We and our kids live in an age of anxiety. Most of us know someone who lives in fear, and maybe we do so ourselves. Much of the time the fear is mild but sometimes there are panic attacks, and sometimes seemingly endless stretches of unbearable terror. As Christians, we need to be able to support those who suffer in this way, and we need to equip our teens as well. The first step is to understand this illness.
Pastor Lance Hahn is one of those people who live in fear, and the extreme emotion he shares with so many others has an official label, severe anxiety disorder. How to Live in Fear is his message of hope to fellow sufferers. No, not hope of a cure in this life, although he does share practical coping tools, but the certainty that no Christian ever suffers alone, that God holds them close through the struggles and will never leave them nor forsake them.
It’s tricky, this business of using God’s word to comfort people with mental health issues, because so often ‘comforters’, like those in the book of Job, put the blame for all illness on the sufferer, his sin, his lack of faith, or his deficient prayer life. And even when they don’t, it is easy for the ill person to hear such blame even when it is not intended.
As a sufferer, Lance Hahn understands this. Therefore he shares his own story, placing himself firmly beside others who deal with severe anxiety disorder. He understands the tension of ‘preaching about the peace that passes understanding and that guards our hearts and minds while having a panic attack’ and spends much of the book explaining how faith can co-exist with panic in this broken world.
Next he shares the practical things he has learned in his fight against this condition, analysing catalysts and triggers, accepting responsibility for allowing certain thoughts and triggers, discussing the value and acceptability of medication, and learning to discipline thoughts to reflect what is true (vs Hollywood). Of course, there are also other factors such as exercise, sleep, nutrition, relaxation, and outside time.
Finally, as a pastor Lance Hahn discusses the spiritual aspects of severe anxiety disorder, and this comforting section can bless any Christian, even those who do not struggle with fear. He points out that God’s promises are true, whether or not we are able to believe them at the moment. He points out that often we think things we should not be thinking. He states explicitly, “If we truly believed that God is good and He is sovereign, then we would be able to rest in these beliefs as facts. But we don’t…. I struggle just like you.” One of the reasons for the struggle is that the things we believe with our minds have not yet influenced our hearts and emotions. He also deals wisely with the issue of healing through prayer and with the concept of spiritual warfare. And finally, he shares the three most powerful tools God has given to combat fear: Scripture, prayer, and worship.
Some thoughts that struck me:
God changes people through their challenges and suffering, and this can be a blessing to the sufferers as well as to others.
“God is watching over you. You are not alone. You are not forsaken or abandoned. He does care deeply about you and your situation. When you are tempted to ask why He doesn’t help more or just fix your fear, remember that it’s not the best scenario yet. Once it is, He will. Until then, we are to trust He is aware and knows exactly what he’s doing.” P 197
“…truths must be embraced not just cognitively, but emotionally. This requires investing time into soaking them in.” p 197 This idea is something that the modern church does not seem to understand well and seems to be what David, for example, meant when he talked about meditating on God’s Word.
Throughout the book I also noticed, over and over, the negative effects of Hollywood and the media on anxiety. I noticed a similar theme in Captivating by the Eldredges (link is to my review). It is so important to watch what we put into our minds and the minds of our children.
I have never known severe anxiety disorder myself, but I know people who suffer from it. Lance Hahn’s book gives me insight into their struggles and practical ways of supporting them. It also reminds me that in my life, too, God is always there, will always be there, and will never leave or forsake me. This is a message we can never hear too often, whether our life is hard or easy.
If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety disorder, do read this book. You will benefit from it.
Note: Apparently anxiety can be treatable with Seligman’s positive psychology methods.
This is yet another book in the in the 2017 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, What to Read Wednesdays and The Book Nook. For more encouragement see Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers.