It’s not easy being a teenager. What with the pressure of family, friendships, studies, culture and a future full of unknowns, navigating the latter secondary school years can be complex in the extreme. That’s true every year, but 2020 has brought some unique challenges: lessons have moved online, pivotal exams have been cancelled or changed, social interaction has morphed beyond measure and gap years turned into something very different to that which was planned. It’s no wonder that anxiety can easily hold sway in young minds. It’s no surprise that trends seem to be showing anxiety in that demographic on the rise.
Until now, however, there have been few biblical resources for young people on the theme of anxiety. Children? Yes. Adults? Of course. But not our teens. How encouraging, therefore, to see Ed Welch’s, “A Student’s Guide to Anxiety” launching as part of Christian Focus’ Track range.
The book is short – it can be read from cover to cover in about an hour – but with plenty of reflection questions along the way, it is best engaged with slowly, maybe a chapter a week with time built in for conversation with a friend. Indeed, its format makes it ideal not just as a book to read alone but as a 1-to1 resource, whether that’s within a family setting or church youth group.
What does it contain?
With an unswervingly biblical basis, it takes young people on a journey looking at the experience of anxiety and calls them to remember key, transformational truths about their relationship with Christ. Its pages are dripping with encouragements to dwell on Jesus’ presence, to talk to him in prayer, to trust, to praise, to live wholeheartedly for him in the pain of this fallen world. And it helps them find some practical strategies too for tackling some of the circumstances that trigger anxiety day by day.
The warmth of writing so many of us have come to appreciate from Ed Welch permeates every page but that doesn’t mean it’s soft on sin. Chapter 6 is a challenging section helping people to look at what they are loving too much. Chapter 8 is a reminder that anxiety can all too often be the context in which we run headlong into ungodliness. (And in that same chapter we find some intriguing food for thought on the ways the young – and not so young – can so easily run to things that distract, a series of pages that will spark some lively debate to be sure).
Whilst being simple enough to be accessible, and using examples to which young people (in the UK and US) will be able to relate, it’s not a book embedded in the youth culture(s) on either side of the pond. There are no references to specific manifestations of social media, music or games – and that makes it different to most books in the youth market – but it is soaked with biblical truth that will promote Christ-centred hope.
The highlight? For me, that came on page 36. One simple sentence that I will, without doubt, be turning over for days: “amazement makes worry smaller”. It’s no small recommendation to say a book helped me become more in awe of the greatness of God and turn my eyes increasingly onto his glory.
A Student’s Guide to Anxiety, by Edward T. Welch, is published by Christian Focus.
Real Change for Students, a six session, Bible-centred course for young people aged 15-19+, by Andrew Nicholls and Helen Thorne.