In my youth verses three and four of Psalm 56 were often sung:
When I am afraid I put my trust in you,
in God whose word I praise.
In God I trust without a fear.
What can man do to me?
I didn’t spot these verses in the book, but they probably encapsulate rather well Janene Forlong’s message.
At the time she wrote this book (and the accompanying leader manual for a 10-week series in small groups), Forlong was worship director at Hamilton Central Baptist Church. It comes highly commended by eminent Baptist figures like the late Ian Brown and Brian Winslade.
The book isn’t a memoir, but there is plenty of the author’s own crippling experience reflected in it. Raised in a Christian family, she was the victim of “seemingly small” (her words) sexual abuse at the hands of a stranger when she was only six. The experience left her traumatised and fearful on numerous fronts—fear of rejection, of men, of driving, of germs, of failure, and so on—in ways that paralysed and limited so many dimensions of her life for decades. As she notes, when paralysed by the bad sort of fear it is easy to forget what freedom even looks or feels like. Fear too often blocks the fruit of the Spirit
It is a book about deliverance. There is material from Forlong’s own story and the freedom from fear that, through God’s grace and by laying hold of the promises of Scripture, she has now secured. And there are her suggestions and prescriptions for others living lives entrapped by fear: how to escape, and how subsequently to live life free from crippling fear. In her case, it seems to have been a life quite remarkably transformed. Her brother, Kerry Hilton, records in a blurb on the back of the book that
I remember my little sister struggling with so much fear. The sister I now have is free and seeing the world in all its vibrant colours…This book is Janene’s way of saying “here’s how you can be free too” recognising ultimate freedom is found in Jesus.
It is an inspiring and encouraging book for any Christian; an account of God dramatically at work in one woman’s life. For some readers—themselves trapped by fear to a greater or lesser extent, and perhaps victims of severe traumatic experiences—it is likely to offer a path of hope, offering Scripture-suffused precepts and advice that God may use to enable them too to break free. But I suspect it is important that the book, and the study manual, are used with discernment. Wise pastors and elders will recognise people who are likely to benefit from it, but will also discern when specialist professional expertise may be needed as part of treating, and growing through, the trauma of things like sexual abuse.
Reviewer: Michael Reddell
Read ‘Fear: a deviation from faith in God’ by Janene Forlong.