The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows
What do you quietly say to yourself when no one’s listening? When you make a mistake, what words run through your mind? When you think of God, what ideas influence your thoughts? This self-talk or narrative can influence the way you think about yourself, others and God more than you realize.
In the first of three books, James Bryan Smith challenges readers to re-think their inner-narrative as a significant step in the process of becoming like Christ. He is convinced that when it comes to growing spiritually, most of us don’t change not because we don’t want to change or we’re not trying to change, but because we’re not in training and have not been taught a healthy way to embrace transformation.
In THE GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL GOD, Smith challenges readers to consider their patterns of thought (narratives), the way we practice spiritual disciplines, and our relationships in order to grow in our love of God and people. Most of the chapters explore a different attribute of God --- His goodness, generosity, love, holiness and transformational power. Each chapter concludes with a soul training activity that reinforces the message of the chapter. Small group questions are available at the end of the book to grow in community.
Smith’s approach to the material is fresh and invigorating. He begins the book by challenging readers to get more rest. It may seem counterintuitive to grow in God through a nap, but Bryan effectively argues that the number one enemy of Christian spiritual formation is exhaustion. He writes: “We are living beyond our means, both financially and physically. As a result, one of the primary activities (or anti-activities) of human life is being neglected: sleep.”
He explains how in the 1850s the average American slept 9 1/2 hours a night, but by 1950 the average amount of sleep dropped to eight hours a night, and today the average American sleeps under seven hours a night. He asks readers to consider getting a consistent night’s rest, avoiding stimulants like caffeine, and embracing rest as a way to connect with God.
While the book begins with an important but lighter topic like rest, it isn’t long before the author dives into deeper spiritual issues, like whether or not God is good, the wrath of God, and holiness as the essence of God. He tackles the niggling issues of faith as well as the white elephants with candor and grace. Along the way, he illustrates his points with stories, quotes and anecdotes from his own life. Some of the illustrations rely on tired, recycled stories that have been retold countless times in Christian books, but he includes enough personal and fresh ones to keep the reader engaged.
Overall, THE GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL GOD is a wonderful resource, a holistic approach to challenging us to grow spiritually, thoughtfully and deeply. It’s a promising kickoff to the rest of the series, which will include THE GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL LIFE (January 2010), THE GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL COMMUNITY (August 2010) and THE GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL CHURCH (February 2011).
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on June 5, 2009