PJEFC LIBRARY MONTHLY BOOK REVIEW – JANUARY 2020
The Anxious Christian
By Rhett Smith
204 pages, Moody Publishers
Goodreads rating: 3.85 out of 5
When we were kids all those years ago growing up in our typical Asian families, we learnt never to really express our feelings, or any overt display of affection and insecurity. We learnt to stoic, and any signs of deviation from the commonly acceptable social norms is a sign of weakness or worse, an embarrassment to the family. We certainly didn’t acknowledge any kind of symptoms commonly by Americans today like ‘anxiety attacks’ ‘depression’ or ‘panic attacks’. And definitely, back in the day, our forbears would probably brush off any kid with issues like bipolar disorders, autism, Asperger’s, with the catch-all categorization as ‘slow learner’ or ‘problem child’. Or at the very worst, spiritually attacked (a kinder way of saying ‘demon possessed’).
but in today’s more enlightened age, we now know that many of us suffer greatly from a wide spectrum of anxiety issues and even mental health disorders. we now also realize that a normal happy person can also be susceptible these issues, and no longer limited to just extreme cases. And concerning anxiety, we, too, are aware that if left unchecked, it can be crippling and devastating. But what is the Christian response? Are we not all already ‘set free’ by God’s truth? what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy anxiety?
By acknowledging your anxiety and how it affects your life daily is an important step, even if it does not seem so. Too many of our unhappy childhood memories centre around anxious moments. Or inversely, many of our anxiety later in life stem from unhappy childhood incidents. These range from deaths, divorce, separation, and other traumatic incidents. Dealing with your anxiety may be beyond your own capabilities – the popularity of therapists and psychiatrists in the West is a testament to this. But what about you and me? Surely we cannot afford a therapist. Most of us would rather live with the anxiety (and deal with it in whatever way we have become accustomed to, no matter how effective it is or not).
Does God not want me to live my best life to the fullest? Or is my anxiety due to ancestral sin? Or just my personal sin? Or am I to just blame it on hereditary genes? These are valid question for a Christians to struggle with. The Bible does not address these issues head on, and to be honest not all pastors or church counsellors are equipped to deal with these questions. But this book approaches anxiety in a way that may open doors to a deeper understanding of the matter, both from a psychological standpoint and a Christian response.
As someone who has had his share of anxiety spells and bouts of depression, I know well enough that any way forward is not so much a cure (there isn’t one), but a life-long process of learning to cope with it and how to best deal with it. Certainly this book goes some ways to let me know that God is still a part of this process, even if at times, it really doesn’t seem so.