Unglued

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I can relate to the woman on the cover of this book, screaming into her purse in utter frustration. How many times have I let my sinful emotions take the reins and direct my spirit? More than I can count. It’s a daily battle, for sure—not only for me, but for all of us. It’s no wonder then why Lysa Terkeurst’s book Unglued is so popular among women. By tackling as common a problem as self-control, it certainly reaches a wide audience.

And I wish I could like it. I really, really do.

As I read her book, I found myself relating to many of Terkeurst’s personal stories (and there are many). She intimately tells the tales of her frustrated outbursts at family, her “freak-out” reactions when stressed, and her struggles with jealousy, anger, and bitterness. Following each narrative, she offers her own strategies for how to deal with those situations. Sprinkled throughout the book are some Scripture references, but most of the content relies on this two-part structure.

Though at times her storytelling is too comical for such a sobering topic, she, for the most part, aptly describes the sin that most women (including me) fight against day by day.

But there’s one huge problem: she doesn’t call it sin.

MISTAKES: A MAN-CENTERED VIEW OF SIN

When I was a kid, taking tests meant following a multi-step process to ensure the best grade possible. After I answered each question, I put a symbol next to it to estimate how confident I was in my solution. A check meant I knew it was right; a wiggle-line, I wasn’t sure; and a question mark indicated that my answer wasn’t much better than a guess.

Then, once I reached the end of the test, I returned to the beginning and reviewed my responses again. Often, that second look helped me catch mistakes I had made. “Whew!” I would say to myself. “Glad I double-checked!”

Mistakes, like accidentally marking the wrong answer, are amoral. It’s not sinful to forget someone’s name, slip and fall while ice skating (cringe), or misspell a word. We are imperfect creatures with imperfect minds and bodies.

But sins are not mistakes. “Mistake” implies that your intentions were good and your error was innocent. But when it comes to sin, nothing could be further from the truth. The Word teaches us that our sin—our transgression of God’s holy Law— comes from the heart, from our evil desires, and we are held accountable for all of our sinful words, thoughts, and actions.

Unfortunately, Terkeurst does not seem to recognize this distinction in Unglued. She repeatedly renames her sin as mistakes, errors, issues, and junk—seemingly to soften the blow.

But if I view my unjust anger or selfish envy as just “issues” or “junk” in my life, it becomes all about me. It’s something I want to get rid of because it interferes with my happiness and harmony in relationships—not because it offends the holy God of heaven.

The word “sin” appears in the book only twice, once as part of a Scripture reference, and the other in the epilogue during her (insufficient) description of the gospel. (More on that later.)

What’s the big deal? you may wonder. It’s just a word, after all. But in fact, her choice of words points to something much larger. It reveals Terkeurst’s view of our relationship with God.

THE MYSTERY OF THE STOLEN GLORY

The ultimate question is—what’s at stake here? What happens when we let our sinful emotions take over, instead of listening to God’s wisdom and following His Spirit?

It doesn’t take much to read between the lines of Unglued and see what Terkeurst believes about this. Every time she addresses a different “mistake” she made, the emphasis is on how it affects her relationships with others and her own view of herself.

Whenever she throws a fit and screams at her kids, she regrets it. Why? Because she disrupted her relationship with them, and now she feels like a bad mom.

If she reacts angrily to her husband, she regrets it. Why? Because their marriage is negatively impacted and now she feels like a bad wife.

That’s why, according to Terkeurst, we need to prevent these outbursts from happening again—so we have some harmony at home and no longer feel so bad about ourselves.

See the pattern? See the problem?

While self-deprecation is never the answer and our relationships with others must be protected, there is so much more at stake: God’s own glory!

Never once does Terkeurst emphasize the fact that when we sin, we refuse to give God glory and instead, please ourselves. She completely neglects the fact that the absolute, most significant goal of our lives should be to glorify God—because that is what He is most considered about. 

