Reading 2012: Running Scared

“This book has been a wonderful tool in the sanctification process for me. I would not find myself to be a person of chronic worry. But this book has helped me to see my lack of faith in many areas of my life. The recognition of the ‘background noise’ that Welch speaks of has helped me to refocus and see where my idols are. And by claiming and holding fast to Matthew 6 I can have the victory.
This book has in no way ‘cured’ me in my sin of worry. But done something much greater. It has shown me my sin and caused me to cry out to the One who is in control of all things and all situations. And in return His name is being glorified and not my own. Praise the Lord! 
So I pray this book will provide [you with] the same hope, deliverance, and wonderful rest that Christ intended us to experience through Him and only Him.”

 

This “testimonial” is written inside the front cover of my copy of the book Running Scared: fear, worry, and the God of rest by Ed Welch. Each Christmas, every member of the Hindman clan buys a gift for one other person. In 2008, my sister-in-law, Trinity, was the one buying for me and wisely gave me this book. It was right before I married Daniel; so I’m not sure if she knew me well enough to know that fear was a major struggle in my life or not. Either way, it was the best gift she could have ever given me. Hers was the testimony of the book written within the front cover.
Attempting to sum up the impact this book has made on me in one blog post is like trying to sum up my college experiences in a few sentences. If you’ve done any reading on my blog before, you know that brevity and conciseness is not my strong suit, but I’ll do my best. You’ll just have to read the book for yourself to get the full picture I suppose.
I should also say that writing this summary (as well as anything else that I write) is mainly used as a tool to aid me in recollection and confirmation of what the Spirit has taught (and is teaching) me through my experience. I’m always overjoyed to hear of how my growth may impact yours, but I’m out to lecture myself, not you.
Initial Observations: 
Welch is an excellent author for a number of reasons, but one of his most valuable skills to me is his ability to write right to the heart of the issue(s). The first portion of the book, consisting of a few chapters, marks the ubiquitous nature of fear, affecting both young and old, rich and poor, male and female, Jew and Gentile. Fear is like death, it’s no respecter of persons, and there is no one (who’s honest) who doesn’t fear something in one way or another.
He writes in such a way that forces you to own up to your specific fears, and aids you in identifying those fears in unfamiliar (to you) places, finding their root in unexplored sources. For example, most of us can identify with that post-bank-account-viewing-tension that arises in our spirit when finances are “tight”, and can be alerted to the fact that fear is creeping in. But how many of us recognize fear is reigning when we get angry at our young child for not eating the proper nutrition? Anger is just an expression of fear in that situation because the real reason I’m angry is because I’m afraid Ali isn’t going to be healthy or that I’m going to be seen as a bad parent.
At this point in the book I’m being made aware that my fear touches more areas of my life than I thought. They easily “fly under the radar” though, because I’ve become so accustomed to them. My fear “gradually becomes the background noise of everyday life.” Welch writes to encourage us to call our fears to the foreground and identify what our fears reveal about our “allegiances.” My fear reveals what I love.
God Speaks: 
 
The first four chapters wrestle you into a front row seat at the theatre of your everyday life and the fears that go with that. Chapters 5-30 cover what God says about fear, how He commands us not to fear, and how He helps us respond to that command with obedience.
“By far, God’s most frequent command . . . is ‘Do not be afraid'”, occurring over 300 hundred times throughout the Bible. Welch points out that in our culture, repeating yourself is perceived as annoying and that the person repeating themselves is viewed as a nagger. But consider the culture in Israel’s day. Repetition was the way to emphasize something as important, very important. Also consider how little meaning “I love you” has when it isn’t spoken but once or twice a year. When God repeats Himself, it isn’t to annoy or nag, but to emphasize and strengthen the meaning of His words . . . and because He knows how forgetful I am.
The first step after identifying your fear, is to identify your God. Who is He? What does He say about my fear? What does He say about Himself, and how does that help me fight fear?
Given the prolific references to fear throughout the Word of God, there are many case studies that one can work through. Welch however, chooses one that resonates with each and every one of us: the Israelites. If you haven’t already seen yourself as one that makes the same mistakes they did, you should probably start there.
God called them to trust Him for daily bread, literally. The people were only given enough food for one day at a time, unless it was the day before the Sabbath. Then they were given two portions so they wouldn’t violate the command to rest on the Sabbath by gathering manna. Welch calls this “the manna principle.” Meaning, “God is a God Who tests, and He will test you.” This isn’t to see how you measure up, but to reveal to you where your allegiances are, whether wrapped up in a kingdom of your own making, or in God’s kingdom.
{My allegiances are often revealed to be close knit with financial security, physical well-being, and man’s approval.}
I’m thankful God tests me, otherwise I would go on feeling a.ok, without knowing my heart was being a traitor to the kingdom of my Father. This being the Father who calls me to trust Him, instead of my own security system, whether a system of alarms and deadbolts to keep threats out, or fake smiles and polished appearances to gain the approval of my neighbors.
Being a God Who tests, He often waits until the last second to bring about deliverance, like with the feeding of the 5,000 or even after all hope seems to have disappeared, like with the death of Lazarus. Welch calls this “11th hour deliverance.” There were several points in Jesus’ ministry where He purposefully waited until after people had died before He intervened. How amazing to realize in hindsight that He was preparing His followers for His own death, when all hope would seem to be lost. Nothing He does is unintentional or purposeless in my life. He’s preparing me and training me to trust Him in this little decision, that little health issue, this painful disapproval because He wants me to be ready. Ready for what? Ready to seem Him, to recognize Him at work.
There is a wealth of instruction and insight in this book. I’ve only picked up on a few precious thoughts so far. I can’t tell you what this read has done for my soul. There isn’t space or time to cover all of it here, but let me list out some of the chapter headings. Perhaps some of them will tug at you, encouraging you to take the next step in fighting your own fear or worry.
God Speaks . . . 
 
A. On Money and Possessions 
The message of the kingdom
When the kingdom isn’t enough
Grace for tomorrow
“Seek my Face”
Where is my treasure?
B. On People and Their Judgements 
Do not trust in Man
Love more than need
Fight fear with fear
C. On Death, Pain, and Punishment 
Fear of death
Fear of judgement (A huge one for me!)
A Glimpse of Heaven
Already Dead (the truth of having died with Christ and being resurrected with Him)
D. Peace Be With You 
I will be with you
I promise
Pray
Bring on the worst
Peace be with you
Peace for the peacemakers
Yesterday and Today
Tomorrow
The fact that Trinity said “this book has in no way cured me” means a lot to me. I sometimes get concerned that whoever might read my blog will think that since I wrote about this or that, I’ve learned it and am perfect in that area now. Nothing could be further from the truth. What you’re reading is the initial lightbulb of understanding. Now to go out and learn how to put it into practice. This fearful, impatient, prideful person appreciates your encouragement and help as I grow.Thank you Trinity!

Apparently I have a running theme going because after Running Scared I’m reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.Just fyi, I’m going to do a photo purging of all things food related this week. As a result, I’ll be doing a 5 day recipe series on the blog, starting tomorrow. Looking forward to it!

 
 
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