Takeaway: Anxiety is real emotion. Allow God to use it to help you and do not allow it to control you.
I have followed Rhett Smith on twitter for several years as moved to Texas and started a counseling practice. I have read his blog as he thoughtfully talked about issues of technology, theology, marriage and faith.
I was not surprised when Moody approached him about writing a book. I knew it would be good and well worth reading.
But when I heard it would be about anxiety, I thought it would be a good book for me to pass on to friends and family. Because I have a particular understanding of anxiety. Anxiety is rooted in fear, fear is something that as Christians we should not have. Therefore the best thing to do with anxiety is to reject it as sin.
Thankfully, that is not the thesis of this book. Autobiographically, Rhett Smith works through how he dealt with fear and anxiety through the early loss of his mother (and much of his extended family to cancer), his problems with stuttering, school and the normal anxiety of growing up, finding a career, and relationships.
Smith knows that fear and anxiety can crush us, and being defeated by fear may become sin. But more to the point of the book, Smith believes that God has created us in a way that God can use normal anxiety about the world around us to help move us in positive directions. God intentionally creates us in ways that place us in situations where we are forced to grow. He uses marriage (professionally he is a marriage counselor) as one example:
David Schnarch in his book Passionate Marriage…refers to marriage as “people growing machines.” This relationship that I now found myself in was designed by God, not only for me to experience an intimate connection with another person, but to help me to grow up and become a more mature human being. Terry Hargrave writes, “one of the basic philosophies I have about all relationships is that they require us to grow up a little and learn more about ourselves.” I might add that they often require us to grow up more than a little—perhaps a great deal!
Smith talks about how God used his anxiety of speaking in front of others (because of his stuttering) to help teach dependence on God and to illustrate to Rhett that God can work in ways that we would not assume.
Surprisingly, one of the things I learned from this book is that I am actually anxious about being anxious. I push down anxiety because I am afraid of potential conflict, loss of control and some of the negative ways I have seen people deal with anxiety around me. It is surprising that a book about anxiety can be so positive, but Rhett Smith has presented a very positive view of anxiety.
There are some expected (and helpful) sections on creating margin in your life, taking care of yourself, creating appropriate boundaries and other things that remove some of the inappropriate power of anxiety and fear. I also appreciated Rhett’s frank discussion about his own experience in therapy (and as a therapist). Christians often have inappropriately negative views about therapy and anything that can be done to lessen those should be celebrated.
I have already given away one copy of this books and I will be giving away more.
Note: The author sent me a paperback copy for review. I purchased my own kindle version and gave away the paperback.