Three Strategies for Choosing Faith Instead of Worry

AnxiousAccording to Amy Simpson, you’re more worried than you think you are. As she says in her book, Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry (IVP Books, 2014, page 25):

Worry is part of our culture, an expectation of responsible people. We seem to equate worry with good citizenship and awareness. We are expected to remain on emotional “high alert” as evidence that we care about the world around us. Our attitude is, to paraphrase a bit of bumper-sticker wisdom, “If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention.”

At first I felt the book was trying too hard to convince me to worry: “we’re far more worried than we think we are” (page 10); “you are worried” (page 13); “you may be worrying more than you realize” (page 43); but after that it seemed to settle down and focus more constructively as expressed in its subtitle, Choosing Faith in a World of Worry.

I appreciate the way author Amy Simpson defines fear, anxiety, and worry. She recognizes anxiety disorders as illnesses that require medical attention and counseling. And while she says, “This is not a book with five easy steps to free yourself from anxiety” (page 9), the book offers some practical strategies for dealing with worry–both on the level of changing behaviour and on the deeper level of trusting God with our worries and with changing our lives.

As part of my one word for 2015: Release, I especially appreciate these three strategies for choosing faith instead of worry:

1. Accept your limitations

Everything is not up to us, and we can take some practical steps to show that we accept our limitations. Some of our worry is fuelled by overcommitment. How can you downsize your calendar and release yourself from obligations that aren’t truly important or that others are better suited for? Try to live at a pace that’s reasonable for the temperament, energy level and responsibilities God has given you, with built-in margin so you can accommodate the unexpected and avoid constant time pressure. (page 42)

2. Practice trust in God

If we claim to place our trust in the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise being in existence, who is full of grace and love, unlimited in every way–and yet still feel the need to worry, we need to revisit our view of God. We need to grow in trust. That doesn’t mean pretending bad things don’t happen in this life–it means trusting him so much we can live at peace despite the dangers, horrors and grief we face, knowing he and his plans are greater than all of them. (page 79)

3. Take care of yourself

On an ongoing basis, take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, establish healthy sleep habits, take time to rest, spend time with people you love, take a break from worry to do something you enjoy and refresh your perspective. Chances are, when your break is over, your worries won’t look so attractive. Occasionally, try taking a break to just be still. We often express worry through constant movement. Set a timer for five or ten minutes, sit or lie still and read Psalm 46. (page 79)

I appreciate these and other practical ideas from the book, but I also note that they are mainly personal and individual responses. Is it possible to move beyond these to address our culture of worry? How might we learn to trust God more as a community? I would have liked to see the author address these larger questions as well.

There are many things I love about this book–a thoughtful engagement with Scripture, a clear discussion of theological perspectives, the practical ideas, an appendix on anxiety disorders with an encouragement to seek professional help. But if your worry is the more garden variety, everyday kind of worry, then read this book, and let it help you choose faith.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The choice to review and the views expressed are my own.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: Is it okay to take care of yourself as a way of dealing with worry? Or is that a self-indulgent luxury? What strategies do you have for dealing with worry?

4 thoughts on “Three Strategies for Choosing Faith Instead of Worry

  1. Thank you for this succinct summary and review. I identify most with #3, especially the break to be still – a “sacred pause.” Over the years, I created my own “worry management process.” When I find myself caught by worry or anxiety, I pause and notice it and remind myself that anxiety itself is neither good nor bad. I ask myself: What it is trying to tell me? Am I in danger? Or am I choosing actions that are unhelpful? Is it something I can act to manage? Or something I need to release? This algorithm sounds simple, but short of being in danger, I often run through it multiple times before a final resolution. Peace to you, Kathleen

    1. Kathleen, it’s good to have this window on your process, starting with paying attention to our anxiety and what it can tell us. It’s a helpful algorithm that I’ll add to my anxiety toobox. Thanks for sharing.

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