Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life Without Limits, by Nick Vujicic

Someone, somewhere in book bloggy land once reviewed this and made it sound very interesting to me. Apparently Life Without Limits has just be released in trade paperback by WaterBrook Multnomah and I was asked if I would like to review a copy. I said yes, because I distinctly remember being impressed by Nick Vujicic's story.

Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life arrived in the mail and I instantly tried to ignore the tag line about living a "ridiculously good life." (It just strikes me as overkill in the I'm-so-happy department.) I do like a healthy dose of reality. One can be very happy and very grounded in reality at the same time. (My personality is very muted, if you haven't guessed this about me yet.) Still, I had high hopes and was curious to see what Vujicic had to say.

If you have not heard of him, his story is very unique and interesting. He was born without arms or legs. His parents had had two ultrasounds prior to his birth which apparently detected no abnormalities and so it was with some shock that they welcomed their limbless child into the world. At first they fretted and worried about what his life would look like, considering his disabilities. At times, Nick himself wandered the same thing. He wasn't sure if he would be able to go to college, and didn't know if he would get married and have a career like most people you and I know. He did hit a point of despair and briefly considered suicide, but ultimately decided it was better to live.

Nick Vujicic was raised in a Christian home and believed from a very young age that God had a plan for his life. It was definitely going to be a different life, but it was a life! This book moves you through his early days, questioning why he was the way that he was and coming to terms with his reality. More than half of the book is focused on his adult years and how he has come to overcome certain obstacles and "live a ridiculously good life" despite of them.

Now, in general, I found this book to be quite good and I have no huge reasons not to recommend it. In fact, I think many people could benefit from reading his story and hearing about life from his perspective. As he is quick to point out, he has visible struggles that make people view him and instantly realize that their own personal issues might possibly be overcome. His lack of limbs cause people to listen to what he has to share - because a guy without arms and legs telling you that life is beautiful and in it you can accomplish great things is a pretty hard fellow to ignore!

The reason I didn't quite fully connect were as follows (and please try to follow me carefully):

1. The chief and primary reason that I had a hard time digging in and loving this book is because I have pretty high levels of self-confidence as it is. I would say that this book is written to people who are lacking self-esteem and/or are discouraged with their present circumstances. Vujicic's goal is to cause you to see past the moment - see past the struggles - and trust that God has a purpose for you. Great message, right? But since I am already convinced of that fact for myself, and since this was a point that he made in every chapter and on every page, the book felt like a very long, long pep talk to me. (A pep talk that I wasn't personally in need of.) That said, there are a fantastic and outrageous amount of people on this earth who need just such a pep talk and I doubt that they would find a more enthusiastic person than Nick Vujicic to encourage them.

2. The book did feel like a very long speech. As I discovered when reading this book, Nick Vujicic is an inspirational speaker by profession and that clearly shows. He is very gifted at it. I looked up some of his Youtube videos after reading the book and I actually enjoyed those more (and found them far more impacting) because they were short, to the point and gave you a very clear visual of his "difficulties." So I would say that I would value him more as a speaker than an author.

3. Our theology did not match up on some points. For example, he says, "God helps those who help themselves" which is a statement that cannot be found in scripture anywhere at all (and I'm not even sure why publishers let such statements go unchecked in books these days). Such a statement indicates that a great deal of your life is left up to you. Nick even says that this is so, over and over again throughout the book. He has more of a "God is watching us from a distance" point of view which I find to be rather inaccurate. God is quite present and gives us the strength that we need to accomplish the things that He has planned for us. We have a duty and responsibility to trust that and obey, but we do not have to rely on our own strength to succeed at life. (I'm grateful that I do not believe He is far off, waiting for me to do all the work! I think perhaps if I thought my ability to succeed at things was based on my own know-how and power than I probably WOULD be lacking in self-confidence, would have been very impressed by this book, and would have fallen into a vicious cycle of bad theology in the meantime.)

