worrying, and you are not going to improve the odds in your favor by fretting about all that could go wrong. Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life” (Matt. 6:27). Excessive worrying can take some years off your life.

Recall that anxiety differs from fear in that fear has an object whereas anxiety doesn’t. People are anxious because their goals are uncertain and they don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. The process of worrying can be more debilitating than experiencing the negative consequences of what one worried about. In fact some feel relieved to have the anxious period over even if it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. It is easier to live with “what is” than it is to live with “what if.” When we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, we are tempted to make assumptions. It seems to be a peculiar trait of the mind to assume the worst. However, nothing good can come from making negative assumptions and then acting upon them as though they were facts.

The root of merimna is the verb merizo, which means to draw in different directions or distract. When merimna is used as a verb (merimnao), it appears to be a conjunction of merizo, and nous, which means mind. That is probably why the translators of the King James Version of the Bible translated “do not be worried” (Matthew 6:25) as “Take no thought,” and “why are you worried” (Matthew 6:28) as “why take ye thought.” To be anxious in a negative sense is to be double-minded, and James says a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways (James 1:8). This is clearly revealed in Matthew 24,25, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell, you, do not worry about your life.”

Dr. Neil

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