The Problem of Simple Answers

choices sign wideOur attention span is short. We want simple answers to complex problems. We want solutions in a bold headline. Don’t bore me with the fine print! But ignoring the fine print can get you into trouble, can’t it?

Some of our simple answers are based upon false dichotomies. We approach an issue as black or white when there is a whole spectrum of options. It can be a symptom of our lack of knowledge. But it can also flow from a refusal to consider any information that conflicts with our preferences and preconceptions.

We succumb to this way of thinking on countless issues (relational, social, political, theological, etc.), but the area I want to address is personal and emotional. I think we often fail to see the complexity of our struggles with fear, worry, and anxiety.

Some approach fear as a moral issue. Several passages of Scripture tell us to trust God and not be afraid (e.g., Phil 4:6). So, some assert that worry is always sinful. Their simple answer is to repent, confess your sin, and pray for stronger faith. Job’s counselors adopted this rigid moral perspective about his struggles, but the Lord rebuked them for it (42:7).

Others treat anxiety predominantly as a physiological problem. They focus on the biological causes and look for a medical solution. They approach it as a sickness that is beyond the individual’s control.

But our emotional struggles are much more complex. They are both moral and physiological. We live in a fallen world that has corrupted both our hearts and our bodies. We are also shaped by our unique personalities and our relational experiences with other sinful people. Then there is the spiritual reality that we have an adversary seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8).

How can we hope to overcome, if we focus on one answer to the exclusion of the others? We must recognize that all these factors contribute to our struggle against worry, anxiety, and fear. They are interconnected in such a way that we cannot separate them. Life in a fallen world is messy.

No single person has all the answers. Proverbs 11:14 tells us, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  When we struggle, we need people who will give us insight from these different perspectives. We need the teaching of a pastor, the encouragement and prayers of fellow believers, the medical advice of a doctor, and the practical guidance of a wise counselor. Take advantage of every resource God provides.

May God help us overcome!

– Bryan Craddock

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