Through the story of Naomi, Crabb explores what shattered dreams produce. Our current cultural mindset is that pain is to be avoided, so we have drugs and other instant-fixes. These instant-fixes create an addiction, as we try to satisfy the longing. God longs that we would have the amazing joy that comes from enjoying Him, yet we settle for trying to fill our second-class desires, thinking that it will fulfill us. So God either allows or causes our dreams to shatter. We know that He could have prevented it, so we get mad at Him. But if we learn to trust Him in it, we discover that our heart has a deeper longing, a longing to encounter and to relate to God.
I found the book intruiging because it mirrored my experience with God recently. Instead of giving me a wife to satisfy my longing for intimacy, he has let me wait. After 10 years of being mad at God, it finally occurred to me that this approach wasn’t working and asked Him what He thought about my situation. He responded by revealing the Holy Spirit and through him his love through Psalms and experiences. As I learned His love for, I was able to trust Him more, and as I slowly trust Him more, I can give myself to Him more, and as I give myself to Him more and more completely, I experience more and more of His love, to the point where I can say with the psalmist “Your love is better than life.”
I felt that Crabb takes some liberties in projecting feelings onto Naomi that the text does not warrant, although I do think that he is right in portraying how she moves from being bitter and mad at God to discovering that He is truly Good. Crabb also belabors the point of our pain a bit much. He talks about the problem with satisfying ourselves with secondary desires for most of the book in one way or another. He constantly reminds us that the goal is that we enjoy God’s Presence and Joy, yet only briefly talks about that in the last chapter. Basically, I think the book is about 50% too long, and needs more about God’s Presence, although I guess since God has already led me through the process in the book, perhaps I am not the intended audience...
Crabb is very insightful in seeing what we want and how we try to fill that desire. I would be surprised if anyone can read through the book without seeing themselves in it, or without seeing a little more of why they do what they do. I feel like this will be a really helpful book if you are in a place where your dreams are shattered or at least not coming true, where you have worked through your sin enough to realize that there is a deep problem, but are not sure why or if this will ever end. Too much earlier and there is a risk you may not understand what he is talking about (but, it certainly can’t hurt!). But in that time, this will be an invaluable insight into your addictions and the way out.
Good and insightful content, lots of really pithy lines. Belabors the point too much, though, and should be more condensed. Also, having only one small chapter on experiencing God is a bit disappointing. It makes me wonder if he has fully experienced it yet (as of the 2001 writing), which makes me interested to read Crabb’s subsequent books.
- “All of us are trapped by addiction to a desire for something
less than God. For many women, that something less is relational
control. ‘I will not be hurt again and I will not let people I
love be hurt. I’ll see to it that what I fear never
happens.’ They therefore live in terror of vulnerably presenting
themselves to anyone and instead become determined managers of
people. Their true femininity remains safely tucked away behind
the walls of relational control.
More common in men is an addiction to nonrelational control. ‘I will experience deep and consuming satisfaction without ever having to relate meaningfully with anyone.’ They keep thigns shallow and safe with family and friends and feel driven to experience a joy they never feel, a joy that only deep relating can provide. Their commitment is twofold: to never risk revealing inadequacy by drawing close to people and, without breaking that commitment, to feel powerful and alive. Power in business and illicit sex are favorite strategies for reaching that goal.” 90
- [If you try to cheer me up by, e.g. reminding me that we all fail and that many people have been encouraged by me, when I’m hurting over, e.g. over my capacity for unkindness], you would not stir me to love and good deeds; you would drive me into a prison of loneliness that I would lock from the inside to prevent you from entering. 118
- “It makes no sense to say that someone on the secular journey is feeling terrible but doing great. But on the spiritual journey there are seasons when doing great requires that we feel awful. The secular journey ends in this life. This world is home to secularists. They are not pilgrims passing through; they are citizens settling down. Those on the spiritual journey, however, believe they were not designed to live as people who do bad things in a world where bad things happen. Unlike secularists, their primary purspose is neither to enjoy this life nor the people they meet, nor themselves; it is rather to enjoy God.” 119
- The person on the secular journey is doing well when he gets over
a tought patch and stops crying so much, when he regains hope that life
offers many pleasures and learns to manage its challenges well. A
troubled heart on the secular journey views this life as disappointing and feels a guilt that shreds self-confidence. A healthy
secular heart likes living here and feels good about how effectively
that life is being lived. Recovery from a troubled to a healthy
heart is the goal of secular counseling and secular religion.
The spiritual journey is different. Doing great on the journey to God involves sensing an appetite that is never fully satisfied, an appetite for everything to always go well ('Unrealistic!’ the earthbound realist snorts), a relentless desire to be a kind of person no one is ('Perfectionist!’ the psychologist declares), a longing to experience God deeply enough to keep moving toward Him no matter what happens ('Opiate additction!’ Marx opines; Freud agrees).
In their anguish, people on the spiritual journey abandon themselves to God. Eventually they discover their desire for Him is stronger than all other desires, and in their seasons of misery when life disappoints and they fail, they seek Him more earnestly. Making their lives more comfortable and themselves more acceptable is a secondary concern.” 119
- “When the dark night comes and it seems nothing good is happening
because of it, we tend to numb our desires, to shift into autopilot, to
manage what we can, to seek relief where available, to feel nothing
deeply, and to lose interest in difficult questions about God.
If we get mad at God, we eat too much or spend too much or enjoy what is not ours to enjoy.
If we feel afraid of God, we busy ourselves with doing good things. We exercise too much or examine ourselves too much or read our Bibles too much.
Or, if we love God from a distance and have little idea of the intense and passionate communion He longs for us to enjoy as His bride, if we have a rigid, no-nonsense approach to Christian living, we compulsively obey whatever law we can think of and commend ourselves on our dutiful lifestyle. We live as we should in order to make ourselves proud, not with longing to enter His Presence. Suffering becomes an obstacle to overcome, a chance to prove we’re committed. It loses its power to generate a brokenness that creates a space only God can fill.
When dreams shatter and God disappears, we don’t need to get mad at Him, to be afraid of Him, or to obey Him from a distance. And we must not resolve to feel nothing deeply. We need rather to realize that He vanishes from our sight to do what He could not do if we could see Him. In the spiritual journey, I know of nothing so difficult to believe. But it’s true.” 153