It is always a risk to share concern over something beloved by many. And if it has helped or encouraged many, maybe is it better just to leave it alone? The Jesus Calling devotionals by Sarah Young concern me, yet that does not mean I am totally opposed to them.
There is no need to re-invent the wheel, and I found 3 reviews that share my concerns well. If you are interested, here they are with a brief summary of their focus:
- Tim Challies has a review of Jesus Calling here. Challies does an exceptional job of focusing on the issue of how Sarah Young claims to be getting direct messages from Jesus. The theological concerns shared in this review are similar to the concerns I voice in my recent series of posts entitled “How Does God Speak to us Today?”
- This review (which is very diplomatic) does a good job of voicing the concern that the devotionals seem to be primarily therapeutic, affirmative, nurturing – as well as self-centered. Yet, is this balanced? Jesus also had hard and challenging things to say as well.
- Finally, in this review on Amazon, the reviewer succinctly shares 4 reasons he cannot wholeheartedly endorse the Jesus Calling devotionals. Again, we can see well worded concern that the “therapeutic” Jesus of these devotionals says only a limited range of things compared to what is actually taught in the entirety of the Bible.
This does not mean that Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling devotionals should be thrown in the trashcan! Her style and approach could be very helpful and healing to women going through certain difficulties or from abusive backgrounds. (Note I say women. I honestly could not see many men appreciating these devotionals.) There are also those who have a very hard time believing that there is a God who loves and cares for them. These devotionals could be very helpful in these circumstances as well.
So…I think these devotionals could be okay for a season of time in an individual’s life. I would not broadly recommend or suggest the Jesus Calling devotionals to a group of women, especially without the above caveats. I’d be more likely to recommend on an individual basis if I knew, for example, that because of a particular woman’s circumstances these devotionals could benefit her.
My primary concern would actually be this: Never “moving on” from these or similar devotionals. Women, in particular, can be drawn almost exclusively to nurturing and relational things. This can be a strength but it can also be a great weakness. I’m reminded of something Dorothy Sayers said: “We have de-clawed the lion of Judah & made him a house cat for pale priests & pious old ladies.” – Jesus also roared like a lion and did not mince words! Balance is needed in what we consume – and a spiritual diet needs more than the therapeutic approach of Jesus Calling.
Women also need to hear hard things, be challenged, and encouraged to go deeper in their knowledge of the faith. Women need to be exposed to more objective teaching that is not purely from a relational or nurturing perspective. I’m drifting into another topic, but here is a post (Be a Woman of Depth who Leads the Way) where I expound on this more.
Thanks for listening. And I hope everyone really “heard” that I am truly not against these devotionals, but simply rather have some words of caution.