“Living Close to God When You’re Not Good At It” offers the promise to help you experience a “spiritual life that takes you deeper than daily devotions”. Through several best practices, Edwards offers a handful of basic steps to encounter God on a daily basis.
Edwards begins by sharing about his own frustrating search for a deeper Christian life. He begins in the second chapter saying that he did not find help by reading of the lives of great Christian leaders (John Wesley, Adoniram Judson, Charles Finney, Hudson Taylor, etc). I have to question how deeply he read of their lives because there are wonderful spiritual disciplines to learn from men such as these. Anyway, he decided that the search did not end there. So still on a quest, he shares that he struggled to maintain a consistent quiet time, to keep his mind from wandering when he came before the Lord, of not having anything to say to God, experiencing one-way conversations with God, and also forgetting about God through the day. And so Edwards seeks to establish himself as “one of us” who has struggled with a deeper Christian life.
As Edwards closes “The Search” chapter, he suggests that the reason our devotional lives ought to be simple is because “God is simple”. While the premise that we do not have to come before the Lord with programmed and difficult times of Bible study and prayer, I do not believe most would agree with the idea that the God of the Universe is “simple”. In fact, one can study about Him for a lifetime and just begin to grasp the great God of Scripture! That being said, Edwards uses this idea of a “simple God” to pitch the idea that a deeper Christian life is as simple as reading the Bible. Thus, he offers a method of reading/praying to accomplish this goal of reading the Bible with a purpose. The method is essentially reading Scripture slowly, praying and contemplating each verse as you read. In all likelihood, most readers will not find this practice as a revolutionary and innovative new approach. Edwards then challenges the reader to build upon this Bible reading with the practice of loving God in a new way. He suggests that the reader must go beyond doing by simply loving. For Edwards, the practice of loving is described as simply “breathing” words of affirmation to the Lord. He offers an example of speaking a repetitious phrase of love to God.
As Edwards moves towards the daily application of this practice of encountering the Lord, he urges the reader to, as some may suggest, essentially lower the bar by not striving for extended daily devotions, but focusing on shorter breath prayers and times with God. But for his intended audience of discouraged and frustrated followers of Christ, this more focused and shortened time will be a welcomed relief. The focus is the quality of the time, not a legalistic quantity of time.
As Edwards moves forward in the day, what expands on these shorter times is the encouragement to seek out opportunities throughout the day – in down times in the day. So what Edwards is calling for is not a once a day token time with God, but a day long encounter with God.
As a summary, the core of the book focuses on four core “handles” for spiritual growth: 1. Praying through the Psalms. 2. Taking walks to talk with God. 3. Focusing on short times with God in the morning. 4. Look for times throughout the day to talk with God. Edwards offers an insightful chapter on the “dangers” of growing close to Christ. From conflicts with other Christian friends to conflicts in the church, a maturing believer certainly can face opposition.
Overall, I believe this book offers some helpful insights for busy believers to begin finding time and making time to encounter God daily. At the same time, I see this book as a “beginner’s guide” which will lead the maturing believer to seek out longer times with God, a more developed prayer life, and more inductive-style Bible studies. Edwards offers hope to those discouraged by their current relationship with God by using Scriptural principles and practices. In my opinion, most church-goers would benefit from this book as he invites readers to know God in a relationship, not just in religion. "I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."