In Search of Better Stories

A non-anxious presence

The book, in a nutshell

     The world is a roiling pot of anxiety. Globalization and technology were supposed to bring the world together and make us a happy interconnected global family, but it backfired. Instead, our connectedness disconnected us. This bizarre irony caused us to lose our sense of place, making us both everywhere and nowhere. Rapid communication has tossed out traditional institutions of power and information, throwing everyone into disorienting confusion. As people try to navigate in an information-overloaded world, they regroup in isolated silos, which break people apart instead of bringing them together. Throw in a pandemic, high-speed cultural change, and political polarization, and you have a royal mess on your hands. “A more connected world is a more conflicted and therefore more anxious world” (93).

So what do we do about this? 

Get jacked up for suffering.

     Sayers calls this epoch in human history the grey zone, and to him, it’s precisely where Christians need to be. Diamonds only become diamonds if they get squashed with pressure, so bring it on! Comfortable times create comfortable Christians, a comfortable Christian is useless, and we don’t want that. 

     Testing also gives us more capacity for God in our lives. By enduring hardship, God is going to make you have a stronger inner temple, which can contain more of his presence. (124) 

Learn to hear the voice of God.

    The root of our anxiety is our disconnectedness from God. In the chaos, we need to be reoriented to a heavenly reality. We need to develop “voice recognition” so we can hear God again. (162)

    Our chaotic world, with its constantly changing networks of power, screams at us to be relevant and spectacular. Success is about putting forth an appealing image and correctly managing perception, but this is not what Christian leaders need to be concerned about. Waiting on the Lord and seeking his voice is the act of revolutionary stillness that will bring chaos back into order. We can only be a non-anxious presence in the world with God’s presence in our life. (154)

What do I think of this book?

     Go hurt yourself; it will help.

     I get it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. No pain, no gain. Blah, blah, blah. But Sayer’s almost gleeful embrace of suffering as the one thing flabby useless Christians need to regain their spiritual game is too much for me. I’m going through an intense period of suffering right now, and the happy cheer “Yes, bring it on! More suffering is just what I need to turn me from lowly carbon into a dazzling diamond” is not the message that helps me at all. Life sucks, but I’m still trying to find moments of joy during the darkness to be thankful for. I trudge forward as best as I can. Suffering is the price of admission for being alive, and all of us must pay. Hopefully, I can learn a few things along this steep path, but all this cheerleading for suffering makes me want to barf. 

     A little more help, please.

     He tells me I need to develop “voice recognition” so that I can hear the voice of God again. OK? What does that even mean? How does one do that? He doesn’t tell me! The book reads like this: The world is a mess. The solution is God. Good luck. — I need a bit more help. 

    I recognize that I’m being hard on this book – probably too hard. Books are like viewing comets timing is everything, and the timing is off for me on this one. But I don’t want to leave off without saying something positive. 

  • His analysis of our anxious times is spot on.
  • I like how he emphasizes the need for us to realize that adaptability is more important than efficiency. 

Sorry, Mark, that’s all I got.

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A non-anxious presence

The book, in a nutshell      The world is a roiling pot of anxiety. Globalization and technology were supposed to bring the world together and

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