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It’s so refreshing to read something for your spiritual development, isn’t it? That’s how I felt as I was reading this book. I’m used to reading heavier theology books. And that’s needed, make no mistake. But so is the spiritual formation of your own soul. In fact, reading much without having it affect your soul is a waste of time. It’s living with an ignorance of where you’re going and why you’re here.
That’s why I picked up Drew Dyck’s Your Future Self with Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science. Self-control has long been a weakness of mine, and I’ve seen it play out in a host of ways: over-eating, drinking too much coffee, giving up on exercise. These are little things, but over time, they have a huge impact on your spiritual life. One of my favorite quotes from the book is this one: “While we may be tested in dramatic moments, the fabric of life is stitched slowly, through a thousand tiny choices that end up defining our lives” (p. 29). That’s very true, even if it seems very annoying to us in the moment. After seeing a number of people whom I respect praising Drew’s book, I knew I had to look it over. . . . Okay, fine—I knew I had to read it closely and prayerfully, and do some soul-searching in the midst of it.
What I Loved
This book has a great conversational tone (with some humor thrown to boot), but it deals with things that are deep and weighty. And lest that discourage you from reading it, let me assure you that it’s full of pithy quotes and insights that apply directly to our everyday struggles with self-control. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
- “We tend to think of self-control as a strictly human enterprise, but Scripture describes self-control as a product of being connected to God. It’s something that grows when your life is rooted in divine reality” (p.19).
- “The Bible portrays self-control not as restrictive but rather as the pathway to freedom. It enables us to do what’s right—and ultimately what’s best for us” (p. 20).
- “While we may be tested in dramatic moments, the fabric of life is stitched slowly, through a thousand tiny choices that end up defining our lives” (p. 29).
- “Ultimately, mastering yourself is only accomplished by being mastered by God” (p. 32).
- “Willpower is a finite resource” (p. 81).
- “Wright warned me that conflict and lack of sleep compromise willpower. He also identified other ‘willpower wasters’ like frequent use of social media and multitasking” (p. 87).
- “You outsource the work of willpower to the factory of habit” (p. 98).
- “The key to living a holy life isn’t simply to out-battle temptation at every turn. It’s to build righteous patterns into your life” (p. 99).
- “Habits help us translate what we believe into how we behave” (p. 111).
- Note the “Habit Loop” on page 123. Very helpful!
Overall, I think the author did a fine job of blending biblical wisdom with modern scientific research and practical application. And that’s no small feat! Scripture is clearly his final standard and authority, but he was able to draw on the findings of contemporary neurological and psychological research to show how we can confirm what Scripture has taught and then build that truth into our lifestyles. Interspersed throughout the book are the author’s own case studies: examples of how he’s trying to implement what he’s learning. These case studies are candid; he holds nothing back about his struggles and failures, which makes the studies all the more relate-able.
He also has a very interesting discussion towards the end of the book that integrates wisdom from those who suffer with alcohol and drug addiction. We may not like to admit it, but we’re all addicted to little things, and drawing on the healing, hope, and practice of those who are waging war against major addictions proves very useful, in my opinion. It also gives you compassion and sympathy for them.
What I Would Have Liked
I always love to see authors pour over passages of Scripture at length, drawing out details and depth I hadn’t seen before. That’s not a particular strength of this book, but it’s not the focus either. I don’t think you can fault the author for not going into more depth when the book clearly serves a different purpose and audience (not biblical scholars, but laypeople who struggle with self-control). In general, I have no complaints here. It would be helpful for any group studies with this book to generate some discussion questions. There would be a lot of personal discussion that could emerge from these chapters. We’ve all got plenty of examples (both of successes and failures).
Should You Read the Book?
Yes, you should. It’s biblical, informed, and practical. It will help you start making concrete changes in your life, and that’s a grand-scale success. If an author can get you to change your life as a result of reading what he or she has written, you owe them a big “thank you.” So, while my future self will certainly be thanking me for reading this book, my present self offers thanks for the labor and thought that Drew has put into this book. Pick it up and see for yourself.