What if anxiety is good for you? What if being anxious is part of God's design for our lives to do something with any stuck-in-the-rut situations? This book is an interesting effort to turn our "problems" into solutions. The author's conviction is that God can indeed use our anxiety for good. Beginning with a stunning reflection on the popular movie, "The King's Speech," Rhett Smith points out the stutterer's struggle with his speech. Guided by an able linguist therapist, King George VI was able to make and complete a stirring speech to the nation, as the country declares war on Germany in 1939. At each stutter, King George VI had to consciously decide how to deal with it. The coaxing and the comforting presence of the therapist friends was able to carry him through. In the same way, we can learn from this experience, not to hide from our anxieties but to face them head on. Using his rich experience as a therapist, a counselor, a Christian speaker, Smith guides us through a process of dealing with our fears and worries boldly by embracing them. Instead of running away from anxiety, or avoiding them, he urges us to "welcome uncertainty" to learn to journey with God through the different stages of our life's transitions. Instead of remaining stuck in the rut, responding positively to anxiety can rid us of habitual patterns, to "be challenged, face risk, and grow in the process." He puts a new spin to our common perceptions of anxiety as a bad thing by showing us how to "reimagine" anxiety. Using Paul's epistles to the Philippians, the Corinthians, and other biblical passages, Smith argues for a "normal, healthy anxiety" that causes us to pay attention to any anxiety that may arise, to do something about it. Instead of being "unduly concerned," he teaches us to care for it in a positive and healthy manner. In order to make the turn, one needs to deal with present concerns.
"Viewing anxiety as a negative force only left me paralyzed in a prison of fear and shame. I was tired of living in fear of failure, worrying about other people's opinions about whether I was good enough. But viewing anxiety as a catalyst for growth in my life could set me free to take more risks, and help me to become more of who I believe God created me to be." (15)
Anxiety is also another way to wrestle with God, to listen to the Spirit, to see God, and to let God shape us through anxieties. God can use anxieties to use the broken us and make us beautiful in His time. Such a lifestyle of positive response comes about when we learn to be intentional by fostering our heart, soul, mind, and strength, demonstrated through initiative, gratitude, prayerfulness, and determination. Having laid the ground for a new paradigm on anxiety, Smith proceeds with a chapter on "Creating boundaries and Space." Here begins the role of reforming the soul through healthy boundaries, self-care, Sabbath keeping, giving ourselves space, and to learn to live within our limits. An important area of soul shaping is through our relationships. Anxieties can push us to seek help, and to avoid self-seeking ways.
The more choices we have, the more easily anxious we become. This is an increasingly familiar situation. Many of us in the West have become so fixated on choices that we unwittingly sow the seeds of uncertainty in us. We have increased our range of selections but have failed to cultivate any skills to choose. We have developed a strong sense of freedom of choice, but have become enslaved by indecision or simply a loss of courage to make bold hard choices. We have also reacted destructively to anxieties by running away from it, avoiding it, delaying our responses, or simply passing the buck to society through complaints. Rhett Smith has given us a lifeline that is reasonable, comforting, and downright motivating. We do not need to fear anxiety that tempts us to retreat back amid the uncertainty. Instead, we are given another opportunity to be intentional about our anxieties, that they will have no hold on our souls.
Reading this book gives me a sense of hope. There are lots of anxious people around. Many of them are simply shrugging their shoulders and not knowing what to do about it. Some even attempt to dismiss all references to anxieties as a bad thing, using Scripture references of "Do not worry," or "do not be anxious" as their key support. What I like about this book is that Smith writes in a compassionate manner, helping us to deal with anxieties as they are. He makes a good case for positive engagement and gives us hope that God can use our anxieties for our good. Backed by research and raw openness with his own shortcomings, accompanied by biblical support, this book is poised to help readers go through the eye of the storm of anxiety. The book is very well structured, eloquently argued, and is filled with many practical examples and illustrations. I appreciate the discussion questions at the back of each chapter that help refresh the learning tips and for opening the topic for discussion. Deeply personal and highly practical, for anyone who reads this book, be prepared to have your old paradigms about anxiety changed. For the better.
Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.