Passion itself is not worship

Book Review: Sarah Ivill's "Never Enough: Confronting the Lies about Appearance and Achievement with Gospel Hope"

By Elizabeth Prata

Never Enough: Confronting Lies About Appearance and Achievement With Gospel Hope, at 128 pages, is readable and relatable.

Published August 2019 by Reformation Heritage Books, it's written by Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary), a Reformed author, mother, homemaker, Bible study teacher, and retreat and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA).

My usual stance is that I try to avoid books written for females by females, often finding them more emotional than theological. So many of these 'women's' books either have false doctrines weaved through them, are me-centered, or are a nod to the encroaching feminist culture invading the church.

The long lasting Jesus Calling, which has spawned a cottage industry aimed at deceiving women, and the 2018 bestseller "Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be," are testaments to this. They are more self-help books with a smattering of Christianese than they are biblical explorations of who we are as women in Christ.

But sometimes I read these books in order to answer a question from a fellow sister, or to be able to recommend one, or not recommend one with credible reasons. This is why I read Ivill's book Never Enough.

I was happily surprised. As a side note, it is published by Reformation Heritage Books, which, along with Banner of Truth books, are much safer publishing venues than the chaotic fracas other 'Christian' publishing venues tend to be. /cough cough Lifeway/.

Author Sarah Ivill says the messages women are prone to believe from culture are,

My ways are better than God's ways, and my wisdom is better than His wisdom.
I have to look like "her" in order to be beautiful.
My worth is defined by whether or not a man loves me.
My significance is based on my success as defined by my superiors.
If I had what "she" has, I would be more satisfied than I am now.

Ivill relates her own struggle from sports, but many women battle these insinuating cultural attitudes from other competitive arenas of their formative years, such as debate club, being valedictorian, chorus or band, etc. One aspect I enjoyed about Ivill's writing is that though she used personal examples, unlike other women's books where the examples are lengthy and difficult to transfer into a personal application, Ivill doesn't dwell on her own anecdotes. They are also easily transferable to one's own struggle, whatever it may be. Then she quickly goes to Christ.
In a culture where we often compliment external beauty, even in church, I needed someone to remind me that I'm not pretty apart from Christ, no amount of makeovers or designer dresses will fix that. Apart from Christ I am ugly and dead in my sins. I also needed someone to tell me that I will never perform perfectly and to seek perfection is futile. Christ alone is perfect.
Good stuff.

Some other quotes I enjoyed:
  • Because of Christ's work, our significance is based on Christ's success.
  • We have been taught to hide our weaknesses and highlight our strengths, but God's word says to highlight His strength by not hiding our weaknesses. (2 Cor 12:10).
  • In 1 Timothy...these false teachers were proud and obsessed with arguments that came from envy.
  • One of the reasons we compare and covet is because we fail to believe in God's sovereignty and providence. (I liked her envy and comparing section a lot).

Ivill's book counters the usual Christian women's book industry message to women, that they are enough, are fine just the way they are, that they just need to let the inner women come out, that they should follow their heart, and so on. Those messages, rather than salving women's insecurities, actually stoke them. I appreciated Ivill's strong stance on the Gospel truths through Christ.

Recommended.



Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this recommendation! I don't usually read contemporary authors but I'll look for her.

    Re the quote "God's word says to highlight His strength by not hiding our weaknesses," do you have thoughts on what the word "weaknesses" might include? In the passage Paul is referring to his thorn in the flesh, but do you think it would include sin? I was thinking recently about AA meetings I went to with a friend years ago, and particularly the meeting where the participants discussed step 5, which is basically confessing your sins. It was amazing to hear person after person admitting to sins no one admits to - things like lying and stealing - and I couldn't help wondering what our churches would be like if Christians had a session like that once in a while (although I doubt it would go well with more than a handful of people present).

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  2. Hi Grace To You!

    Great question. I always took the word weaknesses in the verse 2 Cor 12:9 to mean weakness both in physical strength and in weakness in our inability to deal with sin on our own.

    MacArthur interprets the word weakness in the verse this way

    "They are distresses for Christ’s sake, or tribulations, or troubles, persecutions, difficulties, insults and weaknesses. He is talking about a category of trouble that comes into our lives that is apart from sin."

    Jamieson Fausset Brown Commentary says an alternate word for weakness that Paul uses is "infirmity" (the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth chapters) as being Christ's own word.

    Strong's concordance for the word defines weakness in the Greek as want of strength, weakness, illness, suffering, calamity, frailty. So I guess it encompasses it all. ... ?

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  3. Hmmm...the three sources you referenced all seem to leave out sin. But James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another, so apparently it's something we're supposed to do, but a thought just occurred to me...in II Corin 12:9 Paul says he will boast about his weaknesses, and in verse 10 he says he is content with his weaknesses...these don't seem like anything a believer would say about their sin, so I guess that's a big no on counting sin as a weakness in this context, right?

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    Replies
    1. If I remember as I explored the issue, weakness as sin was counted in a basket all by itself and treated as a separate interpretation. You're welcome to research it further.

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