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Anxiety vs. Fear

Here is a picture of some of my family entering the Mission Space ride at Epcot. They chose to get on the “easy” side and, well, I got on the “other” side. The side that I chose to go on repeatedly gave warnings that if you get motion sickness or are afraid of being in a confined space, you should not go on this ride.

The older I get the more I do not like confined spaces, and when I am in a car it is not unusual for me to get a little sick if I am not the one driving. So yes, obviously, I chose the side I should have avoided. Let us say that approaching the ride, I had some anxiety. On the ride, well, I was more or less afraid. I think if it was not for the teenagers beside me, I would have probably pushed a great big panic button if it was available.

What is anxiety? What is fear? These are two interesting questions. To some, they have the same answer. However, what I have been learning over the past couple of years is that there are two different answers. I think it is important to note a key difference.

To start, I would like to convey an important disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist or doctor, so I write and only reflect here as a pastor and as someone who understands anxiety personally from a number of different perspectives. If at any time you think there is more here for you to learn about, I would encourage you to talk to a doctor or a therapist.

The concept is simple, and yet it has been very helpful for me to understand. It is the difference between anxiety and fear. Here is my unprofessional understanding of the difference between anxiety and fear: Anxiety is having feelings of being afraid without having anything actually occurring at the time to be afraid of. Anxiety is not based on reality. You may have anxiety over something terrible that might happen to you, but the reality is that nothing is actually happening to you at that moment. When standing in the line for the ride, there was nothing happening to me at that time. I was anxious. I had feelings of fear because I was anticipating what was going to happen. Then while on the ride, it was no longer anxiety. It became fear because it was actually happening. Not to confuse you, but there was anxiety there too because I was more afraid than what the situation really warranted. I had to calm myself down by telling myself that I was only on a ride. I was strapped in and confined, but the straps were there to protect me. The ride was safe, and it would eventually stop.

Hopefully you will not think less of me for not enjoying this ride at Disney. I promise I will not think less of you if you think anxiety is a problem for you. There are many resources for more information online, and do not hesitate to reach out and talk to someone about it.

When I think of anxiety, I think of Paul’s words in Philippians 4. He writes:

4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

We also see throughout scripture that we are not to be afraid. Do not fear we are told. I wrote before about “fear” here and here.

We should not think less of ourselves if anxiety and fear are struggles for us. We should seek to better understand our anxieties and fears and, most of all, know there is hope and peace available.


Pastor Matt

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