ForeWord Reviews

great books independent voices

Martha, Martha

How Christians Worry

Foreword Review — Jan / Feb 2000

This handbook is for anyone who regularly works with people and wants to better
serve them by understanding various mental conditions. Although aimed primarily
at clergy, the substance and clarity of the material lends itself to anyone who
is in a position to help others.

Each of the eight chapters covers a particular mental condition ranging from
obsessions and compulsions to PMS. Sections begin with a case description that
includes specific symptoms that help lead to a diagnosis. The author doesn’t
encourage the reader to form a diagnosis; rather she urges the reader to
consider these symptoms in order to discover an appropriate path for helping
the person. Specific reference sources are then provided for each of the
conditions, followed by a section called “How Caring Christians Can Help.” The
help section is especially useful to individuals who want to aid someone
without interfering or taking on unnecessary burdens.

Eng utilizes a pattern of describing symptoms and then explaining the symptoms
in simplified clinical terms. This usually works well, but on occasion becomes
oversimplified or repetitive. For example, in the chapter on panic disorders
Eng describes someone having the thought: “Something terrible is going to
happen to me.” She then writes: “These are called thoughts of impending doom.”
These annoyances, however, are few and don’t significantly distract from the
book’s merit.

Scattered throughout the book are biblical references that serve to amplify
either the author’s point or help illustrate a symptom. There is a successful
effort here to integrate some aspects of psychology with theology, resulting in
an empathetic and functional rationalization for victims trying to reconcile
their religious views with what is happening to their psyche.

At various points there are apt descriptions of the steps one goes through when
seeking psychological and medical treatment. In all cases, the author describes
what questions might be asked and what medicine might be prescribed.
There is also a good discussion of what constitutes normal human behavior and
that it can include tendencies that are inherent in some mental illnesses
without necessitating the conclusion that the person is abnormal. Eng does warn
that this is a delicate balance.

This is not only a useful reference for finding help for specific mental and
medical problems, but also a good introduction to integrating psychology and
theology.

Joe Mielke