I’ve posted a number of times on fear and anxiety. Since the beginning of this year I have accomplished part of my goal in dealing with this dreadful sin. I’ve memorized portions of Scripture dealing with anxiety, fear and worry like portions of Matthew 6 and Psalm 121. Yet, those texts by itself have not been the magic ticket to Worry-free Land. I’ve needed other resources, like the community of God’s people.
One such person is Edward T. Welch. I have not had the pleasure of meeting this person, but I’ve had the chance to sit at his feet for a while now and learn from his wisdom, experience and education on the topics of worry, fear and faith in God. Welch is a licensed counselor holding an M.Div degree as well as a PhD in Counseling Psychology (Neuropsychology) from the University of Utah. Academically, he knows his stuff. Yet, more than than, he knows the Bible. And, it is this aspect of the book I found to be most beneficial.
Welch spends a great deal of time teaching the worrier how to listen to their fears and worries as a means of learning what is truly most important in their lives. I could say a few things about what my fears and worries say about me, but to summarize, my fears tell me I don’t really trust God that He’ll do what is best for me. Or, to put it another way, I question whether God is really as good as the Scripture says He is. In other words, the root of worry and fear is not external realities, but rather an inward disposition that is opposed to God. Worry feeds off selfish desires for control. We control our possessions, loved ones, and, if it were possible, we’d control our future. Yet, we cannot. So, we worry thinking that might help. After all, God isn’t really to be trusted, right?
While good Christians would never verbalize these things, Welch does a fantastic job showing those ideas and emotions are actually at the root of our worry. We would never express verbal disbelief in God’s goodness, but our worry betrays our words. What is great about this book is the central example Welch returns to over-and-over again. It is a principle Welch calls the “Manna” principle.
This principle comes from the Old Testament account of Israel’s wanderings in the desert. While they wandered they grumbled against God to Moses and Aaron in which they complained about food. In response, God promised food. Exodus 16:4-5 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” Notice, God promised he would provide that which was necessary for each day (except for the day before the Sabbath). Welch returns to this often emphasizing the point that fear and worry are control oriented sins which not only want to control the present, but also the future. However, the Lord knows best. He provides that which is only necessary for today demanding people rely upon his goodness and provision, not their own. To put it another way, the only place fear and worry are irradiated is by trusting completely in the goodness, mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord God Almighty.
Only when we acknowledge we don’t know the future that we find peace. Ironic, isn’t it? Acknowledging we are powerless and without knowledge is the road towards peace and rest. How so? We no longer trust in our ability, but rather rest solely in the One who has perfect, complete knowledge of the future because it is His. He is the giver of all things. Better yet, He is our side (Rom. 8:28)! Should a tragedy befall us in the future (which is possible due to the sin-affected world), God will grant us all we need at that time to handle whatever comes. Worry about the endless possibilities only removes the focus from God and turns it to ourselves, which is idolatry! God is the only one worthy of worship. Knowing that He provided the manna each morning is proof that He’ll also provide the grace necessary each day. So, we are free to rest in Him knowing He does what is good.
I really cannot say enough good things about this book. If you struggle with worry and fear (serious struggles here), I urge you to get this book. It can be purchased rather inexpensively. It will be well worth what you pay. I have already been greatly blessed by this book, and I’ve even seen fruit evident, too.
I’ll close with Psalm 27, a psalm Welch walks through in the book.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.