Has it been your experience that you (and others) don't love well? Perhaps you find yourself undermining the very relationship you value. Maybe you have difficulty expressing love because you were not loved well by your family or your church.
You are not alone. But, Smith says, loving well is a skill you can learn. It is not through a list of techniques that you will learn to love well. It is not by reading stories of others who love well. It is through a Person. You must experience love and know what it is before you can give it to others.
In this book, Smith investigates fifteen facets of the love we experience from God. He breaks the study into three sections: “Love that responds to a broken world,” “Love that reaches out to build others up,” and “Love that enjoys heaven now.”
Smith has included reflective questions at the end of each chapter. He has also included many examples of loving well (or failure to do so) from his own life and the lives of others.
I found some of the chapters to be great. For example, the chapter on longsuffering love has a section giving practical suggestions on how to bear well with others (79ff)
I wish there had been that same kind of practical advice in other chapters. For example, on the chapter on communication, that we should communicate is made very clear. Smith also gives examples of good and bad communication. However, practical ideas on how to restore communication where there is a rift is missing.
Sometimes it seems as if Smith thinks the biblical mandate to love is enough. In his chapter on sympathetic love, he notes that there are pictures in Scripture showing that God is touched by your grief. (23) He writes, however, “If you have been deeply hurt in your life, you may struggle to believe that your grief actually affects God.” (24) He suggests reading a passage from Hebrews 4, then tells a story, then moves on. Smith gives no suggestions as to how to work on that struggle so that you come to the point of accepting that God feels your grief.
Because of the sections like the one above on sympathetic love, I would recommend this book to relatively healthy Christians. If you have worked through any issues you have with God and are ready to show the love of God to others, this book will be a great encouragement to you. If, however, you have some issues with accepting God and his love toward you, you may find this book frustrating.
William P. Smith, M.Div., Ph.D., is the director of counseling at Chelten Baptist Church, Dresher, Pa., the author of the book Caught Off Guard: Encounters with the Unexpected God; and the minibooks How Do I Stop Losing It with My Children?; How to Love Difficult People?; Should We Get Married?; Starting Over; When Bad Things Happen; and Who Should I Date?. Bill is regularly invited to speak at other churches and lead weekend retreats. He and his wife, Sally, are the parents of three very active children.
Author's website: http://www.surprisedbygod.com/
New Growth Press, 304 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from The B&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.