Some might say I was a couple of years late to the party when I picked up Is this it? by Rachel Jones (The Good Book Company, 2019) a month or so ago. But I feel like, for me, it was bang on time.
Is this it? is a book for any Christian in their twenties who has questions about where their life is going and if they’re doing this ‘adulting’ thing right. The cover of the book, especially the avocado featured front and centre, catches your eye immediately. The subheading reads:
The difference Jesus makes to that… Where is my life going? Is God even there? Will I end up alone? Will this ever feel like home? I hate my job! I have no real friends! I wish I was back at school. Am I failing at life?! …feeling.
Rachel Jones, an editor in her twenties who is ‘married to no one, has zero kids, and frequently questions where her life is going’, artfully takes readers in her friendly and chatty style through a series of chapters tackling subjects such as:
Dissatisfied: Has everyone else got it better than me?
Lonely: Who are my friends anymore?
Doubt: Is God even real or am I wasting my life?
Single: Why is everyone else getting married?
Meaningless: What is the point?
Jones skilfully speaks biblical truth into the experiences of 20-somethings with gentleness, humour, and hope. Bringing in both her own anecdotes and reflections as well as those of her friends, it feels like Jones really ‘gets it’. Avoiding clichés and platitudes, she helps her readers to see their situation with God’s perspective, and to have a sense of meaning and purpose whilst staying grounded in truth.
My favourite chapter was entitled ‘Self-doubt: What if I fail in front of everybody?’ because it was exactly what I needed to hear! Using 2 Timothy 1.6-7, Jones reminds her readers that it is the Holy Spirit who dispels timidity and brings love, power and self-discipline. Likening a Christian to a dragon (which I loved!), Jones then shows that we are guarding the ‘good deposit’ in each of us with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who sharpens, strengthens and perfects. She writes that ‘weakness leads to strength, and fear turns to confidence, if we rely on Christ’s power’ (p. 198). In many ways, I’ve heard it all before, but the act of slowing down and meditating on these biblical truths gave me another line of defence, another string to my bow for when self-doubt rears its head.
So why do I think you should read this book?
Firstly, we have a lot of 20-somethings in our church. Some have graduated from university and stuck around, some have moved to Durham for other reasons. We put a lot of energy into our student ministry, but the period of life after graduating is notoriously difficult. People often feel like they’ve stepped off the prescribed treadmill of education and find themselves feeling lost and disappointed, with self-doubts – and sometimes faith-doubts – creeping in as life doesn’t go the way they’d hoped. Therefore, for these people in particular, this book would serve as a helpful guide for navigating these often turbulent times with God’s wisdom and truth.
Secondly, as we emerge out of lockdown, as it feels like our lives can start moving again, I imagine many of us, not just those in our twenties, will be asking the question, ‘Is this it?’ For many people, the big decisions of life which have been on pause for a year will start to play again. As we re-learn to socialise, as the job market shifts, as the choices and opportunities available to us increase, we need to be grounded in biblical truth lest we become carried away or disillusioned. And so, whatever your age, I recommend this book as a way of doing just that!
But ultimately, seasons come and go; there will always be periods of ‘lock’ and ‘unlock’ throughout our lives – periods of increased restrictions, periods of freedom. There will be times of hopefulness and times of disappointment. Jones concludes by reminding us that the relatively brief ‘narrative arc’ which is our lives is part of a much bigger story: God’s story of redemption. Incredibly, we play a small part in this bigger narrative to display and enjoy the glory of God. And Jones reminds us that it is this perspective which helps us to see the twists and turns of life with eternity in view.
Here’s a quote from the end of her book which sums this up perfectly:
When this story is the story we’re excited about, it closes the gap between what we imagine and what we have. With this perspective, we won’t be in free-fall for long – because it’s in this big story that we find the joy, meaning and purpose that we crave (p. 203).
If you’re reading this review, chances are you’re either in or approaching your 20s, or you know someone who is. Read this book. Digest the biblical truths offered either for yourself or someone you know. And let’s start the conversation, not just for young adults, but for those of all ages. Let’s talk about our hopes, fears and disappointments so that we can love and support each other through them. Let’s be genuinely honest and open about the things we find difficult, whatever our age. And finally, let’s be a church of people with hearts firmly fixed on our eternal future so that, despite life’s highs and lows, we ultimately find our joy, meaning and purpose in God.
Sophie Bolton coordinates Student Ministry at Kings.