Anxiety is one of the most frequent problems of modern Americans. Both those inside and outside the church struggle with the impact of fear and worry. In his new devotional, the newest volume in the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s 31 Day Devotionals for Life series, author Paul Tautges attempts to tackle the subject from a Biblical perspective. The book is packed with rich theological reflections to help us think rightly about fear and help, and is combined with practical tips on application. Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace is exposition of Scripture and sound theology applied well to personal struggles.
This devotional comes from the perspective of both a practitioner and a sufferer. Paul Tautges writes as both a pastor/counselor and as one who has struggled with anxiety. In his introduction he unpacks his own experience with fear and worry. He is compassionate in tone, and appreciative of the role that medications can play in helping those who struggle. His counsel, then, comes from a place of both theological reflection and personal experience. That combination helps to make him a good counselor, and the theological truths that he writes about in this book are not intended to be trite and simplistic. He writes with conviction and experience regarding the power of these doctrinal truths.
The book is broken down into three parts. Part one starts by helping us understand the nature of anxiety. Here he defines the subject and describes the experience. He gives readers a sense that they are understood and helps them to understand themselves better. He connects anxiety to a number of related issues and causes, including idolatry, envy, perfectionism, anger, irritability, and frustration. The first nine days should give readers lots to reflect on regarding their own experience of anxiety and their understanding of their personality.
Part two shifts focus to God. Days 10 – 14 give a good foundation to readers on the charter of God and His ability to meet our needs in the midst of anxiety. We are reminded of our “Good Shepherd” and His desire to give us greater and greater rest. We also find that our Heavenly Father cares for us, provides for us, and knows us. These three truths help to fuel our confidence and solidify the rest previously discussed.
Part three turns to the practical steps of fighting anxiety, it is by far the largest portion of the devotional. Here Tautges goes over loads of, Scriptural supported, strategies and practices that can help us confront and resist anxiety. Readers will certainly find this section of the book most helpful, but it works best when it is built upon the theological foundations of God’s character in the preceding portion of the book.
One thing I appreciated most about Tautges work is his emphasis on exposition. Many devotionals pull single verses out of context and build an entire reflection on one line of a passage, without much regard for actual words, context, or relationship to the whole of Scripture. Tautges never does this. Each day focuses on a verse, to be sure, but he develops the relevance of the verse in light of the content, context, and overall Biblical theology. He often outlines a principle of application and then draws on other passages to demonstrate how to apply it. For example, when discussing 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 and the destruction of “arguments and lofty opinions” and the taking captive of our thoughts, Tautges turns our attention to Matthew 6:25-34 and walks through God’s faithful care presented in those texts. The truths depicted in those verses become “daggers of truth that you can use to kill worry” (64). Tautges emphasizes the power of Scripture not just in theory, but in actual practice. This is a devotional that believes and practices the power of the Word of God for fighting worry.
Each day ends with some practical exercises and reflection questions, inviting the reader to attempt to work at fighting anxiety. I loved the exercises, many of which include basic spiritual practices: journaling, self-evaluation, and gratitude lists. There are times where I wished for a few more advanced exercises that attempted to address specific struggles associated with anxiety (like panic attacks, or filters in thinking, or hopelessness, etc.), but overall these are good practical tools.
This counseling devotional series continues to prove itself a great tool for both the counseling room and personal spiritual growth. Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace is a resource I will be using for years to come and highly recommend Paul Tautges work. A strong emphasis on exposition and doctrinal truth give greater weight to his practical counsel. This is what practical theology should look like in action.