Book Review: Seasons of the Soul

book coverSeasons of the Soul: Stages of Spiritual Development

©2009 by Bruce Demarest

IVP Books – Formatio


I have spent much of the last three months reading, re-reading, and reading + highlighting (and making margin notes) in Seasons of the Soul: Stages of Spiritual Development by Bruce Demarest. I’m positive this book will make my 2010 “Top-Ten” list at the end of the year.

It was around five years ago that I started a more purposeful approach toward my own spiritual formation. Wrapped up in this approach was my self-education and exploration into the ancient paths of discipleship and the spiritual disciplines. One of my first forays into these “ancient paths” was a book compiled and edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith (Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups); this was also my introduction to the Renovare’ Group and classic Christian literature. Suffice it to say, this change in direction five years ago has been life-changing…for the good.

“Distressing afflictions loosen sin’s grip on our lives. Heart-wrenching trials break our stubborn wills, purge our sinful passions and amend our shameful behaviors… Spiritual disciplines performed in love facilitate Christlike maturity, but they neither remove sin nor bring favor with God. Since God alone knows what trials and afflictions will benefit us, we gladly allow him to choose our afflictions.”   ~~Bruce Demarest pp.53-57

The reason I offer this little side-bar of information (my background mentioned above) is the form and content of Seasons of the Soul necessitates the qualification. In this wonderful and delightfully insightful work of Bruce Demarest, he follows an arc of spiritual development that encompasses much of the recurring ebb and flow (mountain tops and valleys) during the course of our “Jesus Journey.” Using copious, and contextually accurate, references from Scripture along with cited quotations from ancient Christian authors (he includes contemporary authors too), Demarest gently guides the reader to an understanding of the process God has in place to bring His children to complete transformation in His likeness. The process is not easy, nor is the process without painful seasons of disorientation. Even more difficult, sometimes these seasons of spiritual disorientation are precipitated by events that are tragically and horrifically difficult in their own (physical, emotional, intellectual) rights to begin with. The arc Demarest has used to process these Seasons of the Soul follow:

  • Initial Orientation: Seeds of New Life
  • Painful Disorientation: Seasons of Distress
  • Painful Disorientation: Understanding Why We Suffer
  • Painful Disorientation: Dark Night of the Soul
  • Painful Disorientation: Redemptive Responses
  • Joyful Reorientation: Savor of Resurrection
  • Conclusion…

I cannot applaud the efforts and outcome of this book enough. It is superb. Part of its appeal to me is how accessible it is to a diverse audience (this, of course, in my opinion). I believe that Bruce Demarest is writing in such a way that he invites believer-disciples from all streams of Christianity as well as some curious readers from outside the streams of Christendom. Additionally, his writing is not so deep and saturated with theological academia that it is difficult to comprehend without a dictionary or library of references. Acknowledging this last point, he has not neglected those who might have a background in this field of study and includes a very well notated appendix and index that will assist the driven student in further study.

“I have learned that the Father relentlessly works to reshape his blood-brought children into the likeness of his son… Our task, however, is not merely to endure suffering, but to embrace it, find God in it and draw closer to him through it. Simply put, ‘There is no remedy for this darkness but to sink into it’ ~~B. Demarest

Conclusion:

I have already read this book 2-3 times in the past three months and continue to quote from it almost daily. I feel that my introduction several years ago to the classic Christian writings was a great primer to this “incarnational portrait” of transformation that is the Christian journey. Seasons of the Soul is a “must read” addition to your permanent library.

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