The End of Worry / The Worry Book
Statistically life has never been safer, yet our world and churches are filled with worries on the scale of an epidemic, so what has gone wrong? There is an expanding self-help section in your local bookshop. But how many books should you buy? When has every topic been covered? And isn’t this just a new kind of slavery as you try to keep up? The church believes it has something to say about worry, but what it says can leave people with more fear and stress – this time relating to their faith!
This book offers a different solution – seeing the process of worry as the problem rather than individual concerns. People use worry to create a sense of certainty and control, but the illusion is temporary and even more worries are generated. You will learn about the factors behind worry and how to tolerate uncertainty – things that can be applied to every situation.
We have not written a triumphalist response to the problem. In many ways it would feel far more comfortable to write of simple obedience to scriptures about 'not worrying' and to tell people to ‘try and pray harder’. Yet we know from personal and professional experience that even the most determined and convicted Christian can remain ensnared by worry. Many great Christians; John Bunyan, Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon to name but a few, have quietly said that their freedom and joy have been fettered by such anxieties. We suggest that the general reluctance to share these battles more publicly amongst leaders stems from a belief that to do so would weaken their witness and their leadership. Perhaps our own reluctance to put these issues on paper demonstrates a similar fear in us.
At the same time we can clearly see how our reluctance to address worry directly has led to a culture of shame and silence around the issue. In Will’s work in the church, in Rob's for the National Health Service and in our speaking nationally on issues of emotional health, a universal cross section of people confesses to being consumed by worries while deeply ashamed about their (seeming) inability to exhibit a simple trust. In only a very few instances have people had any awareness of the contribution of psychological factors to problematic worry. Christians tend to believe that the problem is purely spiritual – one of simple disobedience and lack of trust. It is no surprise then that they often feel too ashamed either to acknowledge that a problem exists or to seek help to overcome it.
Worry is a normal human emotion and there are times when it is perfectly right to worry:
Jackie is a mother whose son has joined the Army and been posted to a war zone. She knows she can't not care – this is impossible, not to mention immoral, for a mother. But neither does she feel she can allow herself to consider the possible ultimate consequences. If she were, for example, to contemplate her son being blown up it would probably destroy her and at the very least she would probably have a panic attack. So she has a good old worry instead. If she is honest, her worry has become a comfort. Other similar mums can share this with her. It is her friend at the moment.
Jackie is not the only example we could give. Will and his wife Louie nearly lost their second child Joseph-Douglas during the writing of this book. For seven consecutive weeks their child was treated in hospital with serious breathing problem and a complex MRSA infection. Will described the period as the most genuinely and justifiably worried he has ever been in his life. Interestingly he said it ‘felt’ very different to the sort of worry he normally experienced, you will hear more about these two types of worry in this book. Will described the sort of ‘justifiable’ worry that he experienced here as similar to the anguish of the Prodigal's father who watched every night for his sons safe return (Luke 15v20).
Worry also has a protective function, making sure we prepare for possible threats when in dangerous places, or making suitable preparations for retirement or times of ill health. Worry might not be the right word to use here, but there is definitely a process of thinking going on that is driven by a fear of something bad happening. If we didn’t worry, we’d be dead.
So this level of normal worry (acute concern might be a better way of putting it) can easily turn into more unhelpful worry. It begins to have a more unhelpful function and we get stuck in cycles of worry. Someone once said that worry is like a rocking chair – it doesn't get you anywhere but at least it gives you something to do. And this is the main function that worry has. It gives you something to do, instead of something else to do that seems impossible or unpalatable.
‘The Worry Book’ is a journey-man's guide through the comedy and heartache of discovering worry’s function and so removing its power. It incorporates not only good psychology but also orthodox biblical theology, and so offers new perspectives. The book offers real hope to worriers because it reveals what to pray for – not that each and every worry might be resolved, but that worry would be understood for what it is and that God might bring deep and lasting change.
Commendations for 'The Worry Book'
I like The Worry Book for two reasons: first, it will help life's worriers to worry less; and secondly, I know that vulnerable people are in safe hands with the authors. This book strikes a rare balance in its presentation of liberating truth. It is both scientifically informed and theologically sound; it is both realistic and at the same time faith promoting. The Worry Book is in effect a practical commentary on the greatest advice ever given on worry – Jesus’ statement: ‘Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ (Matthew 6:34).
-- Peter Anderson, Lead Pastor of Destiny Church Edinburgh
Based on cognitive-behaviour therapy principles and a scientific understanding of worry, the psychology throughout the book is sound. For those who seek guidance and inspiration in the Bible, the authors offer a thoughtful way of approaching verses that may be confusing for those who are prone to worry. The balance between reflection and action is nicely struck, and with worksheets that link the two together, people can plan what to do and how to go about doing it. Finally, the book is written from a very personal perspective, showing real insight into the world of the worrier, and, most importantly, it is written with compassion.
-- Professor Mark Freeston, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Newcastle University, UK; researcher, author and trainer on CBT for anxiety disorders
Jesus didn’t say, ‘There’s nothing to worry about’, but ‘Don’t worry in spite of everything there is to worry about.’ Will van der Hart and Rob Waller tackle this key issue in many people’s lives.
-- Nicky Gumbel, Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton
One of the hardest verses in the Bible is 'Do not worry', and I was therefore intrigued by The Worry Book. Well, I couldn't put it down! It is honest, humorous and holistic. I was re-educated and I am already seeing the benefits.
-- Canon J.John, author and evangelist
A very thoughtful, balanced and practical approach to the reality of anxiety. The authors have authority to write on worry, not only because they know the subject very well, but especially because they have a passion to help others with the same spirit as the Great Physician: reaching the whole person and not only their emotions. The Worry Book goes far beyond the practical help of a mere self-help book; it is a therapeutic tool that is solidly founded on the Scriptures.
-- Dr Pablo Martinez, author and psychiatrist
This easy-to-read mix of pastoral counsel, biblical exposition, personal experience, plentiful anecdotes and practical exercises will help many anxious Christians to recognize and break free from the 'worry rules' that prevent them from enjoying the perfect love that overcomes all fear.
-- Dr Trevor Stammers, former GP and Chair of Christian Medical Fellowship 2007–2010
Will Van Der Hart and Rob Waller, 31/05/2011