  • I am held in the palm of God's hand. He is keeping me safe - no matter what my life circumstances might look like at any point in time. (Psalm 91)
  • He has a great plan for my life. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • His strength is better than mine and He gives provides me with enough of His strength to overcome obstacles when I put all of my faith and trust in Him. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • I am nothing by myself, least I begin to boast than I am. My worth is found in Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:17)
  • His plans and my plans don't always match up - but I accept and believe that His are better. (Isaiah 55:8)
  • He is God and He is everything. I am His child and therefore I am and have everything that I could possibly need. (The entire Bible.)

All that to say, I didn't really care for his theology and take some issues with where he would draw his strength and inspiration to keep going. On the flip side of that, I also appreciated the fact that he addresses the type of attitude that we need to have to press on in life (and, I would say, our Christian faith). We are to submit our emotions, thoughts and dreams to the Lord and ask for His direction. Even when we do not like the answers we receive from Him, we are not to wallow in misery. We need to learn to thank the Lord for all things (1 Thess. 5:18) - knowing that He uses all things for our good and for His glory. (Yes, you've heard me say that a time or two! I still believe it to be true!) Our attitude primarily needs to be one of gratefulness for all that God has done, and all that we trust and believe He will continue to do! For His glory! (We just get to enjoy the ride! 'Though it may be an intolerable compliment at times.)

On the whole, I guess I'd say I can see how Life Without Limits could be used as an influential tool to make those who feel depressed or discouraged to change their perspective on life and what happiness might look like. He is a very inspiring man with a very unique and incredible story to tell! That much is for certain! I just wish that, given the fact this book is being published by a "Christian publisher" (or publishing division), that a little more care and concern had been given to making sure that it is scriptural accurate . . . because the Gospel message itself is the most truthfully inspiring message that I believe anyone could possibly receive. (And I do believe that Nick Vujicic would agree with that statement!)

As an additional note - it turns out that Nick just got married this past year! I think that's really awesome and I'm happy for him.

Thank you, WaterBrook Multnomah, for sending a copy of this book my direction in exchange for my honest review. And there you have it!


B said...

It seems like the expression "God helps those who help themselves," while not entirely wrong (to me, at least), probably needs to be qualified a bit. As you point out, it's frequently misinterpreted and inclines toward weak theology. (I heard an expression recently that I liked a little more: "Pray to catch the bus, and then run as fast as you can." I don't know that it's much stronger theologically -- or, frankly, that it has any theology in it! -- but it seemed to capture the idea a little better.)

This book does look like a great read, although not necessarily for all :)

Barbara H. said...

My mother-in-law read this, I think, back when she was still reading, and said she couldn't put it down. I wasn't inclined to read it myself, but I can definitely see how it would help to put one's own difficulties into perspective. I'd agree with your theological perspectives. I do see B's point above. It was said even of Hudson Taylor that he prayed as if everything depended on God and worked as if everything depended on him. Overcoming obstacles does involve prayer as well as hard work, but it's with God as a very present help who energizes our labors (in relation to obstacles -- in relation to our right standing with Him, He has done all the work). Or, as someone at my alma mater used to say, "God's not going to do your math homework for you," but He will help you with it if you ask Him.

BerlinerinPoet said...

I like this guy a lot, and I might look up some of his talks. I probably will skip the book because I feel like I'd come away with the same conclusions.

That is so awesome that he got married! :-)

....*ahem* also thank you for linking. It made my day!

Bluerose said...

I'm definitely not trying to argue here. I GENUINELY want to understand what you're getting at! :)

I don't understand how "God helps those who help themselves" is wrong. If it's wrong, then why do we read books teaching us how to be better. "Made to Crave" was at the top of your blog, so I'll use it as an example. If God decides each and every time I eat too much sugar, causing my weight to go up, why read that book? If His plan is for me to be overweight, why bother?

Another example: I can pray all I want for alone time in the morning for Bible study, and have it given to me, but I've still got to get my tail up out of bed to take advantage of it.

Each and every time I sin, is that God's choice, in your opinion?

Am I misunderstanding? Again, NOT trying to argue. My mind just isn't completely wrapping around what you're getting at. I'm too curious to not break out of my comfort zone here. ;)

And, I do very much believe God is holding me in His palm, with great plans for me, as opposed to watching from a distance. But, I've always believed in the saying, "Pray life everything depends on God, and work like everything depends on me."

