Anxiety Interview

May 9, 2012

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The BCC Author Interview Q & A with Bob Kellemen

As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Bob Kellemen as he talks about his book Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure, which is part of a new series of booklets by P & R Publishing and the Association of Biblical Counselors, called The Gospel for Real Life.

BCC: Bob, thank you for interviewing with us about your new booklet, Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure. In the booklet, you highlight the idea of victory in anxiety and not just victory over anxiety. What’s the difference and why is it so important?”

BK: “If we emphasize victory over anxiety, then we’re assuming that every person, this side of heaven, is guaranteed that if they do the right thing or believe the right way, then they will never experience the emotion of anxiety again. That is not a biblical promise. By emphasizing victory in anxiety, I want to convey what it’s actually like to be struggling with and fighting against anxiety—in dependence upon the Word of God, the people of God, and the Spirit of God. I want to help readers each day to seek God’s daily bread to empower them to have victory in the battle as they fight, in God’s power, against the effects of the Fall in their life.”

BCC: “You note in the booklet that this Gospel-centered approach is ‘the remedy to take two verses and call me in the morning.’ Tell us more about that.”

BK: “Here’s the stereotype. You share with a friend, counselor, or pastor that you’re struggling with worry, fear, or anxiety. Their response? ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Philippians 4:6). In that scenario, it’s not even ‘take two verses and call me in the morning.’ It’s ‘take one verse and don’t call me.’ We need a much more robust, relational approach to changing lives with Christ’s changeless truth. Victory in anxiety requires a comprehensive, compassionate biblical theology of anxiety.”

BCC: “Some might think, ‘I’m struggling with anxiety and you’re talking about theology!’”

BK: “You’re exactly right. But if we’re to avoid the one-problem-one-verse-one-solution mentality and experience the relevance and power of God’s Word, then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. So, in Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure, I provide a brief, relevant Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation view of anxiety.”

BCC: “Okay, now we’re curious. Before the Fall, was there some healthy emotion that somehow is akin to anxiety?”

BK: “Every dysfunctional, fallen emotion is a distortion of God’s original pre-fall design. God intended for us to experience a mood that is the ‘flip side’ of anxiety. If we’re to understand the ‘disorder’ of anxiety, then we first must understand the ‘order’ that sin has disordered.

I call it ‘vigilance.’ God placed Adam in the garden to ‘work it and take care of it’ (Genesis 2:15b). The KJV says ‘to dress it and to keep it.’ The Hebrew word behind ‘take care of’ and ‘keep’ means to guard, protect, keep safe, watch over, keep vigil. God called Adam to be on sentry duty. To fulfill this calling, God created Adam (and us) with the mood or emotion of vigilance. The root ‘vig’ (vigil, vigilant, vigor) relates to a sentry. God built into our brains a sentry, a sentinel.

With vigilance, God puts us in fast motion—the emotion urges us to act quickly in response to a life threat. Vigilance is proper, constructive concern for the well-being of others and for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.”

BCC: “So, how did ‘vigilance’ go bad?”

BK: “Anxiety is vigilance out of control—hyper-vigilance, stuck vigilance. You scan… and scan… and scan your environment worried about the ‘what ifs’ of life. Anxiety is toxic scanning. Anxiety is also vigilance trying to maintain control in a self-protective and self-sufficient way. Anxiety is vigilance minus faith in God.”

BCC: “What difference does the cross make, does Redemption make?”

BK: “Jesus modeled constructive vigilance in the Garden of Gethsemane. He faced His dread of death (Matthew 26:39), and He placed His faith in His Father’s good heart and strong hands (Matthew 26:39). He entrusted Himself to the God who raises the dead. As believers, we need to ask ourselves, ‘When anxiety strikes, where does it drive me?’ Think about the last time fear stalked you. Did you respond by trusting God and protecting others? Or, did you respond by trusting yourself and protecting yourself?”

BCC: “After introducing this practical theology of anxiety, you explore Philippians as a model for facing anxiety face-to-face with Christ. Why Philippians?”

BK: “From cover to cover the Bible has much to say about moving from fear to faith. We look at one book—Philippians—and focus on one chapter—chapter 4. We concentrate here not because it is the only or best place to look for wisdom regarding anxiety, but because it’s the common place with that oft-quoted verse about being anxious for nothing. We want to put that verse in the context of Paul’s entire letter to the Philippians. My hope is that readers will be thinking: ‘Incredible! One short epistle and one brief chapter in the Bible have that much relevant counsel about anxiety. I can’t wait to explore the rest of the Word to find truth for life so that I can experience victory in anxiety!’”

BCC: “What type of wisdom for victory in anxiety do we find in Philippians?”

BK: “I outline it this way:

  • Guard Your Relationship with God Your Guard: Faith in Your Father
  • Commit to Mature Relationships with God’s People: It Takes a Congregation
  • Cling to Your Identity in Christ: Wholeness in Christ
  • Put on the Mind of Christ: The Weapons of Your Warfare
  • Practice What You Preach: Living and Loving with Courage
  • Soothe Your Soul in Your Savior: Emotional Maturity 101
  • Live Wisely in a Fallen World: Jars of Clay.”

BCC: “As you journey with readers through a biblical view of anxiety, tell us about the case study you highlight.”

BK: “I believe in the sufficiency and relevancy of God’s Word to address real life issues. So, throughout Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure I talk about ‘Mike.’ We highlight how Mike faces his fears face to face with Christ. For instance, in the section on God as your Guard (your Sentry), Mike notes that:

I don’t have to live an anxious, guarded life. I don’t have to guard myself or be self-protective. I don’t have to be self-focused—always stuck scanning my horizon fearfully. I can live an unguarded life because God is my Guard! I can protect others because God is my Protector! I can focus my energies on God and others because God is my Sentinel!”

BCC: “Throughout Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure, you have sections you call Applying the Gospel to Daily Life. Can you share some examples?”

BK: “These sections become like a built-in application guide for personal use and discussion guide for group use. For example, for the section on Victory in Anxiety Occurs in Community, we ask: ‘As you struggle against anxiety, who are your spiritual teammates? Do you have a band of spiritual brothers, a sorority of spiritual sisters who fight with you?’ And in the section on Living and Loving with Courage, we ask: ‘Where can you replace fearful inaction with other-centered action? Be specific: what initial “faith steps” can you take?’”

BCC: “What final word of encouragement would you offer people struggling with anxiety?”

BK: “Keep clinging to Christ and His Word. Remember the power of the Gospel. It is sufficient to guide you in your journey toward victory in anxiety. I know—because I, too, struggle with and against anxiety. And I’m learning daily how to experience victory in anxiety through Christ and the Body of Christ.”

BCC: “Where can people learn more about Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure?”

BK: “At my website, RPM Ministries, people can order copies at the RPM Store. For free sample sections, quotes of note, PowerPoint presentations, and more, people can visit Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure. They can also order at all your typical e-tailers like Amazon, CBD, and at the Association of Biblical Counselors’ store.”

BCC: “Thank you, Bob, for writing this practical booklet that equips God’s people to apply His truth to their daily lives.”


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