The word for worry or anxiety in the New Testament has two main meanings: worry/anxiety or concern.
There is a fine line between the two. If you struggle with enmeshing your feelings with the feelings of others it can be hard to tell when your concern for others turns into unhealthy worry. Usually that worry is not really about the other person but more about ourselves – that we are “concerned” for helping them be okay because it alleviates our anxiety.
Now, the Bible tells us to be concerned for others: 1 Cor 12:24-27 says,
“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
The word here is translated “equal concern” – we need to be concerned for other people for their own sake. But not worry…Philippians 4:4-7 says this,
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We could also look at Matthew 6 and Luke 12 – God says don’t be anxious but he also uses the same word to say we should be concerned for people.
What is the difference?
Worry tends to expand beyond present reality. Concern is focused on the present.
Worry isn’t focused on helping. Concern is.
Worry is self-focused. Concern is others-focused
We should be concerned (others focused) without being worried (self-focused).
Last, if you have chronic anxiety we need to have grace toward ourselves and toward others. I have heard people say that those who have anxiety just don’t pray enough or have enough faith. That just isn’t true or fair. If you are worried right now, please don’t beat yourself up. God is still working on all of us and it isn’t because your prayer life is sub-par.