Moreland, J. P. Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace. Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2019, pp. 220.
J. P. Moreland is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and director of Eidos Christian Center. With degrees in philosophy, theology and chemistry, Dr. Moreland has taught theology and philosophy at several schools throughout the United States. The author has numerous books, he has also served with Campus Crusade, planted two churches, and spoken at hundreds of college campuses and churches. Dr. Moreland has been recognized by The Best Schools as one of the 50 most influential living philosophers in the world (back cover).
Finding Quiet (FQ) is an autobiographical testimony by Dr. Moreland about the trials and victories he has had over clinical depression which lasted for decades in his life. He writes in the Preface “The book you hold in your hands is an honest revelation of my own struggles with anxiety and depression, along with a selection of the significant spiritual, physical, and psychological ideas and practices that have helped me most. I am not a licensed therapist, and this book is not meant to be a substitute for professional or psychiatric help. Rather, my intent is to come alongside you, my reader, as a fellow sufferer and to share my experiences and some ideas and practices that may be fresh and new to you. (p. 13)”
The book is divided into six sections:
- Human persons and a holistic approach for defeating Anxiety/Depression
- Getting a handle on Anxiety and Depression.
- Spiritual and Psychological Tools for Defeating Anxiety/Depression Part 1.
- Spiritual and Psychological Tools for Defeating Anxiety/Depression Part 2.
- Brain and Heart Tools for Defeating Anxiety/Depression.
- Suffering, Healing and Disappointment with God.
Chapter 1 is a provocative discussion about the primacy of Scripture and the role of extrabiblical knowledge and techniques via psychology and psychiatry. Moreland makes a good case for the engagement of all knowledge and techniques as long as nothing contradicts the Word of God. He has a balanced emphasis on the material and immaterial aspects of humanity.
Chapter 2 relates to how a person can acquire a better understanding of his/her own history of anxiety. One of the greatest causes of anxiety is stress which then leads to general depression. He defines anxiety as “a feeling of uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness. (p. 52).” He argues since the majority of anxiety is produced by inherited factors and circumstances; a high level of self-compassion is needed to lead to a happy life. Self-compassion includes kindness to oneself, paying attention to mindful suffering, and recognition that some suffering is common to the human experience (p. 59).
Neuroplasticity is the focus of chapter 3. The brain has the ability to form new patterns of connections and thought processes. Morland recommends a four-step process: 1) Relabeling the thought, 2) Reframing the perception, 3) Refocusing the attention, and 4) Revaluing the experience.
Contemplative prayer is part 2 of the process of the spiritual and psychological toolbox. He recommends ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) as well as a five-step process of quiet contemplation and reflection. The five-step process has some ambiguities, but the essence is humble reflection with an attitude of gratefulness for what God has, does and can do.
Chapter 5 discusses the role of medications under the supervision of a primary care physician or psychiatrist. Although no specific medications are mentioned, the general contention is that as human beings, we have material frailties that at times must be addressed with earthly chemistries. Antianxiety or antidepressant medications can be part of the healing process when taken under medically supervised conditions. He argues that these are special “vitamins” for the brain to help in the healing process.
The last chapter deals with disappointment with God when we do have get the answers to prayer as quickly as we desire. Moreland draws on lament Psalms to help the reader identify with the pain and frustration of past saints who struggled with the great questions of pain, suffering and injustice. Like any other book that addresses theodicy, the reader will probably not be satisfied until there is an answer to prayer for relief from his/her anxiety or depression. Identifying with others who have lived through such circumstances should strengthen our faith that God will work all His good purposes together for those who love him.
I would recommend this book to anyone suffering from anxiety or depression. There is no need to accept all the book so as to benefit from some of the book. Those in pastoral or counselling ministries will benefit from the biblical, theological, spiritual and psychological perspectives that are covered.
John A. McLean, Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity