This is a series of stories of what it looks like to walk with God, over the course of about a year.
This is the aim of John Eldredge’s book, Walking With God and it reads much like a journal, as is the intent. The structure is casually scattered with no clear chapters or over-arching themes other than the general incentive of giving readers a basic framework for how he walks with God. He invites us into the events of a singular year and shares exactly how he handles them while remaining mindful of the Lord. I have written a previous post about one of the high points in the book, which is his discussion on “agreements.”
Eldredge is clearly passionate about his faith in Christ and has deep insight into self-analysis, no doubt from his experience in counseling. He is able to peel back the layers behind the surface-level confrontations and touch on the nerve that runs beneath them – the point being that outward expression is not the problem, but a symptom of a deeper and more central issue in the heart. These insightful analyses, which are strewn throughout his work, are exceptional in my opinion and relatable to all since they exist to all.
Where I find myself stretching to align with Eldgredge is in his main proposition of the book. “Walking with God” is taught to the reader by stepping into the author’s shoes for a year, listening in on his conversations with the Lord, and either celebrating when he hears correctly or mourning when he hears incorrectly. At the very least, I find it to be an exhausting method of facing life.
Let me be clear that I am not in any way striving to call into question Eldgredge’s character or relationship with the Lord. Rather, I am observing the general framework Scripture seems to give and wondering whether his method of “walking with God” is one that all should feel the need to seek. To consolidate its substance into my own words, the book maps out a step-by-step process of learning to talk to and hear from God in the everyday arenas of life.
Throughout the course of his year, the reader follows Eldredge as he asks questions such as, “Which weekend should I plan to take my sons camping?” and “Do you want to heal our dog?” and “Should I send this email?” Some of these questions receive answers promptly, others take much longer. In the case of the camping query, it took nearly two weeks.The way to discernment involves “trying on” various answers one might feel the Lord suggesting (“Is it May 1st, God? Or maybe the weekend before?”), a very open-ended process without much Scriptural accountability.
My trouble isn’t so much that I do not believe that God speaks to us about questions like these. He hasn’t promised to every single time, but He can and sometimes does. My trouble was more in what seemed to be an implication of the book’s process – that if we can just learn to hear from God properly and ask Him the right questions in the right way then we will be filled with joyous experiences.
For example, one chapter begins with Eldredge regaining consciousness after an injurious fall he experienced when he was thrown from a horse that was spooked by a bee hive during a ride with his wife. He suffered a broken nose as well as two broken or fractured wrists that immobilized him from being able to write. During the days and weeks that followed, he confessed some undercurrents of guilt stemming from his having prayed over the horse before the ride and feeling uncertainty about it. If only he had listened…
Though I would imagine he would qualify this if asked pointedly, it is an implied conclusion in his work that does not receive qualification. I think this is a shortfall. God does not promise us enduring health and pleasureful circumstances wherever we go if we just pray hard enough that we discern where to go. In fact, it seems that He promises quite the opposite because fulfillment is a heavenly attribute to be entered into when we stand speechless before the King. There is a great difficulty in teaching Eldredge’s method because it relies much more on personal experience (I believe) than it does on Scripture itself. It also gives reason to second-guessing and a lot of doubt over what God is really saying, as evidenced in the book.
It is not the normative posture of believers in the Bible to ask the same question over and over until God finally answers. They do not bank upon visions or dreams to guide their way. Those events do occur from time to time, but they are not normative and they tend to catch the recipients in a state of surprise. What we see more often than not in Scripture are bold followers of the Lord whose confidence is in the promise that Christ will neither leave them or forsake them and out of that security they do what seems best (Acts 15:28-29; Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:1-9).
To me, it seems like a both/and. Sure, God can and does answer by means other than Scripture from time to time. He does give special revelation on occasion, but He has not promised that universally. So we should strive for the kind of prayerful relationship Eldredge argues for, but I do not think we should be held captive waiting on an answer for the Lord as to whether or not we should go camping this weekend or the next. Our following Him or falling away from Him does not depend upon answers like those.
What I desire to emulate in Eldredge’s example is his seriousness about the Lord. There is a deep humility towards his relationship with God and his desire for Him to speak into everything. That is the universally true principle that will strike the readers of Walking With God.