This is a good book. It is very easy reading. Groeschel points out areas in life that if we recognize then we can clean up our lives and live with God intentions. He's not trying to resolve all problems or fix the world. This book helps you realize toxins: toxic behaviors, toxic emotions, toxic influences in your life and then you can move forward in your growth with God. It's time for some inner and spiritual house cleaning.
However, the cleansing of one's soul requires some work because we live in a sin-contaminated world. Just as exposure to harmful toxins can accumulate in the body causing disease, the toxins of sin accumulate in our souls a little at a time diseasing our relationship with God. The analogy was quite fitting, even the names of the chapters were as interesting as their content was insightful.
Deception Infection: Telling Ourselves the Truth
Septic Thoughts: Overcoming Our False Beliefs
Lethal Language: Experiencing the Power of Life-Giving Words
Hazardous Waste: Uncovering Our Hidden Sins
Bitter Roots: Digging Up the Destructive Source of Resentment
Green with Envy: Scratching the Poison Ivy of Comparison
Rage Rash: Neutralizing The Acid of Anger
Scare Pollution: Unlocking the Chokehold of Fear
Mood Poisoning: Purging the False Promises of Materialism
Germ Warfare: Cleansing Our Lives of Cultural Toxins
Radioactive Relationships: Loving Unhealthy People without Getting Sick
Religion Gone Bad: Tossing Out Moldy Legalism, Spoiled Churches, and Sour Christians
While the author pulls no punches in identifying sinful practices, it is done in the least condemning way and with some confesses of his own. In fact, there is a sprinkling of humor that I found quite engaging with such a serious subject. I also appreciated his stance against legalism:
Some people disagree with me, but I refuse to take a legalistic stance and draw a hard line based on someone else's standards. For example, when it comes to movies, I've heard respected Christian leaders say, "Going to see an R-rates movie is always wrong."_ The fact that we're called to discernment and not indoctrination is crucial to understand. The Passion of the Christ earned an R rating for its brutal violence, yet most Christians agree the movies has tremendous spiritual value. But at the same time, there needs to be a line somewhere. As you pray, I believe God will show you where to draw that line.
There probably is nothing new described in this book, but the principles described are well organized without being overwhelming and certainly can be put to use for cleansing one's soul, as suggested. I recommend Soul Detox highly for every Christian.
Disclosure: I received this book for free from Zondervan in exchange for my honest review.
I am a pretty fast reader. I have read books that I have gotten from publishers in a matter of hours, and I often spend another few hours of time thinking about what to say to put into words how the book impacted me, and what I thought of it. Generally, within one or two days, I'm done with the process. This book took me three months to read and another two months to write this review! Why? Because every time I read a page or two, I had to put it down and absorb the ideas, especially since so many were things that I struggle with. From the opening page, Craig hits on a big area that I struggle with in my life - smoking.
I started smoking when I was 15. I won't forget the first one - a Benson and Hedges menthol cigarette, smoked in a bathroom stall at school with my best friend Tracy. It was the beginning of a very terrible habit that controls more of my life than I like to admit, although I was miraculously able to quit once for 18 months, when I was pregnant with my daughter. Once I hit a stressful patch, though, I was right back at it, and despite knowing how bad it is for me, I actually went through a period of time (pre-Christianity) when I defiantly said to myself "I'm an adult, I enjoy smoking and I don't intend to quit until I'm good and ready". Three years ago, when I became a Christian, I became good and ready, but quitting has eluded me. I have prayed that God would take the desire from me, but I have continued to be bound by this. In some instances, I have rationalized it, too, giving myself permission to keep on, thinking that somehow, if God really wanted me to quit, He would miraculously remove the addiction, and further that this is my "thorn in the flesh" and His grace is sufficient. True enough, I suppose, but for me, it really is just a rationalization for something that is hard work to change.
The problem is that smoking has become an idol for me. When I'm stressed or worried or even at peace - my first thought isn't bringing my troubles or praise to God, it is instead "where's my lighter?" That in a nutshell was what Soul Detox was about - the ways in which the enemy encourages us to create idols out of things around us, things that may or may not be culturally acceptable. From intense relationships to gambling to casual sex, any area that can take precedence over Christ in our lives is dangerous and limits our ability to grow in our faith.
The hardest moment in the book for me was the last chapter, when the following paragraph REALLY hit home:
"If God wants you to quit smoking and you're waiting on him to take your desire away, but you're still lighting up one after another, then I'll just say it - you're crazy! Not for smoking - we all have our vices - but for not doing your part. Throw the cigarettes away. Talk to your doctor, get help, join a group, get rid of the smokes. Now! "
That's why it has taken me so long to finish this book and then to write the review. I know that God used Craig to write those words JUST FOR ME. I know what the next step is. Yet, I struggle with it. It's hard to relinquish even poison when you have held it in high esteem for so long. God and I are working on this in my life, truly. Craig also says that "Delayed obedience is disobedience." I know that my obedience in this area won't be complete until I do exactly what that paragraph says - give it up, stop it, and put myself completely in God's hands as I continue moving forward. So, for today, that's my prayer - Lord, give me just enough strength and courage to keep the lighter in my pocket.
Whatever area you are struggling with, it seems likely that God has something to say to you, too. It may be in Craig's book - it covers many areas that Christians struggle with, including bitterness, envy, greed, and many other things, while still maintaining that grace is grace - transformation can't come from the outside, but it must be an outward expression of an inward work. The Holy Spirit brings the promised triumph, peace, and joy that should be the beautiful expression of every Christian life, and while we don't have to strive to get there, we do have to follow the guidance He gives. The powerful blessings that flow from our obedience to His prompting are waiting, sometimes just in the form of realizing that knowing Him is way better than our replacements. So, read the book, but be warned - your toxin may be identified and you may find the Holy Spirit whispering to your heart: "Do you love ME more than your poison, beloved?" Soul Detox will encourage you to find the way to respond with a resounding "YES!" that is more than just a casual affirmation - but an obedient and willing desire to discard anything and everything that stands between you and Him.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255