Why Worry?

April 17 2023 | by

Dear Mr. Pfister: I have struggled with anxiety since I was a little girl. I am always worrying about what is going to happen in the future; how I will handle whatever calamity next comes my way and, frankly, whether or not God will see me through it. I feel bad just writing that last statement, but I know it is truly how I feel, and I desperately want to change that. I just don’t know how. My head and heart are aligned when it comes to faith, but not when it comes to worry. It’s like they exist independently on completely separate planets. How do I bridge this gap between my head and heart and overcome my propensity to worry excessively?


Anxiety has seen a drastic rise in society over the last few decades. As fallen human persons many of us fall prey to worrying about what the future holds and whether or not we will be able to overcome it. Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks of fear (anxiety) as the perception of some future evil approaching which one feels unable to resist or overcome (ST II-II 125:1). When we perceive an inability to escape from or overpower the cause of our anxiety we feel a sense of helplessness, of “I just have to grin and bear it and wait until it’s over.”

In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Our Lord speaks thus of fear: “Be not solicitous therefore, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘Wherewith shall we be clothed?’ For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:25-34).

Our Lord directs us to seek first the things of God, and the rest will take care of itself, so to speak. He implores us not to fear, as fear has only the hold over us we allow it to have. And while this is understandable on an intellectual level, as you pointed out, it deceives many of us on the level of the heart. Therefore, your question becomes poignant for many of us. So how do we overcome fear and anxiety?

Saint Thomas speaks of fear as an emotional response to something which we believe we are unable to overcome. In opposition to this he speaks of courage as the emotional response that opposes this inability to overcome. Courage is present when we perceive we are able to avoid or overcome the evil. Because of this, focusing on the times we have overcome a struggle fosters a sense of courage in relation to the present difficulty. Courage disperses the impression of helplessness we retain in moments of anxiety and propels us to action. In acting we experience a change in emotion and a subsequent building of the virtue that assists us in overcoming fear.

Another important component of the dictate of Our Lord is the counsel to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. Saint Thomas speaks of the ultimate happiness of the human person being realized only in the attainment of the Beatific Vision for all eternity. Seeking this end in our present life promotes a sense of happiness because of the anticipation of this attainment one experiences.

Therefore, seeking the virtue of courage and a subsequent state of confidence in our ability to overcome a struggle, coupled with a firm and primary seeking of the Kingdom of God, strengthens us in our battle against worry. 

Updated on April 21 2023