Walking on Water by Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt
Depression and anxiety wreak havoc in the lives of those sitting in the pews and those who have never graced a church with their presence. The real benefit of this book is the lack of Christian sentimental mush that so often accompanies books on depression, but rather, instead, this book offers a common sense look at the effects of very real people struggling with these things. As many people know, Tommy Nelson is a nationally and internationally known pastor who preaches and teaches on a regular basis for Denton Bible Church and also puts together the ever popular Song of Solomon teaching series. The other author, Steve Leavitt is a Christian counselor who recognizes the power of anxiety and depression in his own life and in the lives of those whom he counsels.
In the first chapter of the book, Tommy Nelson tells his story of being hit with the startling truth that he was going through severe anxiety and panic attacks. Tommy begins by saying, “Upon reflection, I can see I’d had signs of its approach for two years…..I began to notice that in the spring and fall my body would ache….Next we drove to a Chinese restaurant, and there I felt what I now know was the onset of an anxiety attack or panic attack” (10-11). Earlier on Tommy states he felt before his onset that ‘Christians usually do not talk about depression, because believers…not supposed to experience it” (10). A moral failing depression is not, but we get the sense that there is a common unspoken notion of this in the church. Each time a blow of anxiety or a blow to the body would happen, Tommy would be quite confused because the doctors examination would come up with flying colors except for blood pressure and heart rate. As Steve Leavitt recounts the sudden death of his wife, the same mental trauma develops in his own life.
One of the best sections of the book is the part where Steve addresses how the Bible speaks about depression. He writes, “Cain’s despair was brought on by his own doing, which can happen with us too, but sometimes God allows suffering for His own purposes and our good. Either way, God knows that we suffer and hurt and even despair, so He addresses it. We have to be willing to allow Scripture to help us understand our situation as well as to comfort us in it” (30). The relief that I found in reading this part was Steve’s reminder that God addresses even our despair, our bleak moments of depression where we feel all hope is lost. This causes me to realize that God is the great intervener, the great initiator of relationships. Secondly, this reminder that God is willing to address our despair is a signal to us to see the cross as both triumphing over despair and seeing Jesus as a willing Son enduring the greatest despair of pain and death for our sake.
I found Steve’s section on taking preventive measures to be very helpful. He says at one point in order to deal with anticipatory anxiety to take account of things in your life through two lists; things you can change and things you cannot change. Making a list of all your stressors and categorizing them allows you to not fall into the hands of over anxiousness. Why is this helpful? Because in removing the obstacles to anxiety, we remove the tendency to set us ourselves up for immediate failure and despair (147-148). One interesting point in this chapter is Steve’s assertion that often those who thing they have depression actually have anxiety due to feelings of hopelessness.
You get the impression that this book seeks to dismantle the idea that Christians don’t struggle with depression and provides a most helpful way of dealing with both anxiety and depression. Al though I don’t think this book answers every question about these matters, I think it provides us a great resource for moving ahead and dealing in faith with the hopelessness that comes from anxiety.
Much thanks to Tyndale Publishers for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.