Fear and anxiety are chronic struggles for many people that are only intensifying and increasing. Best-selling author Edward T. Welch shares the comfort and peace of Jesus in fifty brief readings for those who wrestle with fear.
A Small Book for the Anxious Heart is a small but powerful devotional to remind men and women of the encouraging, beautiful words in Scripture to anxious people.
While many books on fear and anxiety exist—promising to help men and women manage their struggles with methods and formulas—this devotional reaches deeper into Scripture, making the Word of God more accessible. Don’t put a Band-Aid on your fear and anxiety; rather, learn to bring your fear to Jesus, relying on his Word.
Welch has been counseling for over thirty-eight years and is the author of more than a dozen books, including A Small Book about a Big Problem, Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest, Shame Interrupted, When People Are Big and God Is Small, and many others.
Jesus cares for us, and in these readings, Welch invites readers to trust him for today, knowing he goes before us always.
Edward T. Welch, MDiv, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He earned a PhD in counseling (neuropsychology) from the University of Utah and has a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over thirty years and has written extensively on the topics of depression, fear, and addictions. His biblical counseling books include Shame Interrupted; When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest; When I Am Afraid: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Fear and Anxiety; Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love; and A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace.
“For those of us who often find ourselves simmering in anxious thoughts, we need something more than being told not to worry. We need something else, something better, to fill and shape our thoughts and feelings. Each short entry in this little book provides a dose of Scriptural truth to keep nudging us toward peace and rest in Christ.”
Nancy Guthrie, Author and Bible teacher
“Packed into A Small Book for the Anxious Heart is deep wisdom to help us with a persistent misery—the anxiety that robs us of freedom. And here is why I respect the counsel Ed Welch offers. It isn’t about handy tips for our own crisis management, but the moment-by-moment nearness of the Lord himself.”
Ray Ortlund, Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, TN
“Anxiety is a deep struggle that is rarely removed in one fell swoop. Instead, it requires a steady flow of Scripture to quell its tendency to consume our lives. A Small Book for the Anxious Heart provides readers with a sustaining stream of hope from the Bible.”
Curtis Solomon, Executive Director, Biblical Counseling Coalition
“When anxious, we need gallons of biblical wisdom for our muddled thoughts. But we are exhausted and can muster little emotional energy for books deep enough to help. Ed offers page-and-a-half chapters, thimblefuls of truth we can manage that soothe and steady.”
Steve Estes, Pastor, Brick Lane Community Church; coauthor of When God Weeps
“Anxiety, hassle, worry, stress, and bouts of panic are all rogues that harass us as we roam this broken world. Ed Welch gets the problem and knows we need fresh faith for each day’s burdens. A Small Book for the Anxious Heart is offered as an essential weapon in the fight for faith, peace, and joy.”
Dave Harvey, Pastor; blogger; teacher; author of I Still Do! Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments
“In fifty days of meditations, Dr. Welch pens short, pointed, and crystalline reflections that take hearts captive to fear and frees them to faith in Christ.”
Alfred Poirier, Visiting professor at Westminster Theological Seminary; author of The Peacemaking Pastor
“With clear, intimate writing, this small book addresses burdens carried by so many of us. On each page, truth and love are blended so that real life is the arena and the real God is the center. If we anxious ones will open its pages, we will again find God drawing wondrously near to us.”
Andrew Nicholls, Director of Pastoral Care, Oak Hill College, London; coauthor of Real Change: Becoming More Like Jesus in Everyday Life
“If you struggle with worry and fear, digest these bite-size chunks each day for fifty days, and I promise that your love for Christ will grow. Ed Welch’s A Small Book for the Anxious Heart is a goldmine of biblical truths for the worried soul.”
Deepak Reju, Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; author of On Guard and She’s Got the Wrong Guy
“Popular anxiety treatments are generally designed for the isolated individual. Ed refuses to concede isolation as the given, and helps us find God and others nearby when we are afraid. So we get to join him in finding today’s manna, living in today rather than tomorrow, and finding refuge from all that is so understandably scary.”
Michael Gembola, Executive Director, Blue Ridge Christian Counseling
“This is exactly what my anxious heart needed: briefly explained, surgically precise, and accurately applied Scripture to the very site of each metastasis and malignant cause of anxiety, fear, and worry within me. Repentance and renewed faith flourished within me as I savored every line of this welcome tool of grace.”
Joseph Vincent Novenson, Pastor, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, TN
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Excited to use this in a small group Bible Study full of busy moms and working women. Appreciate the shorter readings full of great content.
