Monday, December 2, 2019

A Small Book for the Anxious Heart

A Small Book for the Anxious Heart, Edward T. Welch

Edward Welch has followed up his small meditative book on anger with this one on anxiety, A Small Book for the Anxious Heart: Meditations on Fear, Worry and Trust.

Many of my comments about that book also apply to this one, so feel free to go back to that review.

Each short chapter is 2-3 pages, and as such it’s a primer for hearts that worry. It will start to address the issues you face, and where your heart is in it, but it won’t be extensive. Some chapters are to prompt further thought, some are explicit biblical teaching, and some are challenges to your own behaviour. There was no clear order that I could determine, it meanders through topics and seems to double back to things. Yet this works for many. I strongly prefer a clear structure, but not everyone does. And with the format used, it needs to and does have continual grace, teaching and challenge scattered throughout.

He notes:
“The aim of this book is to help us become more skillful in how we identify our fears and anxieties, hear God’s good words, and grow. You could say that our goal is wisdom. Wisdom is another name for skill in living.”
He wisely observes at several points that this wisdom takes time, anxiety works now. Change is slow and gradual, but worries are now and immediate.

Some comments that I found helpful:
“The dilemma is that worries tell you to take matters into your own hands, but that message needs to be altered to say, “What a perfect opportunity to trust the God who is strong, loving, and faithful.” 
“Faith in Jesus will not replace your fears. Instead your faith will coexist with your fears and begin to quiet them. You will learn, by faith, to see your life from Jesus’s perspective and to trust that he is your ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).”
Regarding the power of prayer:
“Left to myself I spin out doomsday scenarios, hoping that my frenetic mind will stumble into some answers. But when I go to my heavenly Father and tell him my worries, when I remember his words to me (an ever-present help in trouble), and when I thank him for his care, the peace of Christ does begin to rule my heart and mind. It’s a miracle that still takes me by surprise.”
Comments about worrying about death and the future:
“In response, we remember that today has enough troubles of its own, and we live in the grace that the Lord liberally gives us today. Don’t try to imagine a diagnosis of cancer. You do not yet have tomorrow’s grace, so your imagination will tell an incomplete story of the future. If you are going to venture out into the future, continue far enough out so that the story ends with you welcomed into heaven for an eternity of no more sorrow, tears, and fears (Revelation 21:4)”
Overall, it’s a helpful way for someone facing worries and challenges to come before God regularly for a period of time to consider the promises of God and what it means to work through anxieties and cast our worries on the Lord. As habits are formed by daily repetition, this could help someone with worries and fears to daily stop, and consider God’s place in their worries. However, this is probably not a book for someone with chronic anxiety, at least not on their own.

Because it's really only a simple treatment, some readers will be left wanting. For example, Day 6 notes that your past can shape your present worries. This is a pretty light approach to dealing with potentially major issues, with the only answer seeming to be ‘go to Jesus more’. Many people need much more help with their past than this.

As with his book on anger, there were reflection questions at the end of each chapter to prompt further thought, which is a helpful place to leave people - if they make the effort to use it. I would have loved to see more suggestions for prayer for many chapters would have naturally led to thanksgiving or confession, and actively encouraging that response would have been beneficial.

A book of little reflections that those struggling with worries and anxieties may well find helpful.

I was given an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

No comments: