Every year, thousands of books are published in the non-fiction Christian genre. Some are novel, others are republications of older works; most are not worth reading (remember C.S. Lewis’ maxim: read one old book for every new book that you read). Yet, every once in awhile, a modern author publishes an absolute gem that will serve the church for years to come. This year, Dane Ortlund, son of Ray Ortlund, has published one of the most helpful, encouraging, and needed books surrounding the person of Jesus for the every-day Christian. Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly seeks to answer the ultimate question that many of us wrestle with: How does Jesus really feel about us?
For many Christians growing up in the West, we are completely unaware of how our familial and cultural upbringing has shaped the way we view God and live in our Christian life. As a culture that values productivity, success, and hard-work, many times these mentalities bleed into our view of God. While we would not outright proclaim this, many of us functionally live our lives as if God is a boss rather than a father, a master rather than a friend, someone to appease rather than someone to enjoy. But, for those of who are in Christ, have our cultural glasses blinded us to the true character of Jesus towards us? Ortlund wishes to exchange your Western glasses with biblical ones, helping you to see that Jesus’s primary disposition is gentle and lowly.
Perhaps Ortlund’s book was so impactful for me because I felt like he was writing directly toward me: someone who is often “discouraged, frustrated, weary, disenchanted, cynical, and empty” (pg. 13). In the pit of despair, how does Jesus feel about us? While this sort of questioning may seem foreign to how we talk about God, Ortlund is unafraid to ask such bold and inviting questions. Through the use of biblical passages and puritan writers such as Thomas Goodwin, Ortlund beckons the weary Christian to the promise land of better rest in the biblical Jesus.
Put simply: Gentle and Lowly was by far the best book I read in 2020. My hope and prayer is that I may savor the words of Ortlund so that I may love Christ more deeply and also experience his love more often. For those Christians who are tired, discouraged, cynical, and frustrated, allow this book to be a balm to your wounded soul. To give you a simply taste of the healing you may encounter, please reflect deeply upon these words from the first chapter:
“His yoke is kind and his burden is light. This is, his yoke is a nonyoke, and his burden is a nonburden. What helium does to a balloon, Jesus’s yoke does to his followers. We are buoyed along in life by his endless gentleness and supremely accessible lowliness. He doesn’t simply meet us at our place of need; he lives into our place of need. He never tires of sweeping us into his tender embrace. It is his very heart. It what gets him out of bed in the morning.”Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly (pg. 23).