“Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young is a much beloved devotional by modern Christian readers. Before receiving this reprinted cloth-covered edition I was mostly unfamiliar both with what the author and book says.
I’m often critical of devotionals for the reason that they aren’t able to be explore the depth of their topics and leave their readers desiring something more fulfilling, like eating cake when you’re hungry for meat. I would add “Jesus Calling” to this category and add a few other criticisms to this.
Young does not claim infallible inspiration and affirms that her work should be tested against scripture, however the sense in which she receives the inspiration for her devotional readings is somewhat hard to discern. She states in the introduction:
… I began to wonder if I could change my prayer times from monologue to dialogue. I had been writing in prayer journals for many years, but this was one-way communication: I did all the talking. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God might want to communicate to me on a given day. I decided to “listen” with a pen in hand, writing down whatever I “heard” in my mind.
Most people who have gone to Sunday school would repeat the well-known explanation that we speak to God through prayer and the way He speaks to us is through the scriptures. The way that she believes she gets these sort of personal messages is via God guiding her thoughts. I’m not totally certain how this works specifically but I would be wary of the almost mystic method she employs. Young does state that it is not an audible voice she is looking for.
This would be concerning in itself, however my main issue is with the premise on which the book is based. That Sarah Young is speaking from the 1st person as though Jesus himself is speaking. Throughout the book you can find phrases like “Learn to live from your true Center in Me. I reside in the deepest depths of your being” and “Walk with me in intimate Love-steps” as Sarah Young relays whatever she believes Jesus to be relaying to her. The issue I take with this is if something is to be said from the 1st person as Jesus, it ought to be the true Jesus speaking, not someone putting words in his mouth. To add to this, the things said are sometimes strange or odd. I found the reading for January 10th particularly odd:
“Every time you affirm your trust in me, you put a coin into My treasury. Thus you build up equity in preparation for days of trouble. I keep safely in My Heart all trust invested in Me, with interest compounded continuously. The more you trust Me, the more I empower you to do so.
Practice trusting Me during the quiet days, when nothing much seems to be happening. Then when the storms come, your trust balance will be sufficient to see you through. Store up for yourself treasure in heaven, through placing your trust in Me. This practice will keep you in My Peace.
It is just strange and not the words of Jesus. Other times she speaks of befriending and nick-naming your problems, which if one benefits from doing this, I won’t stop them, but Jesus never said to nickname our problems.
Still in other readings it is simply wrong. “… remember that I am sovereign over everything. I can fit everything into a pattern for good, but only to the extent that you trust Me.” Contrast this with the verse she quotes at the bottom of the page which states that God is working all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) regardless of how much you trust him in the given moment.
In addition to the aforementioned issues with Jesus being the supposed narrator is that on multiple occasions she says “I AM” in all capital small letters as you might find “LORD” in the Old Testament. This is something with which translators of the Sacred Name are incredibly careful with and the fact that Sarah Young uses it so nonchalantly is irreverent and dangerous.
Aside from these issues, I find the physical book itself to be gorgeous. From the cloth cover, to the sewn pages and colour choices for the cover and pages, I certainly admire this part of it.
Overall, it’s very unfortunate that this is written as though Jesus is speaking. There are times when Young isn’t wholly wrong, especially in the rare instances she speaks of repentance and sin, but I cannot recommend this book in good conscience.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.