Modern Americans are able to control vastly more of our lives than our ancestors could. There is little chance of a large-scale epidemic, most of us don’t personally experience the effects of war, and while natural disasters continue, most of us are more likely to have property destroyed in them than actually lose our lives.
But as our ability to control the world around us has grown, our penchant for worrying about the shrunken share of life that we cannot control has also grown. And for American Christians, that’s a major problem. Because God has specifically told us to knock it off.
In her book Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry, Amy Simpson takes a clear-eyed look at our proneness to worry and provides guidance on what we can do about it. But it is in no way a how-to book. In fact, Simpson states on the first page that “it is focused less on changing behavior and more on letting God transform the way we see him—and ourselves by comparison” (9). The best thing for us to do about worry is not to follow five easy steps, but begin to see God and ourselves in the right light. The book is also not aimed at people who have anxiety disorders; Simpson specifically urges them in an appendix to not feel ashamed and to seek treatment. This book is for the rest of us who are swimming in worry so deep that we sometimes don’t even recognize when we are worrying.
The plan of the book is straightforward. In the first three chapters, she diagnoses our problem with worry. In chapters four and five, she looks at what the Bible says about worry. In chapters six through eight, she looks at three specific things that cause us to worry: “a faulty perspective, a desire to possess and control the future, and a possessive attachment to the people and things of this world” (110). A brief final chapter asks point blank: “Who do you trust?” Perhaps my favorite passage from the book is from the chapter on faulty perspective:
When we keep our eyes on the world around us, we see plenty of reasons to worry. And without the assurance of God’s character and his great plan for our world, there’s really no reason not to worry. Yet as believers covered by his grace and living under his promise, we are called to see, live and think differently. Choosing to worry is a sin, an act of rebellion against God, a rejection of our assigned place in the universe, a barrier in our relationship with a God who wants us to live in bold purpose rooted in his character. Worry is essentially a spiritual problem, which ultimately cannot be overcome through an act of the will—the solution is rooted entirely in who God is. (127)
Throughout the book, Simpson points out that we need to be especially aware of those sins that are overlooked and even encouraged in our culture. That is why this book is so useful: it is a call to become freshly aware of the ways in which we subtly worry every day. I plan on re-reading it to remind me what a Christian response to worry ought to be, and I recommend it to others who need to be reminded what is real, and how foolish and destructive worry really is.
Note: Thanks to the publisher: InterVarsity Press, for a review copy of this book.