Disappointed with the Church? With God? With ourselves? Many Christians find themselves in a wilderness place at some point in their lives. Sarah Bessey’s Field Notes for the Wilderness examines the reasons why this might be so, and offers suggestions for navigating a way through what can be a profoundly disorientating experience, as people find themselves challenging beliefs and practices they’ve held dear.

Bessey is clear that travelling through the wilderness does not lend itself to a quick fix, but she aims to restore hope and faith in those who have been damaged either by toxic attitudes and experiences or just life events. Bessey addresses different ideas such as dealing with fear and learning to lament, and offers companionship for the journey with a range of gentle, compassionate suggestions.

The personal stories used to introduce the chapters are apt and enjoyable, but not all of her philosophy is well-grounded in the Christian faith. The section on reclaiming repentance is strong, as well as the encouragement to revisit the “ancient paths”. Others such as: “You have permission to be happy” are low on Christian content and could just as easily be found in a secular self-help book.

Bessey’s suggestions are very much informed by her own “evolving faith”, which not all readers will resonate with. Discernment in who we listen to and learn from is one of her wise suggestions. Her advice to look for good teachers because “you will know them by their fruit” is not easy to apply, however, as those who have felt let down by Christian leaders will testify. Nevertheless, this is a timely book because, as she says, the: “wilderness is feeling a bit crowded right now”. Her writing has the potential to bring comfort to people who find themselves in that lonely place.

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