Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter

A recent new title from Crossway that I requested for review relates to a subject that is at once weighty and timely. The book is Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter (paper; 182 pp.).

As the title indicates, this is a modernization of several writings of the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) addressed to depressed and anxious Christians. Drawn mainly from Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Christian physician Michael S. Lundy presents his writings on these subjects in “revised, updated, and annotated” form. Dr. J. I. Packer – a lover of and expert on the Puritans – wrote the Introduction.

The publisher gives this summary of the title:

Depression—whether circumstantial and fleeting or persistent and long term—impacts most people at some point in their lives. Puritan pastor Richard Baxter spent most of his ministry caring for depressed and discouraged souls, and his timeless counsel still speaks to us today. In this book, psychiatrist Michael S. Lundy and theologian J. I. Packer present Baxter’s writings in order to comfort, instruct, and strengthen all who struggle with depression.

The Table of Contents reveals the following layout to the book:

Preface by J. I. Packer
Part 1: Introducing Richard Baxter

  1. Richard Baxter, Spiritual Physician
    J. I. Packer 
  2. Richard Baxter: Perspective and Retrospective
    Michael S. Lundy, MD 

Part 2: Baxter’s Counsel on Depression

  1. Advice to Depressed and Anxious Christians
    Richard Baxter
  2. The Resolution of Depression and Overwhelming Grief through Faith
    Richard Baxter 

Appendix: The Duty of Physicians
Richard Baxter
General Index
Scripture Index

In his “Preface” to this work, Packer writes about “our standpoint” (the perspective of himself and Lundy) in these words:

Our ideal for all Christians, ourselves included, is to live as far as possible in the outgoing love, stability, and joy – along with patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control – that form the moral profile of Jesus Christ in his disciples. We see such living as true human flourishing, and the promotion of it as central to all forms of pastoral care, church worship and fellowship, personal therapy, and Christian family life. And we see depression in all its forms as a prima facie obstruction to this, in which Satan regularly has a hand (see 2 Cor.12:7). We believe that in the wisdom of God thorns in the flesh – mental and emotional thorns included – may become means of spiritual advance that would not otherwise take place. And we believe that greater wisdom in this matter than we are used to is found in the pastoral heritage of seventheenth-century Puritanism. Supreme here is the wisdom of Richard Baxter, who in his day was viewed and consulted as a top authority regarding ministry to Christians afflicted by what was then called ‘melancholy,’ but would today be labeled depression. Our hope is that by presenting what Baxter wrote in this field we may contribute to wise pastoral care in Bible-believing, gospel-centered, Christ-honoring churches at this time [pp.11-12].

If you or someone you know may be interested in reading and writing a brief review of it, let me know and the book is yours or theirs to keep. I believe whoever reads it will be instructed and enriched for his own Christian life and for the counsel of other believers.

Source: Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter