Reviewed by Aimee Byrd
Does becoming a Christian affect your thinking? Should it? How does your faith and knowledge of God change your private thought life? Have you even thought about the significance of your thought-patterns and pondered what the motivations and beliefs are behind them? If anyone had the gift to read your mind, what would they learn about you?
At first glance, Timothy Witmer’s new book, Mindscape: What to Think About Instead of Worrying, might give you the wrong idea about the target audience. I know and love some “worriers,” but I’ve never considered myself one. That of course doesn’t mean that I never worry. There are definitely some messed up areas in my mindscape, so I knew this book would be beneficial. And I was right.
In the introduction, Witmer warns and encourages:
Our thoughts give us a picture into what we are really like, and this can be very discouraging. If the mind is the “window of the soul,” our mindscape can betray an inner darkness that casts a shadow over our thoughts, words, and deeds. But our condition is not hopeless—and this is the point of the pages that follow. (2-3)
Worry and anxiety are certainly common struggles that the church needs to address. But Witmer has written this helpful book in a way that does much more than help us with these stresses. The chapters are organized by the “vistas of a new mindscape” that we find in Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
That is a lot to think about! Sure, everyone worries some. But it is easy for me to look at the obvious worriers and consider myself way ahead on the sanctified thinking path. This verse from Philippians puts me in my place, while being uplifting at the same time. My mindscape could use some work.
Tim Witmer is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA). That is what he delivers in Mindscape, a practical theology that is accessible to anyone who wants to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. Each chapter delivers the motivation you’d expect from a teacher, the knowledge you desire from a professor, and the empathy and encouragement that you so need from a pastor (because he is a pastor too!). The book is full of great illustrations that really help get to the biblical understanding of what we are exhorted to think about.
And each chapter points us to the One who epitomizes these vistas, Jesus Christ. Let me use the chapter on “Whatever is Admirable” as an example. Witmer begins by reasoning, “Admiring others turns our minds from ourselves (always a good thing and often a source of our worries!) and gives us goals” (122). He gives a personal example of what he admires about his own dad before breaking it down for us a little more into admirable character, admirable performances, and admirable relationships. All along, he gives illustrations of people who have displayed these qualities There’s even a great tweetable line in the chapter, “You aspire to what you admire” (130). But our goal isn’t just to be admirable people and to admire others who do well.
Our ultimate goal is not to be admired by others but to see others admire the One who is the source of any admirable qualities we have. Jesus put it this way, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). As we grow in our admiration (or worship) of the Lord, we aspire to be like him; he makes us like him through the Spirit; and this brings him glory. (130-131)
This leads to how Witmer closes each chapter with a subsection on how mindscape leads to lifescape. Godly thinking leads to action, and Witmer outlines practical ways this happens. One is simply that we should express our admiration to others. But there is also a dark side to admiration that he addresses here as well. Witmer warns of the weed of covetousness, and points to the seed of contentment to replace it. And if you add resentment to covetousness you get envy, for which Witmer highlights love as the seed that produces godly admiration and supplants this sinful thinking.
The thing is, I admire Tim Witmer. That’s why I read his book. I had the opportunity to meet Tim last month when I was involved in the pastor’s conference at WTS. I admired him for caring enough about the input of a housewife in the pew to invite me on the panel of their pastor’s conference. I found it admirable that he escorted me from my car in the rain the next morning, under the protection of his umbrella. A few short conversations in two days with this man showed me someone who seemed well fit as a Professor of Practical Theology.
Mindscape is an easily readable, practical theology on how the reality of who Christ is and what he has done transforms our thoughts and actions. Worry is cast aside when we meditate on how Christ is with us and for us. Think about that! When my mom was a school student she wrote a tongue twister that began, “One cannot think without a thought to think about.” Mindscape gives us godly thoughts to think about that will strangle worry, as well as deepen our joy to live for the Lord.
Aimee Byrd is a wife and mother of three and the author of Housewife Theologian. She is also the “Residing Housewife Theologian” here at Books At a Glance, reviewing books of interest to women.