Captivating is written to heal the heart of women, to encourage women to be the beautiful, vulnerable people that God created. The book is written by both John and his wife Stasi, but is written for women. They discuss who God created women to be, how women have been hurt and withdrawn from being beautiful and vulnerable, and what repentance of this means. This is a book that shows who God created women to be, and calls women to turn to God to heal the wounds that say they are not beautiful, that say they are not worthy of being loved, and become the women who God created them to be.

God created women to be Beautiful. Beauty is one of the essences of God, and it is the essence of women. This beauty is not just physical beauty, but also a depth of soul and character which nurtures and encourages others to rest. Beauty is vulnerable, however, and the world is not safe and will wound. One response is to doubt that God is trustable and to vow to not be vulnerable, which leads to a self-sufficient, domineering woman. Another response is to seek something or someone that makes you feel beautiful, which leads to a mousy, desolate woman. A much harder response is to listen to God, who says that you are beautiful, that you are worth fighting for, and to be willing to continue to be vulnerable, even when there is no guarantee that you will be appreciated.

As this reviewer is not a woman, the best way to communicate the principles of the book is to let the Eldridges speak for themselves:

“We desire to possess a beauty that is worth pursuing, worth fighting for, a beauty that is core to who we truly are.”
“[We don’t trust that God will protect us so that we can be vulnerable. So we arrange to control our lives to avoid needing to be vulnerable. But the desire and longing is still there.]”

“You really won’t understand your life as a woman until you understand this: You are passionately loved by the God of the universe. You are passionately hated by his Enemy.”

“You are made for romance, and the only one who can offer it to you consistently and deeply is Jesus.”

“For a woman to enjoy relationship, she must repent of her need to control and her insistence that people fill her. ... Being safe and secure in her relationship with her Lord, she can risk being vulnerable with others and offer her true self.”

“For a woman to unveil her beauty means she is offering her heart. Not primarily her works or her usefulness... Offering her presence.” (138)

“To offer your heart is to offer your desire—instead of your demand.”

“[God invites us] to follow the lead of Jesus wherever he leads you. He will lead you first into himself, and then, with him, he will lead you into the world that he loves and needs you to love. It is by Invitation.”

I read this book because I, as a man, had no clue what women wanted or needed. The Eldridges offer no list to be memorized, but instead talk about who women are. It has been a very illuminating book; as I read it, I could see many of the things the book talks about around me. Probably the most important is the idea that beauty is the essence of a woman. It is not just that she looks beautiful, but she acts beautifully and desires beautifully. And as I looked around at the women I know I found that indeed, they were all beautiful. Many act as if they do not believe that they are beautiful, particularly the overweight ones, but it creeps out anyway, in a smile, in their gentleness, in the desire to care for others.

When I was in high school I used to scoff at the idea of “knowing yourself.” Bah, how could you not know yourself? But, in fact, it seems that most of us neither really understand who we are or who others are. If you are a woman, this book will help you understand who God created you to be and unless you have already pondered it, I expect that you will find that it says what you always subconsciously suspected. If you are a man, you probably need to read this book, given the statistics on how few of us understand the true value of a woman. While the book is very enlightening, it is probably a fairly introductory text, so if you have lived a long time and have thought a lot about this, the book may be less useful. However, the book has solid principles backed with effective illustrations and I expect that almost all readers will find this to be a valuable book.

Unfortunately, this review does not do justice to the contents of the book at all, and while I ordinarily publish my notes simply for my own personal reference, in this case I highly recommend that everyone take the time to read them, as the above is very cursory.
Review: 9.7
Nicely written with compelling material. This book fits in the “who we are” category, so it is probably most applicable to people in their 20s and 30s. Older men and women probably have a reasonably intuitive grasp of the material, although this book may give some organization to the ideas. However, with the large number of unhappy marriages in the U.S., even among Christians, it is clear that we, as a culture, do not have a good grasp of who we are, because we obviously have no clue how to relate to each other. So I expect that this book will be useful to a wide age range. However, I suspect that this book is probably not a book that will last 100 years, because it seems to lack depth. (Of course, I am not sure what depth would look like in this case.)  Unfortunately, I cannot give any more concrete reasons than that. That in no ways diminishes the value of the book and unless you can think of a good reason not to read the book, I think you will find it illuminating.

I also recommend reading Every Woman’s Marriage, which paints a detailed picture of what happens when a woman is not comfortable with who God made her to be.