One of the best things I've ever been given..so great that I have it away and bought 3 more..all who have received have been thankful!
The personal reflections of the author give authenticity of understanding the challenge of being anxious. And the questions prompting a response at the end of each day's article are helpfully engaging to the reader.
During this time of a global pandemic, many are anxious. They fear they may test positive for the coronavirus. They worry what impact this may have on the economy and to their own bank account. The antidote to addressing these concerns is to look with trust to the One who is sovereign over it all. That is exactly what A Small Book for the Anxious Heart: Meditations on Fear, Worry, and Trust by Edward T. Welch is about. Practical Counsel for the Fearful and Anxious A Small Book for the Anxious Heart is filled with 50 daily meditations that are only a few pages each in length. The book is set up where the reader can read straight through from Day 1 to Day 50 or choose from the collection of meditations. While there is no particular order to the set of meditations, readers can gauge from the title which may pertain to them on a given day. There is a response at the end of each meditation for the reader to reflect on how they can apply what they have read. Many of the meditations give practical counsel to help the reader in their struggle as the author shares about his own. One of the best examples of practical counsel in this book is the meditation for Day 21 on asking for prayer. The book is comprehensive in nature as Welch takes Days 22 and 23 to provide insight on the impact fear and worry have on the physical body. Of course, the topic of money is given attention in the book as well. Throughout the 50 meditations, though, Welch reiterates fear and faith are linked in this struggle. The reality is fear will not be fully eliminated but that Christians should meditate on what will build their faith and trust in the Lord. A Critique of Concern I appreciated the practical counsel and the comprehensive work found in these meditations. I was thankful for defining terms upfront (see Welch pp. 6-8). Yet, while the definitions may have clarified some terms, one word was left wanting: worry. Moreover, how Welch seems to handle worry is built on a faulty foundation. He pointedly says, “know that there are good reasons to worry” (Welch 29). I disagree because the testimony of Scripture defines worry as sin as it reveals a lack of trust in God. Counselor Timothy Lane, in his book Living Without Worry, distinguishes worry from concern and references Bible scholar Dick France in saying worry is not merely concern but that worry is over-concern. Therefore, Welch wants to comfort readers there are good reasons to “worry”, a more appropriate term would be concern. For what it is worth, too, I would be wary of referring to The Message as a translation, as the book does, and use more of the language of a commentary. Quick Reads for Anxious People If you are not a big reader but find yourself needing to meditate on biblical truth during this anxious and fearful time, consider purchasing and gleaning from the meditations in A Small Book for the Anxious Heart. If you are looking for a quick read that will remind you where your trust needs to be as you worry and who you need to place your faith in while you face fears, then check out this book by Edward Welch. I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.
A Small Book for the Anxious Heart is the latest book by counselor and author Ed Welch. I really enjoyed Welch's first book in the series, A Small Book About A Big Problem and was very much looking forward to reading his new book on anxiety. I have struggled with fear and anxiety most of my life and A Small Book for the Anxious Heart has been very helpful with these struggles. Unlike many books that burden overwhelmed readers with more to do, Welch sympathizes with readers by humbly sharing about his personal experiences with anxiety. My favorite aspect of the book is how Welch gently helps readers take their eyes off of their anxiety and fix them back on Jesus. Rather than giving readers a self-help formula, Welch guides them to the one who is the true Helper. In the devotion for Day 9 titled The Solid God, Welch wrote, "Your sensory experience does not tell the whole story. It must be informed by the very words that come from the mouth of God. These words point to Jesus. His death for sins removes the only blockades that separate you from God. His risen life verifies everything he ever said. He is, indeed, quite solid," (pg. 37). This little book is full of such wisdom and it is greatly encouraging. One aspect of this book that I am particularly grateful for is the length of the daily devotions. Although this small book contains 50 devotions, the individual readings are succinct. I'm not a fan of devotions that are pages long because in this season with young children, it's hard to stay consistent in reading them. Ed Welch's small books are brief and beneficial. Each devotion in this book concludes with a Response section that includes 1-3 questions to think about or actions to take. I really enjoyed A Small Book for the Anxious Heart and am pleased to give it my highest recommendation. I received A Small Book for the Anxious Heart compliments of New Growth Press in exchange for my honest review.
