Forty-six years ago, I began to deliver an address entitled "How to Win Over Worry". No matter where I delivered this address, the attendance exceeded all other attendances. It became clear that I had touched upon a felt need. Thousands of people who attended these services requested a copy of the address.
In 1958, my wife and my associate collaborated in putting pressure on me to reduce the address to print. They suggested I make this the lead address in a book of a dozen major sermons and addresses.
In late 1958, 1 set aside three weeks to accomplish this purpose. The more I wrote on the subject of Worry, the more it seemed to expand. At the end of three weeks, I had finished a 200-page book devoted exclusively to the subject. And in May of 1959, the first copies of How to Win Over Worry appeared in bookstores across America.
It was the first of this genre published by a Christian publishing house and released in Christian bookstores. The publisher showed great courage in promoting this book. He intended, as I later found out, to let it run for a year or so, then put it on sale, and discontinue its production.
How this book became a bestseller
Two developments kept the book alive. One of the publisher's sales representatives announced to Oregon bookstore owner Bob Hawkins, Sr. the publisher's intention to discontinue the book after the present edition was exhausted. Bob Hawkins owned two bookstores in the state at the time. He said, "That book cannot go out of print." In vigorous terms, he gave reasons why it must be reprinted. To prove his point of the book's importance, he ordered 500 hardback copies. For the average bookstore dealer at the time, purchasing 500 hardback copies for two modest-sized bookstores in a modest-sized city would be foolhardy. Bob sold all of the books within two months.
In the meantime, I had spoken to Mr. Ellison, who had paperback book concessions in 92 of America's leading airports. Ellison requested the book be put in paperback so that he could sell it in the airports. The book sold well.
What Bob Hawkins did for this book and Ellison did for its paperback edition launched its permanence. Had I known of the publisher's plan in 1959 not to reprint my book, I'm sure I never would have written another book. Since Bob's purchase of those 500 copies of the book, it has been translated into 19 languages, gone through more than 50 printings, and sold over 2,000,000 copies. It has touched the lives of readers in more than 150 countries.
I am pleased that Harvest House, founded by Bob Hawkins, Sr., and now headed by his son Bob Hawkins, Jr., is publishing this new edition for the new millennium.
A remarkable story about Win Over Worry
As these lines are being printed, I have completed my 77th year. For 59 of those 77 years, I have been before the public on every continent and in scores of nations. I just completed my 85th trip around the world, in addition to 167 intercontinental trips. All of that to say that over a half a century of time, I have found that human nature does not change. In upgrading the statistics for chapter 1, I have been amazed that in America the need to help people cope with the problem of worry has increased alarmingly.
South African Andre Petersie, who became a top executive with one of Hollywood's leading film companies, phoned me one day to request that I send the book on worry to a friend of his in London, a leading impresario in the United Kingdom. In less than a week after I had sent the book, I received a phone call from London. The name was strange to me until I realized that this was the man that Petersie asked me to help.
The impresario said, "I want to thank you for the book. I was in the bedroom of my London residence, gun in hand, ready to blow out my brains when I heard a thud downstairs. It got my attention. I looked over the balcony railing to see that a parcel had been put through the mail slot. Curiosity drove me to find out what was in the parcel before I ended my life. It was your book. As a result, there has been a transformation of my life. I have turned it over completely to the Lord Jesus Christ, and I want to thank you for being the instrument to save me not only physically, but also spiritually."
What can reading this book achieve?
This book makes no claim to deal with psychiatric and medical problems. What it does is present a formula for assisting people who are afflicted with anxiety, but who do not suffer from the kind of mental illness that requires professional medical intervention.
After the fifth edition of this book was released, I addressed the Texas Medical Association and found that more than 100 of the doctors were using the book for mildly disturbed patients. Hundreds of clergymen and counselors, both in the United States and overseas, have used the book to help those coming to them for assistance.
I believe that worry is an underlying condition of American society — and probably global society also. Not everyone suffers from clinical depression or psychosis. But everyone, at some time, will worry. And many will find that uncontrolled worry corrodes the joy of living and brings about a deterioration of mind and body.
Of course it is naive to expect that reading one book one time will ever, by itself, produce a total life-change. An outstanding Memphis soprano soloist who read How to Win Over Worry told me, "I have read your book, and I am still worrying."
I said, "Ruth, I know you are not too touchy about your age, so tell me how old you are."
Perplexed, she said, "Fifty-three. Why?"
"Am I to conclude that you have been worrying for most of your 53 years?"
"Yes, I have."
"Don't you think it's a bit illogical to think that with one reading of a book that just may have the answer to your problem, you can override 53 years of habit?"
I do not hold out any hope for anybody who reads the book just once. I myself reread it periodically to reinforce the truths that I need for my own emotional health and vitality—and I am the author!
I suggest you read it and reread it. Make notes in the margins or inside the back cover about passages that have special relevance to your need. And write out specific goals. The New York psychiatrist Ari Kiev discovered that patients who set goals and worked toward their fulfillment did much better than those who did not. Goals that are specific and time-sensitive, and broken down into action steps, will give you a real sense of control over your problem and help you climb out of it.
Finally, you will see very soon that the advice this book offers is distilled from another far greater book—the Bible. When I was a young man, I heard a clinical psychologist say, "What you think about the first five minutes after you awaken will determine the kind of day you have." I cannot recommend strongly enough that anyone surrounded by worry make time every morning to read the only truly life-changing book that has ever been written.