A book review, with thoughts about 2016...
“When the dark night first falls, it is natural to spend some time wondering if it is a test or punishment for something you have done. This is often a sly way of staying in control of the situation, since the possibility that you have caused it comes with the hope that you can also put an end to it, either by passing the test or by enduring the punishment.”
-Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark. p. 134-135.
Barbara Brown Taylor is not your typical Christian author. This is not your typical Christian book. It seeks to approach the topic of darkness from a Christian point of view with other worldviews supporting it, such as Buddhism, mysticism, and a mix of both Protestantism and Catholicism. There is also a very light sprinkling of Islam, although it's not very much. Max Lucado or John MacArthur this is not, Taylor is more closely linked to the writings of Madeline L'Engle.
Don't let that scare you off from giving this book a read, it is tremendous. But it is, like many other books, writing that will challenge you and it probably involves some material you will outright disagree with, but that doesn't make it a bad book. As I always tell people who are being challenged by new things; whether it be drug treatment or new books, or perhaps a brand new church, you pick the flowers and leave the weeds.
And as Augustine says, “All truth is God's truth”.
If you don't know who Barbara Brown Taylor is, she is a former Episcopal preach who now teaches at a small college in Georgia. She is also an occasional lecturer and speaker at notable colleges, seminaries and churches throughout the United States. She is one of the most influential preachers in modern times and you can find a few of her sermons on Youtube.
Her sermons are much like her books, usually short and very poetic. This book clocks in at 187 pages and the type is big, with small pages. I finished it without very much effort in 2 days. It is not a difficult read, although it is a mystical read. If you are looking for solid, practical answers, you won't find them here. This book raises more questions than it answers. But it's good to look at the whole concept of dark and why it is so scary, why we view it as bad and seeing what can we learn from it.
The author approaches the idea, concept and reality of darkness from a theological, psychological, emotional and practical perspective. The biggest take away from this book is a portion I highlighted on page 135 which says,
“One of the hardest things to decide during a dark night is whether to surrender or resist. The choice often comes down to what you believe about God and how God acts, which means that every dark night of the soul involves wrestling with belief”
What does the dark tell you about yourself? What does the Bible say about the dark? The next time you read, focus on the dark and ask questions, it's good to flip things around and ask questions, that's how we learn, that's how we strengthen beliefs and hold onto faith in the midst of doubt.