After 21 days in isolation, Louise Troh, her son, and two nephews emerged giving thanks to God. “We are so happy this is coming to an end,” Troh said. “We have lost so much, but we have our lives and we have our faith in God, which always gives us hope.”

Troh was the fiancé of Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian citizen who within 10 days of his arrival in the U.S. became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in this country. He died of the disease October 8, while dozens of people who had contact with him remained in isolation. Troh and more than 40 others who were quarantined have now been cleared.

With the end of this quarantine should come a soothing realization: Ebola is not easy to catch. Because Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, it requires physical contact with such fluids. And because patients are only contagious when they show symptoms, it can’t be transmitted by someone who doesn’t feel sick. Two nurses who treated Duncan have contracted the disease, but those with whom he had closest contact outside the hospital have not developed symptoms—and now they are considered beyond the virus’ incubation period.

Ebola’s arrival in the United States has created at least a mild panic, with many afraid to fly, afraid to leave their homes or rub shoulders with their neighbors, afraid to go for treatment to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Duncan was a patient. Some are taking sensible and self-sacrificial precautions based on real risk; many are simply living in fear, irrationally allowing worry to keep them from fully showing up in the world.

None of us are strangers to this kind of fear; we are, in a sense, hard-wired for it. We are created with a powerful system for self-protection, and the ignition for that system is fear. Fear produces an emotional, mental, and physical reaction that enables “fight or flight,” the instinctive drive to resist or remove ourselves from a situation.

Fear is a God-given gift, but it’s not a flourishing way of life. Those forced to live in constant fear find their bodies and minds stressed by those conditions—sometimes to the breaking point. Those of us who choose to live in fear are no less crushed by it.

Essentially, that’s what worry is: the choice to live in fear.

Worry is often confused with two other states of mind: fear and anxiety. The three concepts are different and should be thought of as distinct. In general, fear is a response to an immediate and known threat. Anxiety is a response to a possibility.

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Both fear and anxiety are normal, healthy, and helpful responses to danger and trouble. But for some people, anxiety is not healthy or productive, and reemerging from it may become impossible. In their bodies, the healthy, helpful biological process works overtime. Twenty-nine percent of Americans experience an anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime, and ironically many feel ashamed of this experience. An anxiety disorder is, essentially, too much of a good thing. Such a malfunction usually requires treatment with medication, counseling, or both. It’s not a reflection of a lack of discipline, faith, or knowledge of God’s Word.

Worry is different. Worry is a choice and a direct reflection of what we believe from moment to moment. If we believe Ebola is transmitted only through close physical contact and it is highly unlikely that the disease has spread throughout the country undetected, we will behave in a way that reflects that belief—and our emotional behavior will express that belief. If we believe everyone around us is potentially infected and likely to spread the virus in our region, we will behave in a dramatically different way. And worry will likely be part of the equation.

Because fear is powerful and easy to trigger, humanity has a long and rich history of using it for manipulation. And we’re not about to give up now. At the top of a CNN story about the end of Ebola quarantines appears this telling request with a link: “Are you on the front lines of Ebola? We’d like to hear your story.” The media machine, which often plays on fear to keep and profit from our attention, needs fuel.

History is full of examples of exaggerated fears based on urban legends, media sensationalism, and misinformation. In my book Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry, I call this “manufactured worry.” These days are no different; we fear things that aren’t real or aren’t as threatening as they seem when we’re watching cable news or YouTube.

Sometimes this is because we simply have more access to information than ever before, so we are aware of more than we can really process. Usually someone is also profiting from our worry—the more we worry, the more viewers they have, the more readers they gain, the more people are interested in buying products that supposedly solve the problems we’re worried about. When we give in, we pay the price of worry (hurting ourselves and compromising our ability to live with purpose and intention) to profit someone else.

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Ebola is a deadly serious disease, and it must be taken seriously. But like most other problems in life, it responds best to rational choices, not to panic. The Ebola story is a striking example of how worry hurts our relationships and impedes our mission as Christians.

Christians, like everyone else, should take reasonable precautions while walking around on a planet where Ebola lives, influenza thrives, overuse of antibiotics makes bacteria stronger, car crashes can be deadly, terrorists find safe haven, random violence happens every day, people go missing, lightning strikes, food poisoning kills 3,000 Americans every year, Christmas tree lights start home fires, a person can be killed by ice falling from a skyscraper. But we should not allow ourselves to be carried away on a wave of fear appropriate only for those whose best hope is in this life and their own success.

Christians should be countercultural and check our reactions when the prevailing reaction is worry—as it often is. God is always in control, and he is never surprised by the horrors we face in a world marred by rebellion against him. His control doesn’t mean horrible things won’t happen. We cannot keep ourselves or our loved ones completely safe. But worrying doesn’t help; it’s among the most unproductive things we can do.

The appropriate response of a person of faith is much different. We should live as if we believe someone greater than us is in control, we are headed for a better world, and we are present in this one to act as representatives of one who loves all and willingly gave up his life for us. After all, that’s what we say we believe.

Amy Simpson is author of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. She also serves as editor of Gifted for Leadership, Senior Editor of Leadership Journal, a speaker, and a Co-Active personal and professional coach. You can find her at and on Twitter @aresimpson.

You can read an excerpt from Anxious here.