A few weeks ago I received a copy of Unburdened: The Secret to Letting God Carry the Things That Weigh You Down by Chris Tiegreen. One of the reasons I really enjoy reviewing books for publishers is because it stretches me…I end up reading books I would probably never pick out myself. This is one of those books. I doubt it would have ever caught my eye if Tyndale hadn’t sent it to me. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, but I did. It’s on a timely subject for today’s typical overextended, harried parents.
The premise of the book is that, “the unburdened life is a calling to carry exactly what God places on our shoulders-nothing more, nothing less, nothing else-in the strength that he gives us.” Through anecdotes, personal stories, and Scriptural examples, Tiegreen attempts to show us that rather than weighing ourselves down or the opposite extreme of totally avoiding burdens and responsibilities, we need to take our cares to the One who longs to carry them for us. A major source of inspiration for Tiegreen was Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, a book well worth reading itself.
The key, according to Tiegreen, is to shift our focus onto God and his Kingdom, to make him our “magnificent obsession”:
“Anyone who has tried to eliminate worry and stress from his or her life by focusing on the worry and stress has fought a futile battle. It isn’t enough to lay all our burdens down. That never works. It’s a right and necessary start, but it isn’t the whole picture. When we ‘let go’, we leave a void, and it’s our nature to fill the vacuum with something…the answer is to replace what we’ve let go of with something else. Jesus tells us what the proper replacement is: a magnificent obsession with the Kingdom of God.”
Focusing on God wholeheartedly puts everything else in it’s proper place and aligns our priorities with his.
“When we’re centered on God, we no longer obsess about our work, family, lifestyle, ambitions, finances, or image. We obsess about his name and let him take care of the rest. Worship is the overflow of the heart that has taken that stance. Its the proof in the pudding, so to speak-the evidence that we really are more concerned with his glory than with our own interests. It’s a declaration that we have a higher purpose than ourselves. A funny thing happens when we place a higher priority on God’s praises than on our own burdens. He takes up our interests as his own. He may reshape them and reprioritize them, but he begins to invest his resources in them…God seems to become more zealous about our desires when we’ve abandoned ourselves to his.”
The real battle is not over successfully controlling the outcome of all our problems, but over our attitudes and perspectives towards them. Circumstances are not the battlefield, with joy following if the circumstances work out. Worship and joy are the battlefield. Often, circumstances will shift when our heart attitudes work out, though not always immediately or dramatically.
The book concludes with some great example prayers and the story of Jehoshaphat’s victory-by-worship from 2 Chronicles 20, asserting that this story, along with other examples in Scripture discussed throughout the book, are meant to be applied to our lives. God’s desire for his people is that we live fearlessly, faithfully, and freely, fully depending on him.
I really appreciated the engaging, conversational writing style and found Tiegreen’s honesty and transparency about his own shortcomings refreshing. He powerfully illustrates what it means to trust God using the Psalms, which he calls our “field manual”, and offers the book of Philippians as an example showing all the characteristics of an unburdened life…despite Paul’s circumstances while writing it! Ch. 4 on Trust and Ch. 8 and 9 on Praise and Presence, along with the conclusion, were the best in the book, in my opinion. Overall, I found Unburdened an encouraging, worthy read.
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(Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a complimentary copy of Unburdened for me to review. All opinions I’ve expressed are my own.)