Anxiety shows up in your life to ask for work.
In 2020, just a few months before COVID hit, I published Struck Down but Not Destroyed: Living Faithfully with Anxiety. Three years and nearly 5,000 copies later, I wanted to reflect on the core message of the book. It’s a message that continues to prove true for me—not just for anxiety but for suffering in general: anxiety is here to work.
Two Approaches to Anxiety
In my own life-long battle with anxiety and in my discussions with fellow struggles, I’ve learned there are two basic approaches to anxiety: get rid of it or use it.
If you only want to get rid of it, if elimination is the end goal, then there are a host of options at your disposal: counseling, psychotherapy, medicine, mainstream self-help books, social media groups—usually a combination of these. And I’ll be candid: I always encourage Christians struggling with anxiety to seek counseling, and I’ve been open about the medication journey I’ve had. I’ve also read a number of books on anxiety from more popular authors. These things are good gifts that can be a blessing to us. By all means, consider them!
But what I’ve come to see is the deeper motive behind the desire for pure elimination. Of course, we all want to rid ourselves of anxiety; we all want lasting peace. But you have to ask yourself, if you do get rid of anxiety, what’s next? What’s the next boulder in your life’s path that you’ll need to hurl out of the way? And the one after that? And the one after that? We can look at life’s hard experiences this way: as boulders to be picked up and thrown aside. But if we do that, then we’re working towards something, aren’t we? We’re working towards the total elimination of suffering, a strange Christian variant of nirvana (the Buddhist concept of eliminating desire in order to eliminate suffering). And that doesn’t seem to be what God calls us to do in Scripture, as we walk with Christ.
That brings out the second approach: use it. Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11 something that never ceases to amaze me. He says he lives and labors that he might know Jesus “and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” He wants to share in Christ’s sufferings? He wants to be humiliated like Christ in his death? Why? Because Paul sees the link between suffering and resurrection. He doesn’t want to suffer out of some Stoic desire to brave every weather of life, to be stone-faced in the midst of trials. No—he wants to share in Christ’s sufferings because that’s where he’ll find the power of Christ’s resurrection life. (If you want a popular explanation and application of this, I really encourage you to read Paul Miller’s J-Curve.)
“Put me to work.”
If you want to personify anxiety in this Pauline perspective, think of it as showing up on your doorstep, with God as its sovereign Lord. It knocks on the door and says to you, “I’m here. Put me to work.” How would you respond? Struck Down but Not Destroyed should help you answer that question in your own life. God has helped me put my anxiety to work in making me a better listener, a more earnest prayer warrior, a more selfless husband and father, a more sympathetic person, a more grateful human being. Anxiety puts our dependence and weakness in the limelight so that God can turn our shoulders where he wants to, and then open our ears to hear what he has to teach us.
Anxiety shows up in your life to ask for work. What will you give it? How will you use it to share in Christ’s sufferings so that you can receive his resurrection life? Those are the deeper questions we need to be asking.
The ebook for Struck Down but Not Destroyed is only $3.99 right now. The price will go up at the end of the month, so grab a copy while you can!