Ramon Presson is a clinically certified marriage and family therapist and the founder of LifeChange Counseling and Marriage Center in Franklin, TN. The style and clarify of his writing shows that this is clearly not his first book, but it is his first book published by New Growth Press. It is always helpful to read the insights of someone like Presson who has the wisdom that comes with many years of counseling, but it is even more insightful to read the insights of someone who has walked faithfully through the valley and is willing to be real with how much life can actually suck. To this end, Presson reveals early on in the book that he struggles with depression and was even hospitalized at one point for it (p. 13). This moves his perspective from one that just theorizes to one who knows what the shadows of life look like.
That being said, the primary audience of this book is anyone who might feel disillusioned with life (as the subtitle hints). Beyond that though, I think this book will be a welcome read to people who may struggle with depression in some ways. Presson doesn’t sugar coat things, but throughout this book weaves in insights from his own experience. More importantly, this book is a type of extended meditation on the book of Philippians. After setting the stage in chapter one, Presson moves to chapter 2 and introduces Paul, who at the writing of Philippians was in prison. Sucky as our lives may be from time to time (or all the time), if you are reading this blog, I am assuming you are probably not in chains in a first century Roman dungeon (if you are, send me a message and tell me what technology you are using). As Presson points out on page after page of this book though, Paul has much to say to those who have lost hope and in the dumps. Paul was realistic about the dire straits he was in, but at the same time he was quite optimistic and encouraged others to “rejoice in the Lord always” and wanted to share with them that he had learned the secret to contentment. Presson’s book does a good job of weaving Paul’s thought into a different outline and creating a short treatise filled with hope for those stuck in a life that sucks.
Moving to a quick chapter by chapter synopsis, chapter three looks at the importance of knowing you are loved as well as the temporary nature of most situations. Chapter four stresses the importance of community and close relationships with people you can rely on. Chapter five is a crash course in learning to look for the positive spin on the downsides of life. Chapter six is about patience when things are not going as planned, while chapter seven has insights for navigating through the “why?” question. I think Presson does a particularly good job on this chapter and helps readers to move from “why?” to “what next?” because often we may never get or even understand the “why” but we need to move forward.
Chapter eight gets to the heart of Paul’s teaching in Philippians on contentment, and extending the thought, chapter nine helpfully moves through the biblical difference between “concern” and anxiety.” Using Paul’s example in Philippians, chapter ten helps the reader move beyond their past baggage, while chapter eleven tackles issues around complaining. Chapter twelve is perhaps the most interestingly named (“There’s Rat Poop in My Corn Dog!”) and talks about the effect of expectations before the book closes on a high note on the importance of vision in chapter thirteen.
Overall, I thought this was a great book. It was well written and Presson got the point quickly, but developed his ideas well and grounded them in Scripture. If you are looking for a book written for someone who struggles with often being down in the dumps, I think this book is a great find. This is essentially a book that is a strong word for people who struggle with depression written by someone who shares their struggle. When words of friends and family fail, the third party perspective that Presson provides can be powerful. Most everything published by New Growth Press is golden, and this book is no exception. I would highly recommend picking up a copy, even if your life doesn’t suck right now. Because we life in a fallen world, its going to suck at some point, but with the biblical insights in this book, it might not suck quite so bad when the times comes.
Thanks to New Growth Press for providing this review copy!