Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review of "Never Go Back" by Henry Cloud

Henry Cloud.  Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do Again.  Secrets Things of God Series.  New York: Howard Books/Simon and Schuster, 2014.  xviii + 249 pp.  $24.99 (hardcover).

Known primarily for the Boundaries series and How People Grow (his collaborations with John Townsend), one may wonder what else Cloud has to offer.  Cloud now finds himself a citizen of an authorial stratosphere that also boasts John Maxwell, Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, James Dobson and Dallas Willard.  How many different ways can one author write about the same subject?  (One could claim that John Ortberg and Timothy Keller could be on this list, although they vary what they write about although they continue to churn books out at a dizzying speed.)  Each of the author listed above have contributed significantly to our reading lists, and they books sell like hotcakes at a monthly VFW breakfast.  However each of them, including Cloud, have come to a point where their influence has become polarized—you either like them or you don’t like them. 

This, then, is problematic for an author such as Cloud who typically deals with psychological topics from a spiritual perspective, as he does in Never Go Back.  A seminary-trained psychologist, Cloud has never been afraid of hiding his faith nor has he ever backed down from operating out of a faith-based approach to therapy.  He talks about this in the preface as he recounts a time of meeting with a television executive who was afraid that Cloud was a closet religious fanatic.  Cloud reassured the executive (and the reader) that a person of faith can talk about matters of psychology and culture without sounding like a nut job.  This is an important realization because of the theme that Cloud seeks to treat in this book.

The volume is divided into two major sections, following a preface and introduction.  In the introduction, Cloud sets forth his purpose in writing this particular volume.  When I agreed to review this volume, I thought it would be more along the lines of Boundaries—a popular-level treatment on overfunctioning, a controlling nature or the addictive personality.  I was thus surprised when Cloud revealed that this book is actually on repentance.  I have always heard (and, thus, taught) that we repent when we make a conscious change in our lives to walk in a different direction (stop an addiction, leave an abusive relationship, ask forgiveness for gossiping or cursing, etc.).  Cloud argues that part of being a successfully spiritual person is to practice repentance, to realize things about our lives that are weighing us down or keeping us from achieving our goals and deciding not to continue living that way (i.e., stop trying to be someone you’re not just to please another or continue to use failed processes to accomplish tasks).  To Cloud, this is what it means to “never go back.”

This book is certainly written with individual readers in mind, although Cloud argues that it is not to be considered “self-help” because there is no such thing.  We must allow God to work the changes in our lives.  However this will be a valuable resource for preachers and teachers, counselors and spiritual directors because it will help us guide those who come to us for counsel about their spiritual lives.  One of my biggest critiques of sermons is what are we supposed to do with it.  Don’t just preach on repentance; give direction on how people can implement repentance.  This book provides practical, spiritual applications for how we can change our lives. 

I really enjoyed this book, and I would highly recommend it.  If you were to read anything by Cloud, I would heartily recommend this and Necessary Endings.  I think Never Go Back might actually be better than Boundaries simply because he has twenty more years of experience under his belt. 

Rob O’Lynn, ABD
Assistant Professor of Preaching and Ministry
Kentucky Christian University

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Publisher and was asked to review it.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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