Striving to grow in self-control, or in any other area, just to make our lives better is ultimately selfish. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, but finds a new, “church-y” way of feeding our man-centered desires. Worst of all, it steals glory away from God, who gave us His Spirit so that we would bear fruit for Him, not ourselves.

Like the Pharisees, we may be able to fix our “mistakes,” clear out our “junk,” and repair our “issues” on the outside, but inside, the stony heart remains untouched. Such false change is not of the Spirit, but of the flesh.

NO LABELS… EXCEPT “EXPLODERS” AND “STUFFERS”

In the book, Terkeurst explains that after listening to women for years, she has determined four categorical “reaction types” to describe what we tend to do with our emotions.

These are: exploders that blame others, exploders that shame themselves, stuffers that build barriers, and stuffers that collect retaliation rocks.

(Wondering where this stuff is in the Bible? Me too.)

Exploders let out their anger and frustration in the burst of a moment, while stuffers hold it in and allow bitterness to fester, ultimately leading to the cutting off of relationships. She encourages us to figure out which one we tend to be, so that we can be honest with ourselves.

But ironically, in several chapters, Terkeurst advocates for the dropping of negative labels that may cling to us because of our bad behavior.

For instance, in chapter 3, “The Prisoners,” she mentions a friend named Christina who was given a prison sentence for being involved in a scandalous real estate scheme. Terkeurst brushes off her friend’s actions, barely explaining the situation and suggesting that Christina didn’t “fully understand” what she was getting herself into—even though she tells us Christina “took full responsibility for her mistakes” (32). (That word mistake again.)

Rather than being concerned with God’s glory, Christina’s relationship with the Lord, and her need of repentance for breaking the law, Terkeurst emphasizes the fact that Christina probably feels really bad now and may only think of herself with the label of “prisoner” for the rest of her life. She hopes one day Christina will see her own life’s beauty.

But what she really needs to see is Christ’s beauty in His forgiveness and redemption!

Though I’m confused on Terkeurst’s view, what I’m really concerned about is how God views labels. We see in the Word that He uses them: if you sin, you’re a sinner. If you commit adultery, you’re an adulterer. The only way for a sinner to become a Christian—the best “label” for us—is through the gift of faith, and not through earning it! God grants us salvation so that we can be Christians. He leads us to repentance so that our identity is in Jesus Christ. Praise God for that!

THE GOSPEL + OBEDIENCE: LET NO MAN SEPARATE

I’ve spent a lot of time with children over the years—as an English teacher, tutor, camp counselor, Sunday school teacher, you name it! One thing that is abundantly clear: their lack of obedience points to the necessity of the gospel.

When I taught in the public school, I was forbidden to speak of Christ to my students unless they brought it up—and even then, it was risky business. Thankfully, I had a few opportunities to share God’s truth with them. But after I left the public system and taught at a private Christian school, everything changed. I was now free to teach the Bible and share the gospel with my classes! I also hoped their behavior would be better, since they were under the watch and teachings of Christian adults.

In some ways, it was. But they were still rebellious! No amount of explaining the school rules, or even God’s law, could change their hearts. I had to remind myself to offer them the gospel often as the only real solution to their disobedience.

Unfortunately, Unglued does not teach this truth. Though the whole point of the book is to help us exercise our self-control and become more holy (or at least, be better people), Terkeurst misdiagnoses the problem and writes the wrong prescription.

It is clear she has a very minimized view of our sin—seeing it as something that can be resolved with some of her 1-2-3 techniques and quips of Bible verses. To cover up for the fact that these strategies don’t cause lasting change, she labels it “imperfect progress,” just in case someone were to ask her, “I’ve taken all your steps; why isn’t it getting any better?”

But the unlikable truth is that we have inherited a sinful nature that cannot be altered or shaken off by our own efforts. Without Christ, we are “dead in our sins and trespasses,” and we have hearts of stone. Every day, unbelievers offend God, spite Him and His mercies, and are at war with Him.

