I promise you that the title isn’t meant to be clickbait. Anxiety is a very real thing that we feel as human beings, and the Scriptures are replete with comforts and corrections for us in our worries. Rather what I mean by “nobody struggles with anxiety” is that an individual’s battle against anxiety is never a war against anxiety particularly. They may feel anxiety and that anxiety may produce a great deal of pain in their hearts, but anxiety is always a product of some greater issue.
The common cold is a helpful analogy. When I’m sick and hacking and sneezing all over the place, my fundamental problem isn’t that I have a sore throat. Rather, the sore throat is a by-product of the battle between an invading virus and my white blood cells. The pain of the sore throat is not an unbegotten trouble that is its own problem, rather it is the byproduct of a deeper, unseen issue. If the sore throat is ever to go away, the virus must be beaten back.
Anxiety is always over something. It may be money, relationships, physical ailments, vocational endeavors, or any other multiplicity of matters. But anxiety can only be found when we love something and are concerned we won’t get it or we dislike something and are concerned we will get it. This is why Philippians 4:6 specifically states, “Don’t be anxious about anything.” There is always an object of the preposition that produces our worries.
When we find ourselves consumed with anxiety, we are wise to work back up the chain to discover what it is we are particularly worried about and deal with it at that level. One of the most terrifying seasons of my life came shortly after the birth of our first son. Our joyful season quickly turned to one of trouble as doctors discovered that my wife had a large tumor that could be cancerous. For 5 weeks we waited, burdened by biopsies that did not reveal clear results. Thankfully, the storm passed as further tests revealed the mass to be benign.
During those 5 weeks we greatly fought through an at-times almost paralyzing fear. But the war was not against anxiety; the war was against a lack of trust in God’s certain promises. Even if my wife died, God would take care of me. The anxiety I felt was the product of viewing life as Christ-less. The lie that I was tempted to believe was that God could not be good unless our family remained whole. The solution to obeying the biblical command to not be anxious about anything lay not in striving against anxiety itself, but to strive against the lie that God couldn’t be good if terrible things happened.
This is why counseling requires a nuanced understanding of the human heart. The Bible is not as simplistic as we sometimes make it. “Don’t be anxious” is a very true command. We are sinning when we lose ourselves in anxiety and refuse to believe God’s promises. But “Don’t be anxious” isn’t the sum total of the Bible’s teaching on the subject. It tells us that anxiety is always a symptom and never the disease – “Don’t be anxious about anything.” The prepositional phrase is crucial.