Family members used to tell me I reminded them of my Grandma Mae because of my tendency to worry. I often battled “what-if” thinking and had months of anxiety attacks that seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m a Christian so I know I wasn’t “given a spirit of fear,” but sometimes worry hijacked my thoughts and emotions. The physical effects of anxiety made me feel like I had no choice but to surrender. I felt like a prisoner in my own body.
I recently reviewed Louie Giglio’s book “Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table,” so I was excited to read his new book on the topic of worry called “Winning the War on Worry: Cultivate a Peaceful Heart and a Confident Mind.” Who am I kidding? I did a Snoopy dance of joy when I saw Thomas Nelson approved my request to read the advance review copy.
These two books physically look like companion pieces with the black and yellow cover design and the topics go well together. In the former book, Louie talked about God preparing a table before our enemies in this spiritual battle believers face. He took that imagery from verse 5 of Psalm 23 here and wrote about how we can keep that space a table for two and not give the enemy a seat. He wrote about how to kick the enemy to the curb. Believers have control over who they allow to sit at the table; in other words, they decide who they’ll allow to influence their thoughts. They have that authority in Jesus’ name, so they don’t go it alone. God provides ways out of temptation, even if the size of the door shrinks down to a Barbie-sized one — seriously, that’s the funniest description of how God provides escape routes.
Worry is a favored tactic of our Enemy in spiritual warfare, which is why he’ll try to get that seat next to us. He just wants to whisper lies to us. But believers don’t have to listen and have weapons they can wield.
Louie compared my “what-if” thinking to barnacles that stick to the bottom of a boat and slow it down, corroding the vessel. He too believed he inherited this tendency to worry, but he knew he didn’t have to give in to genetics. Worry is a choice, he said, and the good news is God can conquer worry for us. The root of worry is fear and God’s perfect love casts out fear and all its cousins: depression, anxiety, panic, and worry. He said a Penn State study showed about 91 percent of what we spend time worrying about never happens, so I’m wasting my time worrying when I could surrender that burden to Jesus in prayer instead. I can “invite Him into [my] worry, and when I do, I will experience true freedom and peace of mind.
Louie quoted Phil. 4:6-7 and said instead of thinking about the “what-ifs” we should think about “what is” –who God is — to lessen the size of our worries with greater trust in Him. He dissected worry and cut through to the heart: control. We think if we worry then we have some control over our circumstances, he said, but Jesus said in Luke 12: 25-26:
25 Can any of you add a cubit to his height by worrying? 26 If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest? (HCSB)
I can’t add to my height. I can’t add minutes to my day. I can’t get in a time machine and go back and fix things – oh, I’ve thought about it. Bottom line: I need to stop my “what if” thinking if I want to break the worry habit. I need to work on what God has given me to do today. I can focus on Jesus and place Him continually in front of me. I can think of what I’m grateful for and praise God. Doing these things can shift my mental landscape each day as well as questioning those negative thoughts as they come into the old noggin. Do they fit into what the Bible says in Phil 4:8 about what I should dwell on?
“…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
If the thoughts don’t line up, I can say, “Nope. Not today.”
Louie said it’s okay to plan and prepare, but I shouldn’t be picking up challenges until it is absolutely necessary to do so because Jesus said every day has its own set of trials. (Matthew 6:34)
We live in a fallen world. We’re all too aware that things can and do go wrong. Louie isn’t saying Christians will be miraculously shielded from negative circumstances when they surrender control to the Lord. But he said they can have assurance in God’s victory over worry. Reading these tips again as I wrote this review, I did wonder how many believers would think this is pretty simple advice. I don’t think it is. In the U.S. , I think most people believe in self-reliance. It’s not that easy to surrender control to another human let alone the God of the Universe. This needs to be a daily mental and spiritual habit for believers like me to work on. It does help to know that Louie himself has suffered the effects of anxiety and depression. These are tools he uses on the battlefield.
Which reminded me of his most relatable moment in this book: his 2 a.m. wake-up calls. He would wake in a panic and try to go back to sleep. Been there, done that. He said he came to this realization: God never sleeps. He’s awake, alert, and able always. God doesn’t get distracted. His attention isn’t divided. Just like Louie, I can sleep in full confidence that He watches over me and He’s in control. (Psalm 121:3-4, Psalm 127:1-2, Psalm 139:4.) Why hadn’t I realized that before?
Worry has a way of worming itself back into my mind when my guard is down, so I know I have a lot of work ahead of me, but in this latest book, Louie has given me new tools to remember and use. He also reminded me of Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study on Ephesians 6:10-19 that provided an inventory of what was in our “benefits package,” as she put it, when we accepted Christ. “Winning the War on Worry” is a resource I will return to many times, I am sure, and I plan to purchase a hard copy book, so I have both I can lend to someone else. Thank you, Netgalley and Thomas Nelson for blessing me with the opportunity to read Louis Giglio’s latest book.
P.S. While reading this book, I heard this new song, “Sound Mind” sung by Bryan & Katie Torwalt. Give it a listen because it connects both of Louie Giglio’s book topics. Coincidence? No way. That’s a God thing, for sure.