Linda Dillow, “Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment” (Audiobook: Oasis Audio, 2007)
How do you try to get rid of anxiety? Do you think of solutions to the problem you’re facing? Do you cover up the anxiety by being busy? Or slide down the slippery slope of endless worrying? Today’s book is one that will speak to such an anxious heart. I listened to this as an audiobook, but there are Kindle and paperback versions available from NavPress.
Because the contents of this book was filled with nuggets, I had to re-listen to the book over 3 times to let the contents sink in. Being one who is prone to worry from an early age, I was recommended this book at a time when I found myself finding it difficult to secure another job, all the free time and nowhere to go…and finding no reason to get up in the mornings; with my anxious heart growing by the day.
Although the Bible repeatedly tells us “do not fear” and “do not worry”, how is it practically done? It is “to have a heart of contentment”. It sounded obvious, but then, upon further inspection, I found out that my heart was very far from being content.
Dillow writes that one is able to grow a heart of contentment in these areas of life: circumstances, self (personality and body), circumstances and relationships. Today, I would like to zoom in on the area of “self”. What does it mean to be “content to be me”? Personally, I was the type of person who was never satisfied with my personality. If only I were more like this…if only this part of me would change…if only I were like that person…those thoughts would parade my mind under the banner of “self improvement”. However, Dillow rains on my parade. She tells me that the God who created me specifically gave me certain strengths, weaknesses and personality traits. To deny that would be to deny the work of the Lord, as well as a waste of time. Things that I can and cannot do were intentionally placed so that I can fulfill certain purposes that the Lord has placed in my life. I learned the importance of living with intention, as well as using my personality for His glory.
I loved Dillow’s proactivity throughout the book. She talks about how she realized that she was a control freak, and decided to let the Lord be the “blessed controller” of her life. This is not to raise both arms up and give up; it is about knowing what areas of life are under our control, and leave the rest in His hands (needless to say, it is not an easy task to discern between the two). How then, are we to control the areas which are entrusted to us? It is to “choose”.
There are many choices in our lives, but one of the biggest choices is the choice to be grateful. It is remembering what the Lord has done in the past, and believing that He will continue to lead us. Dillow specifically wrote these things down when she was anxious. This, I think, is such wonderfully practical advice to battle anxiety. It’s not just making a mental list, but writing them down. And to see that list, and prayerfully declare with gratitude all that He has done. This is not the same as making a simple “gratitude list” as the world is hyped up about. It isn’t about having a “Hakuna Matata – problem free philosophy”. It is declaring, with faith, that Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, will continue to lead us as He has led us until now (Hebrews 13:8).
This book is full of Dillow’s experiences as a missionary to countries that were under Communist regime, as well as stories of the strong faith of the women she met there. Also including quotes from famous Christians throughout history, this entire book does not feel old (even though it was first written in 1989). It is quite relevant to those living in the 2020’s, because the solid foundation is on the living and active Word of God. Dillow’s honest confession of her heart as she went through different trials was also very encouraging to hear.
Throughout history, there has never been a shortage of things to be anxious about. And we are not told that we are to wipe away our anxiety in our own strength (although the world loves to dish out books on how to do that…in just 3 simple steps!). At the same time, however, it isn’t just about praying that God will take away our anxiety. It is about discerning between the extent to which we leave it up to the Lord, and the extent where it is our responsibility to take action (and oh how we need to pray for wisdom to receive even that!). There are times when all we can do is to pray for the strength to even take that one simple step forward. And that is okay. For it is from there, we can start growing a heart of contentment.