Monday, March 6, 2017

Calm my Anxious Heart

Calm my Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow

The reading recommendations I received recently have all paid off – I have discovered some great books.    This is yet another to add to the list.

Subtitled: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment, Dillow addresses the issue many women face – finding true contentment.  We live in a world that tells us we cannot be content, and we also live with our own worries, greed and small view of life that prevent us finding true fulfilment in Christ.

Dillow starts with her own story and struggle towards contentment, emphasising that “true contentment is separate from our circumstances.  Contentment is a state of the heart, not a state of affairs” (p13).    A lack of contentment comes from thinking we can ‘help God out’ and do a better job than he can: “When we take over and try to control what happens, we take our focus of the One who is in control and put our eyes on our circumstances” (p16)

I found this a helpful introduction.  It was then somewhat surprising when the next 4 chapters dealt with various situations: content in circumstances, content to be me, content with my role and content in my relationships.   All of these were helpful though and addressed issues many women have in finding contentment.

Then she dealt with three barriers to contentment: greed, lack of purpose and worry.   This was where I found the book had real strength.  For greed, she addressed real issues over money and whether we truly think what we have belongs to God and is a gift from God.    Practically she looked at credit card debt, seasonal greed (eg. do you always spend too much at Christmas?) and the trap of desiring the temporal rather than the eternal. 

I found the chapter on purpose particularly challenging.  We are to be women of purpose with clear idea of where we are going and why.   I appreciated the reminder that “children are your platform, not your purpose” (p112).  She gave a few examples of women who had defined their life purpose, either by writing a statement of faith, adopting a bible verse which spells out their goals, or writing a prayer to that effect.  What worked for me was the challenge to think about who you want to be at age 80.   Do you want to be a woman of faith, prayer, godliness, contentment, etc at that age?  Well, from now to then, in God’s grace, is the path to there.  I have been working on this idea for myself and have come up with something that works for me. 

The third barrier was anxiety.  She is clear she is not talking about clinical anxiety, but the day to day worries about what might happen.  How anxiety drives us from present day to weary calculation of condition that might never arrive, and how worry is destructive for it changes nothing except the worrier.  As someone who constantly battles worry about what might happen, this was a very helpful warning chapter.

At this point, the book reached the core of what I was expecting in the first chapter – faith is the foundation we need.  Faith is rooted in God’s sovereign, wise and loving character, and faith is based on God’s word not our feelings.  Trusting in God and who He is is where our true contentment comes from.

She finishes with chapters on how to trust God with the ‘what ifs’ (which can lead to anxiety), the ‘if only’s’ (which can lead to anger) and the ‘whys’.  I quite liked the observation:
“I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in his keeping, (3) under his training, (4) for his time.” (quoting Andrew Murray, p181)

It’s solid and bible based, yet with an openness and emotional vulnerability that draws you in.  You could read it with a group, and the edition I had included an extensive bible study guide.   It would also be a good companion read to Compared to Her, which comes at contentment from another angle.  I found it a very useful book.   

No comments: