A few years ago, I ran a book club. It was so much fun! Each month we would vote on a Christian based book, read it, then gather together and discuss the contents and how it affected us.
A friend was recently talking to me about a new book they were doing in a Bible study group. When she told me about the book, I was interested in the subject and decided to buy it. As I began to read, I recognized that it was so long it would be impossible to do a regular review of such an in-depth book. So I have decided to break it down into parts and for the month of December do a book club type review.
The author of the book, Dr. Larry Crabb, is founder/director of NewWay Ministries, is a well-known psychologist, conference and seminar speaker, Bible teacher, and popular author.” (Back book cover)
In the new Preface to Dr. Crabb’s book we read: “Inside Out describes what life is like when Christians walk the narrow road that Jesus said would lead us to relate to others the way He does…. With few exceptions, today’s Christians prefer a broad road…. A comfortable journey matters more to us than a holy journey, yet, because we’re Christians, we know that holiness is supposed to matter. Our solution to the tension is to redefine what it means to be holy in a way that allows us to feel warmly connected to God while we continue to live lives dedicated to our felt well-being. God becomes someone to use for our sake, not someone to worship for His. (p.11)
Did that catch your attention? Do you find yourself redefining God and the Bible to make it fit what you want? I think I do.
When life doesn’t line up with what we’ve come to expect from Biblical blessings, for example: “Faithful tithers sometimes lose their jobs. Good parents may suffer heartbreak over their kids. Christians who trust God to keep them upbeat and cheerful might plunge into dark nights….Christians whose best efforts to manage their blessings, [yet] fail to produce the expected results, find themselves living The Wounded Life….We lose touch with God. Prayer seems pointless. We feel angry, frustrated, alone, and fearful. We see ourselves relating poorly to people, indifferent to their problems, irritated with their insensitivity to us, feeling indignantly entitled to better treatment from others.” (p. 13)
For this, we seek relief in “recovery groups or Christian counseling or spiritual retreats or spiritual disciplines…. The notion escapes us that a restored soul is the by-product of a relationally holy life—a life of learning to love like Jesus.” (p.13)
Years ago when I was working as a nurse, switching back and forth between labor and delivery and the neonatal intensive care units, I had a director that told us how we should relate to our patients during our shifts. I didn’t appreciate her thoughts at the time, but later I began to quote what she said and it essentially shows how to love like Jesus.
Our director told us… when you have a patient in labor, they don’t want to know how long or bad your labor was. They don’t want to know how tired you are or what you have had to do at work today, or problems you are having at home. It is the same way you feel when you go to a restaurant. You don’t want to know how hard the waitress is working, that she had a flat tire on the way to work, how many people she is serving… you just want your sweet tea and bread. The labor patient just wants as much attention and comfort from others as possible, when she is going through one of the most painful experiences of her life, and she doesn’t need to hear about your problems. She has enough of her own. Just give her the “sweet tea and bread”:)
When we love like Jesus, we forget our problems and concentrate on other people. This next quote from the book is very long, but it is a great picture of Jesus providing the sweet tea and bread, the comfort for pain, without thought for his lack of comfort and the pain He was experiencing. It also shows a different picture of the abundant life that we expect to have as Christians.
“The message of Inside Out is radical, but only because our Christian culture is lukewarm to relational holiness. Its message is not complicated, but it will prove unappealing as long as we wrongly believe that the abundance Jesus promised is an abundance of blessings in this world. And it will not be warmly received if we continue in our self-centered assumption that because God loves us, we are guaranteed and entitled to relief from pain brought on by whatever trouble comes our way.
Jesus said to the religious narcissists of His day who were stubbornly blind to the unexpected and unwelcome plot of God’s love story, ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10, ESV). In another conversation, He made it clear that His plan was not only to give His life for others but also to give His life to others. Jesus lived an abundant life—a life abundant in trials and sorrows, a life abundant in difficulties and pain, a life abundant in rejection and loneliness that could be endured only through communion with His Father and with hope for a better day in a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus knew nothing of what so many of us call abundant and believe we are supposed to receive from Him.
But Jesus knew the joy, the joy that comes from revealing God’s heart to others by the way we relate to them, no matter how they may relate to us. And He knew peace, the peace of God that anchors our soul in hope when we love others even as we ache with unrelieved groaning for what is not yet ours to enjoy.” (pp. 14-15)
“We live every day with inconsolable longings that God built into us, desires that will never be fully satisfied until we live in the next world. We were designed to live as part of a perfect community in a perfect world as perfectly loving people. That longed-for reality does not exist now. Get in touch with that longing and you will groan with a deep ache in your soul. Then hear God tell you to wait, to demand nothing now, no blessings, no relief. If blessings come, enjoy them…. But either way, wait. The best is yet to come…. Let an inside look humble you into brokenness—not false brokenness over how badly you sometimes hurt but true brokenness over how badly you relationally sin.” (pp. 15-16)
We have to change. Ourselves. That is the only person we can change.
Dr. Crabb says, “the core issues that I believe must be addressed if real change is to occur boil down to the following questions:
- Does anyone love me with the power to satisfy my soul? What is the object of my deepest desire?
- Can anyone love me as I really am: self-centered, self-deceived, and self-righteousness?” (p. 20)
Those questions demand we take a deep look inside and admit how messed up we are.
Dr. Crab says, “We’ve assumed that difficult relationships, particularly in earlier years, have caused psychological damage that we label as mental disorder.” (p.20) But, “psychiatric labels direct attention away from the real issues that must be addressed if spiritual fruit is to grow….When we understand people and their problems within a biblical framework, we can see that there is no mental disorder to be fixed. Rather, there are disturbing internal realities to be faced….That’s what an inside look must expose.” (p.21)
In “Modern Christianity” there is a “reversal of its biblical form…. the point of living the Christian life has shifted from knowing and serving Christ till He returns to soothing, or at least learning to ignore, the ache in our soul. We are told,… that it’s simply not necessary to feel the impact of family tensions, frightening possibilities, or discouraging news.” (p.27)
“We were designed to enjoy a better world than this. And until that better world comes along, we will groan for what we do not have. An aching soul is evidence not of neurosis or spiritual immaturity but of realism…. The gospel of health and wealth appeals to our legitimate longing for relief by skipping over the call to endure suffering. Faith becomes the means not to learning contentment regardless of circumstances but rather to rearranging one’s circumstances to provide more comfort.” (p.28)
“God wants to change us into people who are truly noble, people who reflect an unswerving confidence in who He is, which equips us to face all of life and still remain faithful.” (p. 33)
Dr. Crabb says, “This book is not about relief; it is about change. Its message is not ‘Here’s how to make you feel better now.’ Rather, it deals with the route to transformation of character.” (p. 34) “We know God most fully and we hear Him most clearly as He speaks to us in the Bible….He intends to change us into people who can more deeply enjoy Him now and represent Him well to others….God will settle for nothing less than deep change in our character, a radical transformation and restructuring of how we approach life.” (p.42)
And, that is an introduction to the book. Would you like to come along with me and change your life for the better, from the inside out? It is a journey that the faint of heart cannot take. Looking inside ourselves and really understanding who we are is scary. But, I invite you… buy the book. Let’s look at it together over the next month and see how we can change into “truly noble people.” It will be a Christmas present to ourselves:)
Comment below on the thoughts that you had as you read the quotes from the book.