I must be personally edified. Though it sounds a bit selfish – or maybe just plain selfish – that is my criteria for whether or not I will work on a new book. After all, if I am not encouraged in my faith in Jesus Christ through the process of writing, why would anyone else be edified by the resulting book?
In the case of Running Scared, I was blessed. Although I had developed the material over a number of years, and had taught on fear scores of times, I was blessed to have spent the extra time meditating on Scripture and trying to put what I had learned into words.
The material for the book began during the 1980’s when some of the biblical teaching took hold of my own life. I always knew that I tended toward fear and worry, and I knew a lot of the relevant Scripture, but at some point God’s words became mine. They were to me and for me – which, again, sounds selfish, but I think you know what I mean. I remember first being impressed with the sheer amount of words that God speaks to fearful people, then I began to catch the depth of those words.
- Fear is a personal matter – fearful and worried people want a person more than they want steps. Children have it right. They want Mommy, not a strategy. That was actually a profound revelation to me. I was accustomed to biblical self-help guides, which taught how to think right. But I should have known the matter was intensely personal. I was a late bloomer on this one.
- Fear is a prophecy of doom that must be countered with hope. That too was a powerful insight for me. I never expected fear and worry to be so linked to hopelessness and so effectively countered by the extensive biblical teaching about hope.
- Fear is our link to the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites. It takes this fascinating story and makes it our story. Their grumbling is our grumbling. Their prophecies of doom are our own. Their provision of manna for today is our provision of manna. Or, more accurately, their provision of manna for today points to God’s provision of grace to us for today, and grace, unlike manna, is so abundant that it can’t be contained in a few quart-sized containers. Once we are linked to the manna story, we learn that we don’t yet have the grace for tomorrow, so there is no sense worrying. When tomorrow comes we will have the grace we need. Our job is to keep our eyes open in order to enjoy the unexpected form it takes.
Most of the other chapters were offshoots of these basic teachings.
I had at least two goals in writing Running Scared. First, my desire was for the book to minister to people who wanted to grow, which in this case means to grow from fear and worry to hope. Second, I had an apologetic goal. Whether fear and worry were someone’s specialties or not, I wanted us to bask in the richness, depth and present-day savvy of God’s words to us. Simply put, I wanted to discover once again that God’s Word is better than anything of human origin.
The book is longer than I intended. When I sat down to develop the chapters I originally sketched out around eight to ten, which didn’t seem like enough for a book. I soon had twelve, which is the old standard for evangelical books. (I think it has something to do with the number of weeks in the average Sunday School class.) But twelve chapters became fifteen, fifteen became twenty. At thirty I decided it was time to stop. Even my wife wouldn’t have read it all if it started pushing five hundred pages.
I’d be interested in your thoughts.