Published by Good Book Company on June 1, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Theology
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Come and see that our purpose as Christians is not about being useful but about being known by God and enjoying him.
We all want to be useful to God, but often we feel that we’re not, or, because of illness or other difficulties, that we can’t be as active as we’d like to be. Liz Carter wants to rescue us from the spiral of feeling useless that we get caught in, and to show us that being useful isn’t what Christianity is about. In fact, the Bible barely talks about God using people at all.
Weaving together insightful Scriptural analysis and beautifully told stories, Liz takes us on a journey to see what the Bible really says about weakness, identity, and God’s purposes for helping us to see ourselves and our relationship with God in an entirely different and much more glorious way. Readers will discover that our purpose as Christians is not about being useful but about being known by God and enjoying him.
This book is particularly helpful for those struggling with long-term physical or mental illness, but it’s also a great encouragement to Christians who feel that they are not good enough or useful enough to God for other reasons.
Questions at the end of each chapter make this a helpful resource to read with a friend or in groups.
In Valuable, Liz Carter emphasizes that even though Christians often focus on what people do for God, God loves us for who we are, not for what we do. She dismantles harmful or unhelpful ways that people talk about ministry, showing how wrong it is for Christians to relate to God based on metrics of use, rather than approaching God as a Father who delights in His children. Carter writes about this from her perspective as someone who suffers from chronic illness and cannot maintain the endless striving that many Christians think their faith requires, and she speaks into this issue in a very helpful way.
Carter shares anecdotes from her own life throughout the book, and she also presents hypothetical scenarios of ways that vulnerable people can feel marginalized when churches prize external measures of success and focus on people who can be of obvious benefit to the church’s ministry. She also makes important points about how someone doesn’t have to turn their worst traumas into a ministry. It is enough for someone to know and love God in spite of their pain, and they don’t have to start up a ministry to other hurting people to validate their spiritual lives or prove that their life has meaning. Carter differentiates true callings from guilty feelings of obligation, and she shares passages from Scripture to back up her points about how God relates to people and works in their lives.
Carter also criticizes terminology related to God “using” people, saying that even though people usually mean this in a positive way, the language of “use” can imply control and exploitation, especially for people with abuse histories. She encourages people to use language that implies a partnership, in which God works with us to accomplish good in the world, rather than “using” us like a tool that you can use up and discard. I thought that was very insightful. I have never had an issue with the word “use” in a spiritual context, since I know what we mean by that and don’t find it triggering, but Carter makes helpful points about how we can change our paradigms and speech to encourage a more positive, biblical, and life-giving view of God.
My only critique is that even though Carter wrote this book for a general Christian living audience, she does not include examples geared towards men. She shares about her own experiences, and she gives some general examples, but the illustrations focus on women. This would be more inclusive and helpful if she had shared examples about men as well, especially since she is directing this to the entire church. Besides, some people need the reminder that it’s okay for men to be weak sometimes, and that they don’t always have to act strong, capable, and unlimited.
Valuable: Why Your Worth Is Not Defined by How Useful You Feel is an excellent book for suffering Christians who feel guilty for not doing enough. It is also an important read for ministry leaders, both as rest for their souls and a careful warning against messages and attitudes they may communicate that may harm vulnerable people. This book is a compelling, short read that I highly recommend. It is vulnerable, thoughtful, and thoroughly biblical, and the author shares a unique message that stands out among books with similar themes. I really enjoyed this, and am sure that it will make a lasting impression on many readers.