Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Book Review: Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest (by Ed Welch)

One of the most helpful books the sheep of my flock have read is Ed Welch’s, When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man. Therefore, I was quite excited to get a copy of his new work on fear in general entitled, Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest.

I have to admit it took a little to get me interested in this book. The initial observations were quite interesting, but by 54 pages in I was more than ready to hear what the Lord had to say concerning fear. (Now, my mild frustration could also have been caused by the fact I was reading this book by a lake, wind in my face, aware that I had another 30 books or so to go! You read it and decide for yourself.)

I did find this to be one of those books that got progressively better. Moving on from some general thoughts on fear in the world, Welch leaned heavily on the manna event to set a paradigm of sorts for understanding God in relation to fear. From there he dealt with more specific passages on fear and anxiety and did a great job of handling them contextually. The book concluded with a description of God’s peace and how to become the kind of person that sows peace in the world.

The most helpful truth I gleaned from this excellent work was the oft-repeated idea that our fears expose our heart allegiances. For example, in reference to the fear of man, Welch writes:

“Whatever you think you need will control you. If you need something from other people – love, acceptance, approval – they hold the keys to something very valuable to you. You will live in fear that they might not deliver. You will fear those who are gatekeepers to the fulfillment of your needs.” (175)

Thus, we can use our fears to help us uncover our heart’s idols. If I fear my parents, perhaps it is because I have erected an idol called, “Approval of Others.” If I believe life is found in that idol then it is likely my fear of their disapproval will control my actions. Fears can be traced back to show us what we are really loyal to – most of the time, ourselves.

The book is full of great illustrations and is very personal. Welch is not afraid to expose his own battles with fear and not in some hokey, triumphalistic fashion. The reader gets the feeling we are all working on this together.

If you are in a small group that seeks to identify grace in others, and to help them see their sin, then I cannot commend this book to you enough. If fear is a large issue in your life, then I likewise commend it. And if you are just the kind of person that likes to understand how the inner person operates and are after some good tools for your own sanctification and ministry to others, I likewise commend the book.

Buy it. Sit on the dock this summer. And read to the profit of your soul!