Reviewed by: Allison Groot
A Better Encouragement: Trading Self-Help for True Hope, by Lindsey Carlson. Crossway, 2022. Paperback, 177 pages, $11.04 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP member Allison Groot.
When was the last time you received a compliment? Do you remember a wave of warm appreciation rushing over you as you heard affirming comments about your abilities, gifts, looks, or personality? If nothing else, I’m doubtful you were left feeling downcast following that friend’s kind word or your spouse’s endearing remark. Yet it’s very possible those pleasant sentiments, which we are often quick to label as encouragement, fall desperately short of the word in its fullest, biblical sense. When examining Scripture’s teaching on encouragement, we find that it consists in an intentional cultivation and recapitulation of the promises of God, one to another. This true and effective encouragement, unique to Christians, is Lindsey Carlson’s point of conversation in her book A Better Encouragement.
The term “encouragement” is not unique to the church. The secular world certainly has its own definition of encouragement, which has caused much unacknowledged syncretism between the Christian’s perspective and the world’s. Yet Carlson eagerly and competently approaches the task of explaining why genuine, effective encouragement cannot exist outside of the truths of God and his Word—boldly confronting the unbiblical, platitudinal inspirations that have been seeping into Christians’ thoughts for decades.
In a world that groans with the effects of sin-produced suffering, and specifically in a culture where self-help and self-pity remedies abound, this book addresses a universal need. Carlson repeatedly urges ladies to look away from themselves and look to Christ, for the only way to fight sin, temptation, and discouragement is to rehearse and believe the promises and faithfulness of God as seen in the person of Jesus. Then she goes one step further by guiding the reader to find Christ in the means of grace as God’s ordained path to encouragement.
Though not a particularly deep study, I found Carlson’s writing persuasive, edifying, and convicting. I’m certain that I will not be the only reader to realize that in my attempts to build others up, I often default to merely sharing superficial compliments and affirmations. Carlson’s analysis will also deeply resonate with anyone who has experienced discouragement or has sensed the vanity of unbiblical clichés. While being on guard against the temptation to view encouragement as an effort to conceal the difficulties of life, she confidently asserts that even in the darkest of trials there is no greater encouragement than that which is found in Jesus Christ. Though our feelings are subject to change, God changes not. Thus, in him must encouragement lie.
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