“What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do”

A couple of months ago I signed up for Thomas Nelson Publishers’ “Book Sneeze” program, whereby bloggers get free review copies in exchange for reviewing the books on their blogs. Reviewers are specifically asked to be honest in their evaluations. This constitutes my legal disclosure that I received a free copy of the book I’m about to review, but am under no corresponding obligation to say nice things about it.

I’m happy to report that I can with perfectly clear conscience say nice things about What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do, by Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009; hardcover, 134 pages).

I requested this book thinking that it would be a guide to discerning God’s will in making particular decisions. It isn’t that, exactly. It’s a guide to finding God’s way out of crisis situations in which you feel trapped—things like addiction, serious marital problems, etc. But taking the book on its own terms, it does its job quite well.

As an Orthodox Christian with access to a deep spiritual tradition that goes back 2000 years, I often find contemporary Protestant spiritual advice to be rather shallow. I’m talking about the simplistic attitude of “just trust God and everything will be okay,” with the implication that God will take care of it all, with no need for work, suffering, patience, or even commitment on our end. Not so with this book.

The authors of What to Do would probably not disagree with “trust God and everything will be okay” (minus the word “just,” you notice). But they would hasten to add that along with trusting God, we have to be ready to do our part. And that part might include taking a hard look at ourselves, repenting of our sins, suffering through their consequences, and making a serious effort to become better people.

Nor is this struggle a just-me-and-Jesus thing. We need other people to help us along the way. These people may include professionals who have the expertise to help us with a particular problem. They will definitely include trusted friends and Christians who are wiser and more experienced in finding God’s way.

All this is very Orthodox.

So if you’re looking for a concise but very practical guide to calling on God for help in the most difficult situations of your life—or just a guide to living as God would have you live—this little book is a great place to start.

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