February 26, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Biblical counseling | Fear
As a supplement to Scripture in my personal devotion time, I’m reading and benefiting from Edward T. Welch’s book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest
(Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2007).
You don’t need to read deep into this in order to come across good stuff for your soul. The good stuff presents itself on the first page of the preface, where Welch writes,
Like most writing projects, this book is aimed squarely at myself. Although I can be angry or melancholy, I am a fear specialist. In this I have found that I am not alone. Not everyone is a fear specialist, but there is no doubt that every single person who ever lived is personally familiar with fear. It is an inescapable feature of earthly life. To deny it is…well…to deny it. (p. 9)
Raise your hand if you can relate! My hand is raised.
Here is a sampling of quotes to create an appetite in your soul for this book.
The Atmosphere of Fear
As we possess more things, care about more people, accumulate more bad experiences, and watch Fear Factor and the evening news, it is as if we absorb fear. If they are not obvious in your own life, perhaps it’s because you have been living in a war zone your entire life. At first you noticed every gunshot. After a while the mayhem blends in with the rustle of the trees, the TV, and the children playing in the other room. Fear gradually became the background noise of everyday life. (p. 21)
Illogic of Fear
If you are afraid to fly because you keep thinking the plane will crash, you can replace that thought with another. I’ve flown many times before and nothing has happened. It’s the safest way to travel. This might help, but it rests on the premise that fear submits to logic, which is a dubious assumption. In reality, fears are rarely logical. (p. 23)
Logic in Fear
There is no dawdling in the face of fear. When we perceive it creeping up on us we want to keep moving. To slow down and listen to what it might be saying is counterintuitive. But fear is speaking, and we should listen. One useful life skill is to know when to listen to our feelings and when to ignore them. As a general rule, the first step is to listen. There is a logic—a language—to fear and anxiety, just as there is to most emotions. (p. 37)
Listening to Fears
So why do we listen to the logic of the often-illogical fears? Welch explains,
There are times when fear says that something is just plain dangerous and I should be afraid. But my goal in listening to my fears is to learn how to decipher what else they are saying. When I pause and listen, I might find that fear says a lot and it speaks clearly. What it says can provide me with immensely helpful direction.…Review some of your fears and ask: What do these fears say I trust in? What do my fears say I love? (pp. 47–48)
Fears reveal lies and lusts. Fears reveal idols. Fears reveal functional gods. When we submit to fear we submit to a false god rather than serving the God of Scripture, the God we seek to serve.
This process of examination is helpful
because I can accurately discern what is motivating me. Hopeful
because through the gospel I can turn from worshiping a false god, submitting to a functional god of my own creation, and instead flee to the Savior for forgiveness of sin and power to weaken my tendency to fear. In the Savior I find both pardon and power.
For pastors, this book can serve you big-time in biblical counseling. After you read the book, benefit from the book, and familiarize yourself with the book, you can assign the entire book to someone you are counseling or strategically assign certain chapters from the book. Those you are counseling can read in preparation for your next meeting with them, and at least part of your time can involve discussion and application of the content to their soul.
All “fear specialists” will find help and hope in this book
as we evaluate this common temptation through Scripture and fight this temptation with the gospel.