To a certain degree we approach life with our own set of expectations. When we realize that reality falls painfully short of our expectations, the questions become, “Is that it? Is this all there is? I really thought life would be better.” Even Christians, those quirky, happy people who aren’t supposed to feel down, are not immune to feeling disappointed with life. Though it may be difficult to find some to admit it, many Christians are disappointed with Jesus and the “abundant life” he promised. “This life just isn’t turning out like I expected it to,” they might say. In response, hundreds of books to help Christians find their purposes, achieve their best lives, think positively, achieve their dreams, and be who God designed them to be have been published. The Christian self-help publishing industry is seeing great success, proving this is a real issue among professing Christians today.
Nancy Guthrie writes in her latest book, “It’s this disappointment with God, or with our experience or understanding of God, that creates real inner conflict. It seems so terribly unspiritual to admit that the Christian life, as we’ve experienced it so far, does not seem to really be what Jesus meant by “abundant life.” It often feels as if we’ve missed it somehow, as if everybody else must be experiencing something we can’t seem to achieve, but we don’t want to admit it to ourselves or anyone else.”
Guthrie’s solution to the spiritual doldrums is a fresh look at Jesus through the letter to the Hebrews, one of the most interesting and challenging books in the Bible! “In studying Hebrews, we find that considering Jesus–looking at him, valuing him, running after him, drawing near to him–is the secret to surviving and even thriving when life is hard.”
Guthrie explains the background of Hebrews and what we know of the recipients of this letter to show that we really aren’t very different from them. We have our own traditions and ways of doing things, we must dethrone the idols in our hearts, we want to hear God speak, we face trials, etc. Therefore, this letter called Hebrews is written for our benefit, to teach us that Jesus is better and more desirable than we understand or imagine. Guthrie works her way through each chapter of Hebrews to show how this is true and what it looks like to live a life of faith in Jesus. She wants to encourage women to see Jesus by going deeper in God’s Word, drawing closer to Jesus, and holding tighter to Jesus.
This is not a self-help book. This book is primarily a call to repentance and faith in Jesus. Guthrie presents the gospel in almost every chapter, and without the overused “sinner’s prayer” approach. Because each chapter of Hebrews teaches how Jesus is better than the old system, her plea for placing one’s faith in Jesus is from a different aspect in each chapter. She speaks uniquely to women and issues facing women, so her illustrations and examples are centered around family, relationships, feelings, and other issues to which most women can easily relate. Her writing is heartfelt and sincere. Guthrie has a genuine desire to serve God’s Word to women. Each chapter ends with something personal about herself and how she applied the truths found in Hebrews to her own life.
However, this book has one weak page; a few paragraphs that I wish were not included. Guthrie stands on some shaky ground when she discusses forgiveness and how to deal with continued feelings of guilt for sin after we’ve already asked God to forgive our sin. She encourages women to forgive themselves and stop punishing themselves. She writes, “If we refuse to forgive ourselves, it’s as if we are saying that we are greater than God, that our judgment is higher than his.” My response to that is if we insist that we must forgive ourselves in addition to God’s forgiveness, it’s as if we are saying that we are greater than God, that our forgiveness is higher than his. This idea that we must “forgive ourselves” is a popular one, but I cannot find any scripture to support it. Self-forgiveness seems out of place in a book built on the idea that Jesus is better than anything else this world can offer.
Perhaps I’m being too picky.
I enjoyed this book. Guthrie does a good job of showing how Jesus is better and greater than the other things we women tend to hold onto. Guthrie asks thought-provoking questions for self-evaluation and thinking through the truth presented. I think most adult women will enjoy Hoping for Something Better. Since the book is primarily a study of Hebrews, there is a separate study guide that goes with it.