Anxiety is plaguing the lives of millions today. Modern science has attempted to find some answers but we’re far from having found “the” solution.
The apostle Paul authoritatively declares to the believers of his time:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.“ Philippians 4:6 ESV
This word rings true today, too.
What did Christian thinkers have to say about issues such as anxiety back in their day? While the concept of “mental health” as we understand it today wasn’t prevalent in the classical era, Christian thinkers and authors throughout history have addressed themes related to faith and anxiety in their writings. Here are some examples:
Augustine (354-430 AD):
In his Confessions, Augustine openly reflects on his anxieties and struggles with sin, ultimately finding solace in God’s grace. He highlights the importance of prayer and confession as ways to manage anxieties and connect with God.
In his City of God, Augustine contrasts the “earthly city” characterized by fear and anxiety with the “heavenly city” marked by peace and love. He argues that true tranquility comes from aligning oneself with God and eternal values.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD):
In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas discusses fear and anxiety as natural emotions. He distinguishes between rational fears based on real threats and irrational fears stemming from distorted perceptions. He emphasizes the importance of reason and faith in guiding one’s emotions towards God.
Aquinas also emphasizes the role of hope and trust in God as antidotes to anxiety. He argues that focusing on God’s goodness and faithfulness can provide comfort and assurance in the face of uncertainties.
Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD):
Luther personally wrestled with anxieties and scruples related to his faith. In his Theology of the Cross, he emphasizes the importance of seeing oneself as a sinner completely dependent on God’s grace for salvation. This perspective, he argues, can relieve anxieties about personal worth and performance.
Luther also emphasized the importance of Scripture and prayer as means of finding comfort and assurance in God’s promises.
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855 AD):
Kierkegaard, though not strictly classical, explores the concept of “anxiety” in his work, seeing it as an inherent part of the human condition and a catalyst for faith. In his The Concept of Anxiety, he argues that anxiety arises from the realization of freedom and the vastness of possibilities, pushing us to confront existential questions and ultimately seek faith as a source of meaning.
John Calvin (1509-1564 ): Calvin focused on God’s sovereignty and control, which can offer comfort in times of uncertainty. This seems to still resonate with Calvinists all over the world.
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963 ): Explored themes of fear and faith in works like The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity.
These are just a few examples, and different thinkers will have nuanced approaches to faith and anxiety. Additionally, their perspectives may not directly translate to modern understandings of mental health. But exploring their writings can offer valuable insights into the timeless human struggle with fear and faith, and provide inspiration and encouragement for those seeking solace and comfort.
How do you handle anxiety as a believer? Which school of thought or theological interpretation (if any at all) has helped you the most to reconcile your faith with our human tendency to get anxious?
I’m looking forward to your comments.
Do you enjoy my weekly blogs? Help me reach more people, and please share this with your friends. Thank you!
President & Founder
Hill Cities, Inc.