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Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Didn't See It Coming" (Carey Nieuwhof)

TITLE: Didn't See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences
AUTHOR: Carey Nieuwhof
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook, 2018, (224 pages).

We don't like being blindsided. We hate it especially when we miss the signs that appear so clearly, yet we miss it so dearly. Managers miss seeing disgruntled employees. Couples miss the signs of a troubled marriage. Young people miss out on the opportunities for change. Worse, some ignore the warning signs even when they are glaring right at them. When we didn't see it coming, we are left wondering why we miss the proverbial forest for the trees. The key questions in this book are: "Could they have seen it coming? Can you?" According to author and pastor Carey Nieuwhof, we have ample symptoms and warning signs. What we need is attentive listening and discernment. While writing from a Christian perspective, the author makes this book readable from non-Christian perspectives without being "preachy." Thus, all the "seven greatest challenges" are generic and could be appreciated from a human standpoint.  Each challenge has two chapters allotted. The initial chapter tells us why we need to take the challenge seriously. This is followed by a constructive response to show us how to do something about it.

The first challenge is cynicism. It snuffs out hope. It squashes our ideals and dreams. It spreads negativity to the heart and dampens the soul of people around us. If we are not careful, we allow such cynicism to harden and we lose perspective. Unless we are prepared to defeat this inner cynicism with hope. We learn about hope that is anchored in Christ, as well as the five keys we can adopt to be curious and hopeful.

The second is compromise. Underlying the pursuit of success is the needed foundation of character and integrity. In our world, we have oversold the importance of success that we compromise on the virtues of what it means to be human. Our potential is achieved not according to our abilities or capabilities. It is achieved via integrity, character that leaves a lasting legacy.

The third is disconnection. In spite of all the advanced technologies around us, we are increasingly lonely. Being connected digitally does not necessarily mean establishing real understanding. Nieuwhof points out that technology is not the issue. It merely exposes the underlying issues all along faster and clearer. Until we learn to deal with our tendency to give "excuses, reasons, explanations, and justifications" for our own sense of self-righteousness, we will remain disconnected from people.

The fourth is irrelevance. Using the metaphor of people refusing to change their furniture over time, Nieuwhof notes how our lack of updating our perspectives will cost us, especially when our obstinacy spreads to the way we think, talk, and do. He defines "irrelevance" as the gap between how rapidly we change vs how rapidly things change. The solution is to keep learning, be humble, and learn to evolve with changing times. If not, we will hit the path of regret.

The fifth is pride, an age-old problem through history. Pride gnaws at us and leaves behind a huge mess. Insecurity drives our prideful behaviour. Pride hardens our hearts. We suffer from wanting to be superior to others; judgmental of others; refusal to be accountable; and feeling increasingly isolated. The key is humility.

The sixth is burnout. Often we get so focused on achieving things that we put ourselves constantly on overdrive. We move from one target to another. We become without ourselves knowing it. Sometimes, we may know it but blatantly ignore the signs. Until we are drained, desolate, and depressed. The way to recovery is to pace ourselves through gratitude for what we have and to find true rest.

The seventh is emptiness. The sad thing in many of our lives is that we readily jump on the bandwagon of pursuing money, fame, success, and power. Thinking that we will be fulfilled, the irony is that it leaves us feeling even more empty. Success may thrill us for a while, but when the world dangles a higher challenge, we lose our sense of self and are off running toward another elusive dream. We need to fight the tendency to ask "What's in It for Me?" and to replace it with "What's in it for the Kingdom of God?" The key to a fulfilling life is one of gratitude, giving, and sacrifice.

My Thoughts
I must say that this book is a wake-up call for those of us who have experienced one or more of the above. Warning signs are there to prevent us from danger or fatal collapse. We ignore them at our own risk and peril. Curiously, the way the seven challenges are arranged gives us a clue from the obvious to the not so obvious. Cynicism is something that we can all identify with. With the massive amount of information we have nowadays, we can all try to be our own doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers. By downloading the knowledge from the Internet, we become cynical of things that do not match our expectations. We wear the hat of "Been There; Done That; Nothing Thrills; What's Next" attitude. The last category of "emptiness" is something we all feel but often relegated to the lowest rung until we feel it up close and personal. In fact, the first four challenges involves how we interact with external matters while the last three deals with things more internal to us. This gradual progression I believe is intentional. If we were to invert the whole list and begin with "emptiness," I doubt the book would be that effective because people identify more with cynicism than emptiness. Only after dealing with the external and more obvious factors are we more familiar with the author's prescription. Only then would readers be more open and accepting of the points given.

There are many practical tips in the chapters. Tips to help us identify the symptoms. Tips to aid us in battling the challenge. Tips that are clearly numbered to help us put into action needed treatment. At the end of the day, this book is about knowing ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and the need for self-awareness. The challenges are not only there to force us to adapt. They are there to increase our self-awareness and self-knowledge, that we may take the relevant steps to be ready for a brave new world.

Carey Nieuwhof is a trained lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church. He blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com which has been read by millions.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Waterbrook & Multnomah Publishers and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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