- Author: J.D. Peabody
- Publisher: Aspire Press (Tyndale House)
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- Synopsis: On the basis of the original Greek and the abundant evidence of Scripture, Peabody argues that the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6 is not something with which we outfit ourselves. Rather, it is something we sink into, allowing God’s Spirit to do the work.
- Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author. Opinions expressed are my own.
After reading The Ink of Elspet, by the same author, I was delighted when Peabody offered me a review copy of Perfectly Suited. While I enjoyed the children’s book, I was completely blown away by Perfectly Suited. The Lord ministered to me strongly through this book, and I believe the message would minister to many Christians, like myself, who are accustomed to striving.
Why I Liked It
Early on in the book, Peabody explains that he has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have not, but I have grappled with a lot of anxiety from a young age. With that said, I connected so very deeply with what Peabody wrote about his own childhood. Although I didn’t begin journaling until high school, so many of his descriptions of his own early years felt like they could have been taken from my own journals. For example, Peabody rededicated his life to the Lord multiple times while growing up, renewing His commitment to live for the Lord. But the words in the margins of J.D.’s childhood Bible actually pointed to a whole lot of striving.
Striving, and fear, are two things the Lord has been healing me from, particularly in the years since I graduated from college. He has used my mom to minister to me, to unlearn the fear that formed my foundation from an early age, both through church and experiences with my dad’s family. It has been a beautiful, hopeful process. (And the words of Perfectly Suited echo the things my mom has been teaching me from a young age.) But I’m so very aware that fear continues to be integral to the lives of so many, many Christians. It’s that terror of hell. That deep-down knowledge that we’re on the verge of disappointing God– and worse, still, going to hell. My many “prayers of salvation,” growing up, were based on that horror of eternity, not on good news.
But Perfectly Suited. It’s an enormous breath of fresh air. It’s the release from striving, exchanging man’s heavy yoke for Christ’s light one. And, most importantly, it’s about how we aren’t the ones to make that trade. Steeped in grace, the book returns over and over to the central idea that we are not the ones in control– God is. Over and over, the author affirms that the only cure for what ails us is to rest in Him.
So many books that promise practical applications focus on how we can make it happen, how we, ultimately are in charge of our salvation. But that’s not what Perfectly Suited does. It draws the reader back to Christ, to rich fellowship with Him, to utter dependence on Him. Amen!
What to Expect
Perfectly Suited consists of an introduction plus twelve chapters. The first six chapters are very reflective, as the author relays his own story, emphasizing the Lord’s working in him in regards to anxiety. Peabody heavily incorporates Scripture to show that our salvation isn’t at all up to us, and he also offers beneficial information about the mental processes in the anxious mind. We learn, for instance, that the basal ganglia is a part of our brain that deals with danger. When it’s not working right, we interpret everyday sorts of things as dangerous. These chapters also contrast the (attempted) way of self-sufficiency, with the way of God’s strength.
The latter half of the book interacts more directly with the Armor of God passage in Ephesians, with one chapter each dealing with one of the parts of the armor. As in the first half, personal narrative and Scripture are both woven in.
The format of the book, in itself, was a relief. While most (99%) of the books I read have paragraphs that run one into the next, without any space between, Perfectly Suited has a nice white space between each paragraph. As the book deals with anxiety, I am particularly grateful for this decision on the part of the author and publisher. The book is so much more readable, in this way, and actively combats anxiety, with this simple formatting choice.
Although I wouldn’t say I agree with every single word, this was one of those books where I could see myself highlighting most of the content. That’s a pretty difficult thing to do in a review, so I am instead opting to choose a handful of favorite quotes, to showcase some of the beautiful (and truthful!) ideas presented.
The Bible says the name of Jesus is above every name. I have come to believe that does not just include personal names and titles. Every named thing must come under the authority of the name that is above all names.p. 120
Context: In discussing, and naming, parts of the brain that are physiologically responsible for our anxious reactions, Peabody emphasizes that even the brain is not exempt from Christ’s authority.
In the psalm writer’s analogy, we are all birds, caught in the trap of a hunter. Unable to release ourselves, we cry out for help. But the answer is surprising: God also has feathers and wings. To set us free, God became a bird Himself and climbed down inside the trap next to us, offering His own wings as a refuge.
Context: Various psalms use bird imagery in describing the feeling of being and trapped, as well as the feeling of finding refuge in God. Peabody briefly follows the metaphor to the allegory of Christ coming in the flesh.
When Paul admonished the church in Ephesus to “put on” the full armor of God, the Greek word he chose also describes “sinking into” a garment. Picture easing yourself down onto a soft couch or wrapping yourself in a thick blanket. To sink into something is effortless, more allowing it to happen than striving to attain it.p. 49
Context: While there are quite a few sentences I could choose to do it, this sentence does a great job of introducing and summing up the key message of the book, that the armor of God is sourced, and completed, in Christ– not our own efforts.
Chapter ten, “The Secret to Sword Fighting,” made some bold claims that I grappled with a bit over this past week. Although I finished the book about two weeks ago, this review has taken awhile as I thought, prayed, and consulted godly counsel. At this point, I do believe that the core ideas presented in this chapter do align with Scripture.
There is one line, which I did want to mention, simply because of the author’s word choice: “Not all the problematic texts explained to us in Scripture can be explained away” (p. 128).
The word “problematic” caught my eye, because of its political connotations, as the word has been used, by secular society, to combat core biblical values. However, in context, the author is not making that connection. Instead, he is talking about those verses that we cannot understand on our own. The whole point, in this chapter, is that “Our relationship to God’s Word will always be one of surrender, not control” (p. 132). Therefore, we can trust God with what we don’t understand, and look to His Spirit for guidance in this.
As my mom (she was, and usually is, the godly counsel I sought) helpfully rephrased. “Scripture is not problematic, but we may have a problem with certain Scriptures.”
Highly, highly recommended! If I could recommend one title, of all the books I’ve reviewed this year, Perfectly Suited would be it. I praise God for this message of grace, freedom and rest.