When the email announcing Ed Welch’s new book hit my inbox offering me a promotional copy, I was very interested. Anyone familiar with counseling from a biblical perspective has surely benefited from an article or book of his over the years. As his bio notes, Ed Welch, MDiv, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at CCEF. He earned a PhD in counseling (neuropsychology) from the University of Utah and has a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Welch has been counseling for over thirty years and has written extensively on the topics of depression, fear, and addictions. In other words (my words) Welch is one of the most well-known figures of the second generation of Biblical Counselors. Instead of trumpeting all that, the marketing for the book humbly suggests, There is no quick fix for fear and worry, but the new devotional from Edward T. Welch seeks to help. The simple question before us then is, Does it? A Long “Small Book” A Small Book for the Anxious Heart is just that, a small book. It is 50-day devotional, with each day’s reading around 500 words, plus two or three short “Response” questions to help stir the reader to quiet reflection or beginning steps of action. Why 50 days, I don’t know. Why not 30? Why not 60? Fifty may well be an even number, but for a devotional book length it seems odd to me. The entries themselves seem to have little to no order or progression. By Day 18 it dawned on me that I could have been reading Day 1, and I thought the same when I got to Day 50. There does not need to be progression, but the lack of it is significant for a reason I’ll discuss later. Day 1 starts out promisingly enough. “[God’s] words to us cluster around two themes: your God is very near, and he gives the grace and power you need for today. The aim of this book is to help us become more skillful in how we identify our fears and anxieties, hear God’s good words, and grow” (emphasis added). Clearly Welch earnestly desires to serve others and that is, of course, admirable. The problem though, is that by the end of Day 1’s devotional and for the rest of the book, it misses the mark. And I really wish I did not have to write that. A few examples will follow, but since I mentioned Day 1, here is a statement near the end of the day’s reading, “God never intended us to bear the overwhelming burdens of life by ourselves. Instead, he gives himself—just the right person to bear them with us” (emphasis added). The problem is, God does not want us bearing our burdens at all. He tells us, commands us, to “roll them off” onto Him (Ps 55:22), to cast our cares on him, for he cares for us (1 Pe 5:7), to lay our heavy loads at Jesus’ feet and take up his light burden instead (Mt 11:28-30). Welch’s statement sounds comforting, but isn’t. It is intended to be help, but doesn’t. By Day 18 the book feels long. Hypothetically, the reader has lived almost three weeks since starting the book and yet at this point the book feels very much still at Square One. And it continues that way for 32 more days. Overall, where there are the occasional sentences and sections of solid theology and pointing to Christ, on the whole the book is minimally encouraging. By the end it feels like seven weeks + 1 day of revisiting the same wounds, at first dressing them, but never leaving them alone to heal. Every day is like lifting the bandage to look at how they’re doing. A Soft Word Turns Away A recurring problem in reading this book is the pulling back from using Bible-language, substituting softer words for those God uses in his Word. For example, nowhere that I could find does the book specifically mention the need to “repent” of the “sin/s” of anxiety and worry. Welch does say “why not confess your sin of unbelief right now?” (Day 10), and similar on Day 18, but these are only close, not exactly where the reader needs to be to biblically deal with their problem. He follows up that Day 10 exhortation with the sentence, “It [confession of sin] is an efficient way to interrupt the tailspin of fear and anxiety.” There are two problems with what is being said here. First, Christians do more than “confess” their sins to God—acknowledging them—we repent of them, which includes the element of not just confessing them but also of forsaking them. Second, we aren’t primarily to repent (“confess”) of sins to feel better or get relief, but to acknowledge we have sinned against a Holy, Just, and Perfect God; it’s primarily to honor God’s holiness and submit to his authority over us. A second example of this soft approach is found on Day 18 where Welch writes, “It is our breaking trust with God that separates us from him, his love, and his protection.” I’m honestly not trying to be nit-picky here. I am trying give quotes to support my impressions. It’s more than “breaking trust” with God that separates us, it is our sins, our rebellion, our—as RC Sproul put it—“cosmic treason”. Our failure to train others in thinking and speaking in biblical language leads us inevitably to either minimize God’s holiness or minimize our sin, or both. Day 28 (“Tomorrow”) and Day 30 (“Judgment”) are perhaps the strongest language in the book about dealing with our sin. A third example is on Day 36, where Welch writes, “The problem is when our wants shift into needs, which might more accurately be called loves.” Ed Welch has been serving the Body of Christ at least twice as long as I have been a Christian. He is smarter than me, has counseled tens of thousands of hours longer than