We all feel like that at times, don’t we? Our society values few things higher than action. We are to be busy all the time and to spend our lives in the frantic pursuit of more: more money, more affluence, more power. We are, it’s safe to say, out of control.
Ben Young and Samuel Adams think that we need to just stop for a while and find peace. We need to stop being victims of a frantically-paced society. We need to learn to use and master technology rather than allowing it to rule and complicate our lives. We need to rediscover spiritual disciplines and seek a life of peace and simplicity.
Does this sound familiar? It may well sound familiar as there have been multitudes of books pouring from the presses of Christian publishers suggesting this same remedy. It seems that Christians are either not understanding or responding to this message. After all, today’s Christians seem to be every bit as busy and frantic as those who do not profess Christ.
In Out of Control: Finding Peace for the Physically Exhausted and Spiritually Strung Out, Young and Adams, having first proven the danger of living this type of frantic existence, prescribe a three-part remedy. It all starts with Sabbath. Sabbath, they teach, requires us to take one day out of seven where we move at God’s pace rather than our own. “We want you to experience this rest because we are convinced it is foundational to all the other ways God wants to bring peace and sanity to your life.” While they argue primarily from the benefits of Sabbath rather than the biblical foundation, they build quite a convicting case for the blessing and necessity of celebrating the Sabbath. The second part of the solution is to rediscover the practice of silence and solitude. As we might expect, they draw much of this chapter (and the next) from the writings of Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster and Mother Teresa (who, unfortunately, appears repeatedly throughout the book). While I advocate the importance of silence and solitude, this chapter was weakened by leaning on the teachings of undiscerning and unbiblical men and women. The third solution is to practice the presence. Needless to say, this chapter draws liberally upon Brother Lawrence and his book Practicing the Presence of God. The authors describe the importance of prayer and encourage readers to begin to practice different forms, among them the prayer of release, which involves visualization, and “palms up/palms down” prayer, which allows the body to symbolize releasing cares to God and receiving patience, love and joy from Him. This type of prayer is absent from Scripture, but present in eastern and New Age religions.
The final section of the book, easily the strongest section, suggests “three movements for lifestyle change.” Young and Adams encourage readers to move their priorities, to move away from technology and to move into community.
Out of Control is one of an ever-increasing number of books dealing with the importance of cultivating spiritual disciplines. While there is much within this book that is valuable, too much of the heart of the book is drawn from poor, unbiblical, undiscerning teachers. The first and third sections of this book are quite good. Alas, the middle was very disappointing. With the great variety of books available dealing with this topic, there is little reason to bother with this one. Turn instead to Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and learn from godly, biblical teachers.