Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds, tackles the layers of worry, anxiety, and fear in her latest book, Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. From the get go, she’s clear that a faithful focus doesn’t replace counseling or medicine as means to caring for oneself or one’s family, but she’s firm in her understanding that we often try to take on more of life than we’re supposed to. In fact, Simpson writes that “a castle of our own, erected by our own pride, forms a wall between us and God, and must be dismantled lovingly by a generous King who invites us into his kingdom, a kingdom that needs no wall, a fortress of impenetrable strength, a place of welcome and love and beauty and peace that will never be abandoned” (11). This is the kingdom that Simpson hopes we’ll live into, if we’ll take up faith and put down the three emotional struggles we often pick up instead.
Just to be straightforward, Simpson doesn’t act like fear is always artificial (or even bad). But she does write that when we worry, we become obsessed “with seeking to live in God’s domain, to be like God in ways you weren’t created to be” (23). This worry is something that she says is conditioned into us, often by the culture around us, in terms of characteristics like “civic worry,” an overabundance of information, and social media, but regardless of their origins, they damage us. It’s these situations that Simpson provides examples of (as in the case of substituting for the Sunday School class) that tie her proposals to the real world we live in and can relate to more often than not.
While Simpson does lay out theories and practical steps for us to escape our dangerous patterns, she brings it back to the place we have in God’s plan for the world. She quotes Scripture, and connects the story to the Biblical narrative in a stream of faithful people who followed God even in the midst of danger and stress. This includes one of my favorites, Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” And that’s just it: Simpson doesn’t imply that we’ll get what we want or that the situations we’re in will change, but she challenges us to change our approach and outlook on those situations.
Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry is a quick read but a thought-provoking one, and Simpson ties the theoretical with the practical, the theological with the actual. It’s a book we need in a today’s world and we’d all be better for it. As Francois de Fenelon says, as quoted here, “The future is not yet yours; it may never be. Live in the present moment. Tomorrow’s grace is not given to you today. The present moment is the only place where you can touch the eternal realm.”