Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry by Amy Simpson tells us how Christians must react, and repent, of their worry. My review within.
Worry is something we all struggle with, Simpsons argues, whether we have it in its extreme forms (anxiety attacks, physical fatigue, troubles sleeping, etc.) Rather than address all of the types of anxieties a Christian might face, she seeks to find address a more general sense of worry. This is actually helpful: she doesn’t speak beyond her bounds (as someone addressing the myriads of mental health issues that may cause anxiety), but she can speak as a Christian to Christians. (A caveat: her husband is a psychologist, so she speaks with some know-how when she does gently handle mental health.)
Simpson’s first two chapters deal with different types of worry. I didn’t find anything too revolutionary in this section, but I don’t mean that as a knock on this book. Rather, I find it helpful in that nobody can avoid worry. Everybody worries. In lieu of that, Simpson makes a powerful claim: repent. Most Christians, including myself, don’t think about worry or anxiety as something to repent of. Rather, we think that it’s good. Simpson addresses a few ways in which we believe our worry to be good, while showing why it is still sin, and it is still our attempts to dethrone God.
After showing us that we are all prone to worry, Simpson moves into what the Bible says about worry. While I appreciated that Simpson takes us to the Scriptures, some of the passages were less than helpful. But, the Word of the Lord is powerful and active, so she does find some aspects that are helpful and speak well into our lives. I found myself reminded of great passages that spoke to me, despite my newfound car troubles. Unfortunately, this felt like more of a list of proof-texts than it did an exegesis on the way the Scriptures speak into worry and anxiety. Rooting these passages in a narrative would have been a bit more helpful. But, for those not conversant in the Scriptures, or those who have trouble knowing which passages to apply to each woe, this is a helpful guide and section to look over.
Thankfully, the next section moves from proof texting to a few passages, with expanded commentary. I found this part a lot more helpful. Using these verses, Simpson shows that some of these passages about worry were not without context: instead, they were given in tough times. Simpson uses these passages to argue that God doesn’t remove our situations to free us from worry, rather he transforms us in these situations. Simpson continually uses the language of transformation in the book, telling us that God will change us through his Spirit to not worry as much. In this transformation, we will find a life of faith that is incompatible with worry, and we will get rid of our worry in the process.
While a helpful book for the most part, and a quick read, I noticed one glaring weakness: the gospel itself didn’t permeate the book as it should. While Jesus was quoted extensively (mainly because he spoke on this subject a lot), I would be worried to see how much he would be featured without a few proof-texts from the Gospels. How does Jesus’ resurrection deal with our anxiety? Would everything she had written still be true if Jesus was still dead? Why not? Without this expanded context, we’re left with quasi-Trinitarian views that don’t necessarily need the Resurrection yet. Do I think Simpson believes the gospel as Jesus, Paul, Isaiah, and God preached it? Absolutely! But it would have made this book, and its themes, come into sharper focus had the gospel been articulated far more clearly and prominently.
For the most part, I found enough to enjoy in “Anxious”. It was a quick read, but it spoke well into everybody’s situation. Having read the book, I have been challenged: repent when I am anxious, and when I am worried, or when I try to wrestle control away from God. For those who have never considered themselves one to worry, this book is worth checking out. But check it out in the context of the gospel, and remember that we don’t transform outside of the grace of God through Christ, the risen one.
(I received a copy of this book free in exchange for a review. Buy the book on Amazon here)