“Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry,” by Perry Noble
© 2014, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 237 pages, $15.99
Stress and anxiety. We all experience it to some degree or another. Stress comes in many shapes and sizes, including short-term stress over a public speaking event or an important meeting at work. These episodes cause stress and anxiety up until the actual episode is over—then we experience relief.
Other times stress can shadow us for long periods of time, making us believe that no matter what we do, we cannot escape its grip. This type of stress and anxiety is there when we wake up and when we go to bed. It’s lingering in the backs of our minds nearly all the time, temporarily masked by short periods of distraction.
When we feel as if we are unable to break free from the tightening grip of stress and anxiety, we back into a position of feeling overwhelmed—feeling nearly incapable of functioning on a daily basis.
Hopefully we don’t all get to this point but for those who do, New York Times bestselling author Perry Noble hopes to give readers a prescription for relief.
In his new book “Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry,” Noble shares his own experience of walking into the abyss of anxiety and stress and how he was able to conquer it.
Noble is also the author of “Unleash!: Breaking Free from Normalcy” and the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina.
Early in the book, he recounts his own experience of feeling overwhelmed. It came at the height of his success. After founding NewSpring Church and seeing it grow over the course of several years, Noble began to experience the stress and anxiety of someone who was trying to do too much. He recalls working more than 70 hours a week and feeling like Superman, if only in the sense that “I had to rescue the world.”
But his lofty feelings were about to be destroyed.
One night while having dinner with his wife, Lucretia, Noble broke down. He writes: “I told her, ‘We have a great house, we have nice cars, we’re living comfortably, and the church is growing at a rate I never thought it would. I’m getting asked to travel and speak at conferences all over the world. And I hate my life!’” (emphasis in the original).
That feeling of being overwhelmed didn’t last only one night or just one week or even one month.
“Over the next three years, I experienced days that were so dark, so difficult, and so overwhelming that I considered taking my own life,” Noble wrote.
Fortunately, he didn’t.
And Noble uses his personal walk through the valley of the shadow of death to encourage and equip readers to find hope amidst their despair.
Noble’s story is refreshing in that a popular pastor and speaker is willing to talk about his feelings of anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. He doesn’t shy away from some of the more sensitive issues involved with anxiety, issues some like to push under the rug for fear of embarrassment.
Noble also is comfortable revealing what he perceives as some of his personal faults, including at times a quick temper, a rush to judgment and an inability to place others’ needs ahead of his own—struggles we all face to some degree.
“Overwhelmed” uses several biblical stories—mainly the stories of Daniel, Job and John—to walk readers through how God interacts with those facing anxiety and stress. His writing style is conversational; at times the book feels as if you are sitting right across the table and listening to him reveal his latest struggle.
The basic narrative of “Overwhelmed” is to allow our view of God to expand and thus give us the faith to see our circumstances in a new light.
Noble writes, “As our view of God increases, our worry and stress decrease, because it’s only then that we begin to believe that all the things that are over our heads are under His feet.”
While this is an accurate assessment, some of Noble’s prescriptions are common sense, things those struggling with anxiety and stress have probably heard before. However, it’s probably not a bad idea for those messages to be repeated. Some readers may not find too much new in “Overwhelmed” besides Noble’s compelling story of his own struggles.
Those who wrestle with depression and anxiety often report feeling lonely or unloved. Noble includes a nice section on reminding readers of the love God has for them, regardless of their current circumstances.
“I’ve learned during these times that instead of asking God to give me a sign or prove himself, all I have to do is take a look around at the reminders He has placed in my path that scream that I matter, that I’m important to Him, and that He is way closer than I can imagine.”
Noble also tackles the touchy subject of the relationship between sin and stress and anxiety, writing, “We will never overcome our feelings of anxiety and experience times of refreshment until we deal head-on with the sin that is holding us captive.”
He focuses on three specific sin struggles: sex, greed and unforgiveness. Again, one of the more appealing aspects of “Overwhelmed” is Noble’s willingness to place himself within the narrative, revealing his own personal struggles in these areas. These sections are some of the book’s most teachable moments.
Noble is quick to remind readers that stress and anxiety will always be part of our lives. We can learn better how to deal with these challenging times, but we will never completely remove them from our lives.
In the book’s penultimate chapter, Noble recounts an episode where he wanted to quit, just throw in the towel. However, a friend reminded him that “One day we’re going to stand in front of the One whose assignment was much tougher than ours. He was betrayed, attacked and beaten, and He suffered beyond anything we can imagine. And He is the One we follow. If He didn’t quit, then neither should you.”
To learn more, visit www.overwhelmedbook.com or visit a local LifeWay Store.
— by Scott Noble