Monday, August 27, 2012

Anxious for Nothing: God's Cure for the Cares of Your Soul, by John MacArthur, Jr.


John MacArthur, Jr. (of Grace to You fame) offers biblical counsel for those struggling with anxiety, worry, and stress. The first few chapters are by far the strongest, but there's good counsel throughout.

In the opening chapter (by far my favorite in the book), MacArthur admonishes his readers to observe God's care for them. Using the Sermon on the Mount, points us to three reasons why believers should not worry: "It is unnecessary because of our Father" (He feeds His creatures and clothes the meadows in splendor, and besides, worry doesn't actually help), "it is uncharacteristic because of our faith" (by worrying we disbelieve Scripture and distrust God), and "it is unwise because of our future" (we need to live one day at a time and entrust the future to God). I found this theology of worry extremely helpful, particularly as MacArthur sums it up:
[W]orry is needless because of God's bounty, senseless because of God's promise, useless because of its impotence to do anything productive, and faithless because it is characteristic of unbelievers.
In the second chapter, MacArthur encourages anxious Christians to fight anxiety by thankful prayer, right thinking, and godly action--in that order. Worry, according to MacArthur, is not the product of too much thinking, but of wrong thinking. As a result, we fight anxiety not by not thinking, but by thinking well, per Philippians 4:8--thinking true things. So we remind ourselves that God is good, that He is sovereign, that He is working all things for our good and His glory. We preach the Gospel to ourselves. Once we think true thoughts, we can engage in right actions, which, according to MacArthur, will produce spiritual peace and stability.

MacArthur then addresses the need for Christians to 'cast all their cares upon [God]', which they are to do by being humble (to others and to God) and trusting God. He then argues that as we grow in faith, anxiety will decrease. He looks to Hebrews 11 and 12 for guidance on this matter, calling his readers to 'lay aside any encumbrance' (whether sin or legalism or doubt), to focus on Jesus (and heaven), and to praise God (particularly by meditating on His attributes and recalling His works).

In addition, MacArthur reminds us that others are looking out for us: angels who guide and protect us; and fellow believers use their spiritual gifts to serve and love us (and we should do the same). There follows a rather random chapter on dealing with problem people (the wayward, the fainthearted, the weak, the wearisome, and the wicked), but soon MacArthur is back on track with a chapter explaining God's peace, which is always available and is not affected by circumstance. From there, he spends a chapter on the dangers of complaining, which is both damaging to Christians and which misrepresents God to non-Christians. He closes with a chapter extolling the virtue of contentment. Because, after all,
The Christian's Excalibur against the dragon Anxiety is named Contentment.  
The book also includes an appendix containing excerpts from Psalms, as well as a study guide/readers' guide.

As I said, I think the first few chapters are the strongest, mainly because I find truth to be the best defense against worry, but MacArthur's theology and counsel are solid throughout, and I suspect this book would be very helpful to anyone struggling with anxiety.

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