What Love Looks Like: 12 Leaders Tell When Love Broke Through Their Darkest Moments, compiled by James M. Goll
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review.]
There is a lot to appreciate in this book from an emotional level. Twelve people who are leaders in the holiness movement or Pentecostalism or that general religious context write about how they felt the love of God through their darkest hours. These hours are dark, in ways that are easy for a certain sort of person to relate to–the writers in this book talk about experiences like heartbreak, the loss of a spouse, near death experiences, trouble in foreign countries, horrific child abuse, trying (and failing) to gracefully handle church splits and being rejected and subjected to massive efforts at character assassination, as well as more mundane problems like massive depression and dysfunctional families full of alcoholism and verbal abuse. There is no doubt that these stories are heartfelt and honest, and several speakers deservedly speak about the problem that the Church is not often a very supporting place for people who sincerely struggle with problems in their lives. This lack of love is real, and it has serious consequences. Anything that spurs believers to demonstrate more love among ourselves, as well as to non-believers, as God shows love to even those who rebel against His ways, is something to be appreciated.
In terms of its organization, the book has two forewords, because apparently the author felt it necessary to have this book endorsed by as many people as possible, especially as this book’s royalties are being given to a couple of charities. After this, twelve supposedly respected leaders, with various self-appointed titles like prophet and bishop and so forth, that I have never heard of before, despite being extremely well read in contemporary Christian literature, all of whom had their own ministry and all of whom had dealt with serious difficulties in their ministry, some of which were alluded to very discreetly in the manner of my own writing about my personal difficulties, written in such a way that anyone who was a part of the context would know what was being meant, but that a stranger to their issues, like myself, would only know that something had gone wrong without knowing all of the details. It is probably for the best that the authors only discuss their own immediate family in great detail, although even this is certainly frightening enough in some cases.
That said, there are some areas of this book that are, quite frankly, very disturbing. The leader in this book engage in behavior that is highly questionable, including showing a shockingly undiscerning attitude towards spirits. Given that these are the sorts of people who believe in healings and speaking in tongues, the way in which they describe Jesus Christ as the “man of fire” or apparently take to heart advice from wicked spiritual emissaries is greatly disheartening, as is the fact that they talk about matters like soul ties and other areas. A lot of this book makes sense largely to those who are in the particular “holiness” tradition that the authors spring from–for they are not particularly knowledgeable about the Bible and seem to be a rather quarrelsome lot within their own churches and ministries. I suppose I have no room to throw stones as far as that is concerned, though, with my own religious background. At the base of a lot of this book’s message there are a couple of related problems. For one, the writers of this book seems to assume that feeling the love of God is a validation of one’s choices in life, which is definitely not the case. God loves all, but not all follow His ways as clearly given in His word. Those who are willing to disregard His word or who seek private inspiration set themselves up for difficulty. Additionally, these writers do not appear to understand how a walk with God is supposed to lead to progressively more godly lives. To be sure, we always have to struggle, but a life spent well in service to God’s people and in loving obedience to God should result in a way of life that is visibly godly to others. That’s not what one gets from reading this particular book, unfortunately.