I ever will, and I write all of this with great respect to my elder brother in Christ. However, when our wants shift into perceived needs, the Bible does not gently suggest them to be mere “loves”; it calls them idols. Welch knows this. If we are to disciple believers into wholeness and hope in Christ, and affirm that he can save them from their fears and anxieties, I’ve always been told we must love them enough to be clear, and that means using the words God uses if we are to counsel them from his Word. A Disappointing Role Model My disappointment with Welch’s quoting Eugene Peterson‘s Bible paraphrase The Message was only surpassed by his praise for Peterson the man. The popular paraphrase is also fraught with errors, causing at least one evangelical leader, Justin Peters, to call it “not only a poor paraphrase, but it is, in fact, heretical.” Whereas Al Mohler, in his essay about Peterson’s very public retraction of his full endorsement of gay marriage, describes Peterson as a man who “has never been very clear about controversial questions, or on many crucial biblical and theological questions. His writings were categorized as ‘pastoral theology,’ and there is little explicit doctrine in his books,” Welch regards him as “one of an endless number of God’s children who point the way for us and show us what is possible.” I don’t see Welch’s quoting of The Message or speaking of Peterson as egregious, only unfortunate. Welch quotes Peterson’s assurances about his own eventual death as an example of the kind of confidence (versus fear and anxiety) believers can have about their eventual demise. I agree! As Keith Getty and Stuart Townend co-wrote in In Christ Alone, Christians can rejoice, having now “No guilt in life, no fear in death/this is the power of Christ in me.” I just wish Welch had used someone else an example instead of Peterson, like maybe the famous martyr like Polycarp (“86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”), Jan Hus, or any of the hundreds of English martyrs who died for their faith during the Reformation, to name a few examples of those having no fear in death. Praise …and Problems There are some excellent passages, for sure in this book. Consider this tender and pastoral note of encouragement Welch offers readers: His love means that he will be close and nothing can separate you from him. His strength means that he is an ever-present help in trouble and he will make things right. These two are joined into one event: Christ and him crucified. In Jesus Christ, we see that God became our suffering servant who identifies with the weak and oppressed, and he takes their burden on himself. In Jesus Christ, we see the mighty God who takes up the cause of the weak and brings justice to the oppressed. He is the King who has inaugurated his kingdom that will conquer death itself. […]The entire Bible is meant to open your eyes to those truths about Jesus, who was seen by all, but for now is just barely out of sight. “A Small Book for the Anxious Heart” by Ed Welch, Day 23 But then, again, more problems emerge. On Day 42 Welch makes a comment about God and the Garden of Eden I have never heard anyone suggest, “The garden of Eden was God’s house on earth, and he walked with his people in the garden. When we left the garden, he left with us and promised that, in the end, sin would not interfere with his purpose” (emphasis added). Huh? I looked up the verb used in Gen 3:23. It is shalach, and it means “to send”, which by definition indicates the one doing the sending stays while the one sent departs. In fact, Matthew Poole in his commentary (and Gill agrees) says, “the Lord God sent him forth, or expelled him with shame and violence, and so as never to restore him thither; for it is the same word which is used concerning divorced wives” (emphases in original). No man or woman could write a book like Anxious unless they were writing from a place of deep compassion for their wounded readers, desiring to help point the way out of their darkness and misery and into the light of hope and peace in Christ. As he stated at the outset, Welch’s heart’s desire is to “help” readers, and of that there is no doubt. As well-meaning a resource as it is intended to be, A Small Book for the Anxious Heart regrettably misses its noble goal. A Small Book for the Anxious Heart by Ed T. Welch was published in October 2019 by New Growth Press. I received a promotional copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
It’s a way for someone facing worries and challenges to come before God regularly for a period of time to consider the promises of God and what it means to work through anxieties and cast our worries on the Lord. As habits are formed by daily repetition, this could help someone to daily stop and consider God’s place in their anxieties. However, this is probably not a book for someone with chronic anxiety, at least not on their own. Each short chapter is 2-3 pages, and so it’s a primer for hearts that worry. It will start to address the issues you face, and where your heart is in it, but it won’t be extensive. Some chapters are to prompt further thought, some are explicit biblical teaching, and some are challenges to your own behaviour. There was no clear order, it meanders through topics and seems to double back to things. Yet this works for many. I strongly prefer a clear structure, but not everyone does. And with the format used, it needs to and does have continual grace, teaching and challenge scattered throughout.
