Friday, August 4, 2023

When the World Breaks by Jason Miller Book Review

About the book:

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that the world is broken. The world we thought we knew vanished, and so many of us are now struggling to make sense of a world that’s not what we thought it was. 

This book is about what happens when the fundamental picture we had relied on – our sense of how everything holds together – falls apart. For some, this moment comes when a global pandemic upends our security. For others, it’s a partner leaving, or a terrible diagnosis, or the death of a loved one. Many of us have felt our worlds breaking when long-held beliefs about God or faith slipped through our hands. Whether the details are global or personal, the experience is the same: you discover that the framing reality you were living in has fractured.

But here’s the good news: The world has been breaking for as long as we can remember. We've been here before, which means we can turn to ancient, perennial wisdom to help us sort through these urgent problems. In When the World Breaks, Jason Adam Miller explores the possibilities for hope hidden in the paradoxes Jesus spoke when he taught the eight blessings – often called the Beatitudes – recorded in the beginning of Matthew chapter 5. These strange blessings name our experiences of suffering and are built on a particular kind of hope. This book is a meditation on those teachings as a transformative way forward when we suffer. 

Lyrically written, theologically rich, and supremely accessible, When the World Breaks reveals an unexpected way to look at these familiar verses, giving readers hope that God is with them in their suffering, and helping them become the kind of people who can put things back together.

My review:

Miller shares his thoughts on the beatitudes in the context of his own experiences and the experiences of others. This book is not a theological investigation of the beatitudes. It is Miller's personal journey through them based on his own experience.

Miller does not see the beatitudes as descriptive of what good Christians should be like. Rather, he sees them as paradoxes. We will never solves them but they do offer us a way forward. Jesus, Miller says, assumes a world fundamentally different from the world we live in. One paradox is experiencing God in the emptiness and void that results from our world breaking apart. Miller likens it to a mystical experience. The blessings promised in the beatitudes are not material but that we have access to the life of God in us.

Miller does include some investigation into the original language and historical meaning. Mostly this book contains stories and Miller's personal reflections. His main thesis seems to be that the blessing is found in the experiencing. For example, in Matt. 5:6, what we crave is actually felt in the hunger and in the thirst. In the hunger one finds the experience of God. Being hungry and thirsty for righteousness is the blessing.

Miller gives us an entirely different way to look at the beatitudes. This is a book for people who like reading stories, such as Miller's experiences. It will help us find God in the pain and emptiness we experience. I think this book would be best read within a trusted group as it deals with feelings that need to be processed more than teaching that needs to be intellectually assimilated.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Jason Adam Miller is the founder and lead pastor of South Bend City Church, an eclectic Christian community known for its thoughtful teaching, inclusive vision, and commitment to its city context. An advocate for artists and peacemakers, his work beyond South Bend focuses on cultural headwaters and conflict zones, where he serves an international constituency of leaders. He holds a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame.

FaithWords, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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