Book Review: How To Live In Fear

How To Live In Fear: Mastering The Art Of Freaking Out, by Lance Hahn

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

One might think, looking at the title of this book, that it was an ironic and tongue-in-cheek [1] sort of book about how fear isn’t that much of a problem after all, or making fun of those who suffer from fear. That thought would be incorrect. Instead, this book is a moving and somewhat short Christian self-help book written to the millions of believers who, usually silently, wrestle with the scourge of anxiety disorders. A few of us, like the author [2], are more bold in talking about our struggles with PTSD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or various other related illnesses, which have a terribly heavy cost to people and to society at large and are one of the most poorly treated families of disease that exist. The statistics that the author cites from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America on pages 48 and 49 of the book are particularly grim, stating that 40 million Americans suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder (some of us, like myself, are unfortunate enough to suffer from more than one), more than ten percent of the population. Nearly half of those who are diagnosed with depression also are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, as is the case with me as well. Nearly eight million Americans live with PTSD, of which rape is the most common trigger, as it was for me when I was diagnosed with it as a small child. Thirty-six percent of those who suffer from social anxiety disorder experience symptoms for more than ten years before seeking professional help. I was in my mid-twenties before being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which appears to affect women twice as often as men, and my symptoms had begun long before then, and had been at a critical level by my teens and early adult years. These are the sorts of statistics that keep one up at night, as if one had consumed too much caffeine. At its core, though, the book is an effort by someone to discuss, in sometimes painful personal detail, the continual struggle against fear and anxiety in the hope of encouraging other Christians who suffer that their suffering is not without purpose, and that they do not suffer alone or because they are weak or bad Christians. This is a brave effort, and certainly a necessary one.

In terms of the content and structure of this book, the author takes about 200 pages to cover a practical guide to living with anxiety disorders. In the first part of the book, which takes up three chapters and about thirty pages, the author talks about his own story, his questions about why he suffers from anxiety, the return of angst and torment in his mid-twenties, and a dark period of forty difficult days. Then, in the next five chapters after that, taking up over 70 pages, the author talks about the journey shared by those who, like the author, struggle with fear, a case study about a flight ruined by fear of a Muslim who had not shown up on the flight manifest, a justification for the use of medication, and a look at the triggers and root causes of fear as well as the external circumstances that either exacerbate it or can help relieve it. The third and final part of the book, which takes up almost 100 pages, looks at the journey of believers with God, looking at the way it is in heaven, God’s will in earth, the three lifesavers (scripture, prayer, and worship), spiritual warfare, the beneficial and glorious outcomes of our suffering, and some encouraging truths to keep in mind for the book’s readers. After this the book closes with acknowledgements, brief endnotes, and a humorous and short biography of the author.

There is a great deal to praise about this book. It is written about a matter that is both alarmingly common as well as something that is little discussed from a thoughtful and encouraging point-of-view within Christian writings. The author’s efforts to encourage fellow sufferers of anxiety disorders and reduce the stigma within Christianity for those who suffer from serious and chronic mental illness is to be commended. The author’s transparency and openness are refreshing an worthy of emulation. The author shows a great command of scriptures and most of this book is rich in scriptural references in a way that both challenge and edify the reader. The author even points to the importance of the Sabbath, even if it is clear that the author’s observance of the biblical Sabbath is somewhat mixed. Nevertheless, although this is a very good book, it is not a perfect one. Specifically, the author makes a case for taking medications that alludes to the existence of difficult scriptures but does not directly comment on them outright, or even refer to scriptures at all, making his case to approve of the experimental taking of medications, even when one does not know exactly what will work and despite the massive and even miserable side effects of many medicines, entirely on the basis of human reasoning, which is remarkably unwise. A great deal of effort needs to be taken into understanding mental illness better so that the treatment of such diseases can be more clinical and precise in nature, and less like somewhat random internal chemical and biological warfare. Likewise, even if the author would find it better to discuss the problematic connection between drug use/abuse and the biblical hostility towards “sorceries” in the Greek New Testament in a separate essay, by alluding to such scriptures without citing them or discussing them is a shortcoming. Thankfully, the book is still of great value in encouragement as well as scriptural exegesis on the problem of anxiety, and deserves appreciation by a wide audience, who will appreciate the book’s practical approach as well as the author’s self-effacing sense of humor and keen insight.

[1] After all, some of the book titles I read are particularly ironic. See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: How To Live In Fear

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