Anxiety is a common issue in our fallen world. Most of us have at least experienced this emotion at one point or another, or maybe even struggle with chronic anxiety. A Small Book for the Anxious Heart by: Edward T. Welch is the perfect companion when you are having one of those rough days. This devotional is broken up into fifty days with 2-3 pages to read per day. After the devotion, there are three reflection questions to go along with the reading. I liked that the readings were short and manageable. A shorter reading is much more meaningful when you are havng a busy day or are. I also enjoyed how much this book was based on scripture and incorporated scripture into every daily reading. There are so many books on anxiety out there, but they do not always put enough focus on the Source of alleviating anxiety, our Lord, and His word. Some of my favorite quotes were: “ ‘I am with you’ is the gift to anxious people. Our worries usually imply that we need someone – the right protector, the right fixer – who is close and is for us. Only those who know Jesus actually have that someone.” “Imagine saying, ‘Enough. Quiet. No further.’ You would need a strategy. ‘Stop’ could be accompanied by faith expressed by praying, breathing slower, cleaning, exercising, calling a friend, or simply focusing on the person in front of you. If panic attacks are the culprits, you could take a stand against a shrinking world that avoids more and more of life. Your trust in Christ could mean going to church, driving a car with a friend who accompanies you, and finding other ways to expand your boundaries. Jesus makes your world bigger.” “The Lord will give us all the grace we need for today. Tomorrow he will give us the grace we need for tomorrow. When you try to think about tomorrow without having yet received power for tomorrow, you will be anxious. “ If anxiety is a struggle for you, or if you know someone who is battling anxiety, this is a helpful little guide to pick up. Even if anxiety is not a daily challenge for you, we all feel anxious at times, and this would be a good resource to pick up (along with your Bible) during those tense times.
I have very mixed feelings about this book. As I read through it, I was disappointed in the depth of the first part. It seemed shallow. As I read on, the book did get deeper but I ended up with mixed feelings about it. Welch finally coupled fear and faith on Day 16. That just seemed way too far into the book for me. He got to the importance of prayer on Day 20. Again, way too far into the book for me. He cemented fear and faith in Day 40. Finally. Welch must be writing for very new Christians or ones not familiar with the Bible. He has a meditation on confession, for example, that seems to be for those who don't know we are commanded to confess our sins nor know the benefits of doing so. I am a little concerned about the accuracy of the writing. For example, Welch writes, “Anything of values comes through perseverance.” (Loc 195/1710) (Italics in the original.) My goodness. What about grace, mercy, the free gift of salvation? Welch is encouraging, but should also be correct! He updates Psalm 23 “in a way David would certainly have approved.” (Loc 237/1710) Welch knows what David would think about the update? And how about this? “For now, know that there are good reasons to worry.” (Loc 340/1710) I thought for sure Jesus told us not to worry, that there were no good reasons to worry for our heavenly Father takes care of us. (Matt.6:25ff) Welch writes often from a human viewpoint. For example, fears and anxiety are not necessarily sinful nor a result of sin, he writes. “Fears and anxieties reveal that you are a finite human who can control very little.” (Loc 506/1710) I would rather he said fears and anxieties indicate you do not believe God cares for you nor that God is sovereign. I found it interesting Welch again mentioned fears are not necessarily a result of sin but then has a meditation on the relationship of fears and hidden sin. (Loc 659/1710, 1044/1710) In that later meditation, he directly relates anxiety to hiding sin. (Loc 1044/1710) Welch is very compassionate in his writing, almost to the point of glossing over sin. We have plans and dreams, he writes, but we might “forget” that “[the] Father is in control.” (Loc 677/1710) He then encourages us to trust the Father and rest in Him. I was a little shocked at Welch's experience with prayer. He writes that he has spent 30 years on shortening the time between the appearance of anxiety and the onset of prayer, generally getting it down to an hour. (Loc 717/1710) When he prays, the peace of Christ does begin to rule in his heart and mind but it “still takes him by surprise.” (Loc 717/1710) That just made me shake my head. Later he writes about prayer, “confessing my own weaknesses...still feels unnatural.” (Loc 738/1710) This, even though later he writes of the necessity of being transparent before God. (Loc 1059/1710) Perhaps Welch's book structure mirrors the work of dealing with anxiety. He starts off very slowly but eventually gets to ways of dealing with anxiety like confession, prayer, believing God is greater, living in the present, believing God will take care of needs, etc. But then, on Day 40, he writes, “In this world, getting rid of all your worries is not an option.” And, “The absence of all fear...awaits the age to come.” (Loc 1361/1710, 1388/1710) So I am not sure what the purpose of this book is. It puzzles me. Perhaps Welch wants readers to expect to always have fear and anxiety to battle and turn over to the Lord. I'd rather live in victory, truly believing God is sovereign and is working all things to my ultimate good. I can rest there with no fear nor anxiety. I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.