Susanne said...

I've had this out from the library but just didn't get to it. It's been on my to read list since. My kids saw him at a youth conference and said he was really inspirational.

Carrie said...

@Bluerose - I hear what you are saying (about the not arguing bit). Let me see if I can explain my position well.

#1 - There is no verse which says, "God helps those who helps themselves." It's a common quip, but it is not scripture. Does God help those who help themselves? No, not always. I could say, "I'm going to help myself win the Nobel Peace Prize and put ten million dollars in the bank with my awesome ability to manage a large corporation." Then i could work towards that goal but that does not obligate God to look down from Heaven and say, "oh. I see someone is working for themselves! I think I will bless that!" He can just as soon say, "Bad idea, Carrie. That's not what I have planned for you."

Looking at it more practically even - I might say, "I'm going to go and restore this broken relationship right now. I'm peaceful and persevering. God will bless that." But what God might be saying is, "I value your heart in this, but this is not the time to restore that relationship. I'm working something out in them that you are not aware of. So this relationship is not going to be restored to your satisfaction."

I think saying, "God helps those who helps themselves" places the focus on man's ability, instead of God's sovereignty.

Now, I'm NOT saying that Nick Vujicic should lay in bed day after day and will his arms to grow. "But God, I've willed it!" No, it's not as we would will, right? God said, "Not going to do it. But I DID give you a brain and the gift of creativity and I expect you to use THAT!" We say, "I want" instead of "as God wills" more often than we shoot and I think this popular quip buys into the idea that it's more about what we want, work for and is in "our" power than about what God would will and work out in us.

This does not excuse us to NOT work. As I also said, He gave us a brain and told us we should seek after wisdom. But our ultimate help and strength to do ANY work is to be found in Christ. I don't weed my yard and say, "Look what I have done in my power! Now, God make my plants grow!" I say, "Lord, thank you for the land you have given me to work. I pray for wisdom in tending to it, stregnth and ability to keep working in it and I thank you for the profits or the ability to find food elsewhere if you do not grow it here." Again, it turns the focus in the more correct position.

I do have abilities and talents. But they were gifted to me by the Lord and so it ultimately all comes back to Him. I don't like that phrase, "God helps those who helps themselves" because it points to humanity instead of God. It's more of a "Well, we have to do something FIRST." But I would say that there is nothing that we do FIRST as we have nothing apart from Christ. We are dead in our sin and trespasses until He makes us alive in Christ, etc. It doesn't start with me . . . (and whatever I have to offer comes from Him anyway.)

Does this. . . .help to explain where I'm coming from? (I can try again, if not.)

Bluerose said...

Well, I completely agree with every bit of that! Thank you for taking time to explain so well! :)

I was looking at that phrase much differently, so I'll be more careful with using it now. We were in much more agreement than I thought. ;)

Stephanie Kay said...

I haven't read the book or heard of the author but he does sound very inspirational.

On a side note. I love your further explanation on "God helps those who help themselves." I completely agree. :) That's all.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

Carrie, I like your detailed explanation regarding the theological problems. Perhaps I can add something to that.

The phrase "God helps those that help themselves is indeed, not a Biblical concept. Like a few other things we think we know, this one isn't in the Bible. The concept actually stems from Greek philosophy. The earliest known form of the saying is found in Aesop's fable, "Hercules and the Waggoner." (c. 600 BC) The fable is mentioned by various philosophers as standing for the proposition "The Gods Help Those That Help Themselves," which is how the phrase entered the vernacular.

The closest Biblical equivalent I know of is I Peter 2:19-21

"For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

I would interpret this as having an application in our dealings with adversity. If we are suffering because of our "poor me," helpless attitude, we are not doing right. If we fail to use the knowledge and strength that we have, we are adding to our own problems. So I agree wholeheartedly with your explanation.

(Side note: A startling percentage of people also believe that "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," is also in the Bible. Actually, it is in the Communist Manifesto...)

I'm with you on the pep-talk problem. I'm leaning toward thinking that this is in part an introvert/extrovert thing. I have a limited tolerance for excessive emotion in any direction, because it exhausts me.

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