5 Reasons You Need to Read "This Beautiful Truth" by Sarah Clarkson
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
I've never been this excited to be on a book launch team.
Frankly, I signed up without even knowing the premise of the book.
Author's name and that title? Good enough for me. I joined the Facebook group and started reading members' posts. "Thanks, Sarah for your vulnerability in talking about mental health." "Thank you, Sarah, for sharing such hope in suffering and the way beauty points us to God." My interest was piqued. But man oh man, I didn't know what I was in for.
I devoured this 206-page book over the space of 2 days. Personally, this book was the oasis I didn't know I needed in my own mental health journey. It helped me realize - and finally VERBALIZE - concepts that will be forever life-changing.
But right now, I'm sharing 5 reasons why YOU should read this beautiful book.
*First, a disclaimer. Sarah tends to put great emphasis on personal experiences. If one is not careful, this book can lean toward dependence on emotional experience, rather than on God’s promises. However, I believe an appreciation for the beauty God has created and a belief in the sufficiency of His Word can coexist, so I do recommend this book, just with a disclaimer for the reader to keep balance in mind. I don’t agree with every single theological detail but there is still GREAT value here.* Feel free to reach out if you have questions about this!
1. Read this book as a valuable memoir. Sarah offers hope through her vulnerability and bravery in sharing her struggles with mental illness - OCD, intrusive thoughts, depression, panic attacks. Read the journey of a young woman who was raised in a Christian home, grappling with her childhood perception of God, and how He made Himself known to her.
"In a world wrecked by sin, our pain is the crucible in which we will work out our faith. No human story is exempt from grief. There is no faith without the wild ache of impossible questions. To wrestle with God—to grip him like Jacob with hungering, angry hands—is the work of every person born into a fallen world. This is what it means to be human and follow God in a world at war, wrenched away from the Beautiful One who crafted its being. But the way we wrestle will shape the whole of our story, and Beauty tells us what we are wrestling for."
2. Read to be encouraged. If you have ever struggled with any kind of depression, doubt, sadness, or grief, her words will be deeply relatable and comforting.
"Job is a drama of questions, a story that echoes with honest anguish. Yet answers are never given in the listed, scientific way we think they ought to be in the modern world. At least, not by God, who was the only one who could answer Job truly. The terms of the story somehow forbid the kind of forensic revelations we so crave when we are hurt, and this was, oddly, a grace to me. For if one thing had become clear to me in my own suffering, it was that there is a mystery to theodicy, one we may not unravel this side of eternity. God does come—oh, he comes—but that doesn’t mean the pain ends, yet. God doesn’t tell Job why his children are dead and his house is in ruins. God doesn’t explain to Job that he is part of a cosmic wager or that he hasn’t actually done anything wrong. God doesn’t offer explanation; but oh, he offers his own heartbreakingly beautiful self.
3. If you don't live with these struggles, I guarantee that you know someone who does. Read this book for a glimpse into what it's like for them.
"I thought that wrestling with God meant I was doing something mightily wrong. Doubt and terror, fear and anguish? Surely these are the marks of sin? I thought that if my belief was strong enough, I would march forward like a soldier into maturity. I thought that’s what it meant to walk by faith, not the drunken, battered stumble of a grieved soul just stubborn enough to grasp God by the fingernails for one more day."
4. Read it for food for thought. I've written here before about the practice of finding beauty in everyday life. This book gives the reason WHY. Why is beauty important? What does it tell us about God? Why should we seek it and create it so bravely? (And why is it brave to create beauty in our lives?)
5. Read this book to be strengthened in your pursuit of goodness and Christ-likeness. This book takes our need to reconcile God's character with the darkness we see without and within ... and offers practical ways to live out this theodicy in the world. Sarah has a unique gift for taking the abstract and making it tangible.
"For the power in beauty is not brute strength but in the greater vision it offers, a vision to transform and redeem our suffering. [This is] what I think earlier generations of Christians understood so much better than we do in the modern world: that art and story, image and song are powerful agents of vision, revealing the life of Christ, resisting the evil of a broken world."
About the Book:
We live in a broken world. Amid the daily realities of sickness and isolation, disappointment and pain, it can be profoundly difficult to grasp the real goodness of God. But this is where God breaks into our darkness with beauty . . . In the wonder of creation, in art or film, story or song, in the kindness of his people and the good they create, God breaks into our pain in a tangible way, teaching us to trust his love and to hope for his healing. Beauty is a voice singing into our suffering, beckoning us toward restoration. In This Beautiful Truth, Sarah Clarkson shares her own encounters with beauty in the midst of her decades-long struggle with mental illness, depression, and doubt. In a voice both vulnerable and reflective, she paints a compelling picture of the God who reaches out to us in a real and powerful way through the "taste and see" goodness of what he has made and what he continues to create amid our darkness.
About the Author
Sarah Clarkson is an author and blogger who writes regularly about literature, faith, and beauty at www.sarahclarkson.com. She studied theology (BTh, MSt) at Oxford and is the author or coauthor of six books, including the recent Book Girl, a guide to the reading life. She has an active following on Instagram (@sarahwanders) where she hosts regular live read-alouds from the poems, novels, or essays that bring her courage. She can often be found with a cup of good tea and a book in hand in her home on the English coast, where she lives with her Anglican vicar husband, Thomas, and their two children, Lilian and Samuel.