October 19, 2014

Review: Good News for Weary Women

When the opportunity arose to receive a review copy of Elyse Fitzpatrick's latest book, Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice , I jumped on it. Years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Elyse teach on contentment at a women's conference, teaching which is summed up in her excellent book, Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone . The teaching was both eye-opening and heart-changing, and more of my weakness is revealed each time I go through the book. I've since enjoyed several other encouraging books by Fitzpatrick, finding her writing to be transparent and encouraging as it points me toward truth.

Fitzpatrick defines the purpose of Good News for Weary Women this way:
In all of this, I pray most sincerely that women will rediscover the profound grace that is ours through the good news; that we are forgiven, loved, and already counted perfect.
As Christian women, this is grace that we all need to be reminded of, often on an everyday basis.

The book is broken into eight chapters:
  1. How Did We End Up Here?
  2. What Ever Happened to the Good News
  3. Laws, Rules, Steps and More Bad News
  4. When Rules Define You
  5. The Delusion of Self-Perfection
  6. Who is Your God?
  7. He Said Us!
  8. What's on His List for You Today?
According to Fitzpatrick, this book was birthed out of responses to a request she posed on Facebook:
Okay, friends ... I need your help. I'd like to know the dumbest things people tell women they have to do in order to be godly. Ready . . . Go!
The response was "mind boggling -- and frankly, pretty troubling. Nearly twenty thousand women read the post,and almost five hundred responded. And that was all within twenty-four hours!"

Throughout the book, Fitzpatrick includes lists of those responses, as well as other lies women have been told about their relationship with God.

I found this book to be part biographical, part exposé of today's church, and somewhat repetitive from chapter to chapter. While the theme of each chapter varied, two things were clear and  constant: the world, the church, and our own hearts place unbiblical demands on us, and Scripture leads us to understand that, in Christ, we are fully acceptable to God.

I feel compelled, however, to point out what seemed to me as two weaknesses of this book.

First, I was concerned that the gospel was not clearly laid out from the onset. For the unbeliever, or maybe even the new believer, the content might lead them toward a sort of easy-believism or even into a let-go-and-let-God mentality. To be sure, Fitzpatrick does share the gospel through her own salvation testimony in an appendix at the back of the book.

Second, I think it would have been helpful to have included some guidance on thinking through progressive sanctification and Christian disciplines. While it's true that once we are saved we are righteous in God's eyes, we can't discard the idea of becoming more Christlike in our living. And because of our fleshly state, there is an ebb and flow to this that requires discipline -- duty, even.

Colossians 1:9-14 encourages us toward this:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  (ESV)

For this reason, there are several other books I would recommend to weary women over this book. Each of these have encouraged and challenged me as I've read them:
Other books which might also be helpful include  The Gospel for Real Life, Growing Your Faith, and Transforming Grace (all by Jerry Bridges), as well as Holiness by Grace (by Bryan Chapell), and Faithfulness and Holiness (by J.I. Packer), which includes J.C. Ryle's classic, Holiness.

Let me close with some words from Ryle's book:

When I speak of "growth in grace," I do not for a moment mean that . . . (a believer) can grow

in safety, acceptance with God, or security. I do not mean that he can ever be more justified, more pardoned, more forgiven, more at peace with God, then (sic) he is the first moment he believes . . . . When I speak of "growth in grace" I only mean increase in the degree, size strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirt plants in a believer's heart . . . . When I speak of a man "growing in grace," I mean simply  this -- that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked. He feels more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links.