Tuesday, May 10, 2011

From Fear to Freedom: book review

Give up your success-and-failure patterns. Seek grace in Christ, humbly and honestly. Understand that a conviction of sin does not make you neurotic, but rather it spells the beginning of the end for neurosis. After all, what is a neurotic? Simply a hurting person who is closed off to criticism in any form and yet engages in the most intense, destructive self criticism that produces neither hope nor help. What a marvelous relief God’s grace in Christ offers. I had been totally criticized, and at the same time I was completely forgiven. As I rested in the work of another, my heart was at peace with God; and for the first time, I felt at peace with myself.
I read this quote in Of First Importance and knew I'd like to read From Fear to Freedom. Neurotic? Yes. Addicted to success? Yes. Not at peace with myself? Yes. Helped by the gospel? Yes, please! So I ordered a copy from The Book Depository and eagerly looked out for a cardboard-wrapped parcel in the letter box.

From Fear to Freedom is a short and easy read. It's a woman's story of her inner landscape: her upbringing by parents who valued order and morality; her own moral successes: a Christian marriage, well-brought-up children, and a busy hospitality ministry; how it fell apart, leaving her doubting and fearful; and how God rescued her.

Rose Marie contrasts two ways to live: as an orphan or as God's child. The orphan doesn't feel loved except when she meets her own and others' expectations (something women are particularly prone to!). Her life is filled with joyless duty. When things go wrong, she sees herself as a victim, blames others, and withdraws into anger and self-condemnation.

The daughter knows she's loved, perfect in God's sight. She has come face-to-face with her own helplessness, and knows only God can rescue her: her righteousness comes from him, not from obeying rules or keeping up appearances. So she's free from guilt and bitterness, free to forgive and relate honestly, free to risk herself in God's service.

It's good - although at times a little unsettling! - to see the old-fashioned gospel (drawn from Martin Luther's Introduction to his Commentary on Galatians) applied to 'modern' issues like neuroticism, victim mentality and blame-shifting. People haven't changed, and neither has God's word. The solution to anxiety, guilt and people-pleasing isn't, ultimately, counselling or a psychological theory: it's the gospel of grace.

This book isn't perfect. Rose Marie talks about a few things I was uncomfortable with, like the power of inherited sin through the generations, and spiritual warfare using certain forms of prayer. At these points the book tends to be 'gospel-plus'. You'll need to read with discernment.

Still, I recommend this book. It will help you find your way out of the orphan mindset into the freedom of a son or daughter of God.

1 comment:

Tasmanian said...

Sounds like I should read it!