HE HAS MADE ME GLAD: Enjoying God's Goodness With Reckless Abandon
This book is a sheer delight --- a whimsical look at the Christian life that lives up to the appointed title: HE HAS MADE ME GLAD ("he" being God).
At the beginning of an introductory chapter titled "We Are Far Too Easily Pleased," author Ben Patterson quotes C. S. Lewis: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us." Then comes Patterson's first paragraph: "A poll conducted by the George Barna organization a few years ago discovered that the number one desire of most Americans was to be thinner. Number two was to be richer."
That opening sets up Patterson's engaging style --- providing meaty content, including biblical exposition, literary quotes, and historical insight, in an anecdotal context. He sets up a thirst for joy and then walks you through the satisfaction of responding to God in a way that engenders joy.
HE HAS MADE ME GLAD would be appropriate to give to a non-Christian who is curious about the Christian faith. In early chapters Patterson lays out the basics of the gospel message. What's so amazing about grace? He clearly answers the question and, further, explains that if we really understand it, our response is one of gratitude. He quotes theologian Karl Barth: "Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning."
But the book also has much to offer a seasoned Christian, especially in an early chapter titled "Joy Busters," gently reminding us that past disappointments, myopia, and fear of losing control can block the joy God wants to give us. And also in the six chapters describing "habits of joy" --- these habits being compared to "the ways we spread our sails" to catch the "wind" of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the "gift" of joy. The habits? Gratitude in all things. Awareness of God's presence and love. Participation in a church community. Sabbath rest. Conversation that builds up rather than tears down. Generosity.
In terms of personal anecdote, Patterson, a former pastor and now college chaplain (and a husband and father of four grown children), admits to rare moments of dancing for joy around the living room. "Sometimes joy sweeps me off my feet, but more often," he continues, "it courts me and asks for a decision" --- a choice to raise one of the habitual sails.
The book is a bit repetitious --- Pascal's ecstatic conversion account being quoted twice, for example, and the last chapter being a partial reprise of the first --- but one hardly notices. I, for one, was turning pages and turning to prayer, allowing my spirit to reach toward heaven.
And now I turn to my bookcase: For probably 10 years Patterson's early book, WAITING: FINDING HOPE WHEN GOD SEEMS SILENT, has been nestled, unread, on a crowded shelf in my living room. Maybe it's time I picked it up.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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