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Bible Dictionaries

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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Uneasy feeling of uncertainty, agitation, dread, or fear. The most common words in Scripture translated as "anxious" or "anxiety" are the Hebrew deagaa [ דְּאָגָה ] (ten times in either the verbal or noun form) and the Greek merimna [ μέριμνα ] (twelve times in either the verbal or noun form). Older English versions of the Bible often render these words as "thought, " "worry, " or "care."

In the Bible anxiety is frequently depicted as the common human reaction to stressful circumstances. Saul's father was anxious about his lost donkeys, and then about Saul's failure to return from looking for them (1 Samuel 9:5; 10:2 ). The psalmist confesses that anxiety is "great" within him (Psalm 94:19 ). Anxiety is portrayed in the Scripture as being inconsistent with trust in God. David prays: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thought" (Psalm 139:23 ). Jesus' command, "do not worry, " which occurs six times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-33 ), is coupled with admonitions to trust in the heavenly Father. Paul urges: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6 ). Anxiety frequently manifests itself in ungodly concern about provision, performance, or reputation, and appears to be rooted in incomplete knowledge, lack of control over circumstances, or failure to take an "eternal" perspective on things (Matthew 6:25-34; 10:19; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11-12,22-34 ). Occasionally, anxiety is a symptom of guilt (Psalm 38:18 ).

Freedom from anxiety begins with confession that it is not God's will. In fact, anxiety is a subtle insinuation that God is either unable or disinclined to see to our welfare. Other remedial measures include recognizing the futility of worry (Matthew 6:27; Luke 12:25 ); cultivating a growing understanding of God's power and fatherly disposition (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:30 ); entrusting to God the things that we cannot control (1 Peter 5:7 ); increasingly viewing things in eternal perspective (Matthew 6:32-34; Luke 12:30-34 ); and substituting prayer for worry (Philippians 4:6 ).

Ralph E. Enlow, Jr.

See also Care

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Anxiety'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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