Before we are saved, we can’t end the war on our own because we are dedicated to it. We don’t want to stop sinning, and we won’t. We want to be separated from God, because we hate Him.

The hope isn’t in ourselves, but in God, who by His mercy and power alone can make us alive and change our stony hearts into hearts of flesh. Only then, when He saves us and gives us the Holy Spirit, can we bear fruit in true obedience, out of love for Him. This is the gospel.

But the gospel didn’t show up in the book at all until Terkeurst’s attempt at it in the last few pages of the epilogue. I wish I could say that she gave a comprehensive, Christ-exalting description of the gospel. But instead it was weak, it was man-centered, it was without Christ’s atoning death, and therefore, it wasn’t the gospel at all:

“It was God’s love and grace that eventually sent Jesus to invite mankind back. Back from our sin. Back from our brokenness. If only we’ll proclaim Jesus Christ as our risen Lord, God’s grace will never run out.” (191)

She finally says sin here. But there’s no cross. Jesus came merely to invite us? No, Lysa. He came to die. He came to die a bloody death on the cross for the sins of His people, to die in their place. And before we can proclaim Christ as THE risen Lord (which He is), we must believe in Him for the forgiveness of our sins, repent, and turn to Christ alone for salvation. This is what she doesn’t say.

According to Terkeurst, the sole benefit of this so-called gospel is that “God’s grace will never run out.” Man-centered again! Though we do need God’s grace for our Christian lives, the greatest benefit of the gospel is that we are saved from our sins, saved from the wrath to come, the burning of eternal fire… and most of all, that God is glorified.

WHEAT OR CHAFF?

This is an important topic with far-reaching implications for women everywhere, Christian and non-Christian. But unfortunately, as we have seen, Terkeurst fails to address it biblically and Christ-centeredly.

So the final rating is: CHAFF.

Here is an additional resource on some of the dangers of following Lysa TerKeurst and her teachings.

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18 thoughts on “Unglued

  1. rachel says:

    My church did this study a few years ago, I knew nothing about her or the study so I paid $10 for my book and went. I remember it was some sort of wishy washy lesson about fighting with your husband to which my response was… We need to call this what it is- sin. She needs to repent and apologize to her husband. Needless to say that did not go over well with the ladies in my group. I dropped my book in the trash and never went back.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Julie McKenzie says:

    It’s sometimes difficult to read between the lines of Lysa’s writings. Because it’s good sounding fluff. We fail to realize just how deep and how far and how wide Christ’s love is for us. That he would actually die and pay the penalty for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. It’s hard to comprehend and yet is true. But in our culture lots of people prefer the fluff. It’s surfacy, wishy-washy, touchy feely and doesn’t address the painful deep root of our sin. Oops! I almost said issues. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nancy Raymond says:

    “Before we are saved, we can’t end the war on our own because we are dedicated to it. We don’t want to stop sinning, and we won’t. We want to be separated from God, because we hate Him.”

    I don’t agree with your above statements.Some people are separated from God because they don’t know Him, or haven’t given every area of their lives over to the Lord. Others don’t have victory over their “war” because they aren’t taking advantage of the power available to them through the Holy Spirit.

    However, I do appreciate many of the points you make. I have recently realized that I need to be more aware of many “Christian” authors and speakers who water down or don’t preach the whole Gospel.

    Like

    • Lee says:

      If you don’t agree with those statements then you don’t agree with your Bible.

      as it is written:
      “None is righteous, no, not one;
      no one understands;
      no one seeks for God.
      All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
      no one does good,
      not even one.”
      “Their throat is an open grave;
      they use their tongues to deceive.”
      “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
      “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
      “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
      in their paths are ruin and misery,
      and the way of peace they have not known.”
      “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
      (Romans 3:10-18 ESV)

      For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
      (Romans 5:10 ESV)

      And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
      (Colossians 1:21-22 ESV)

      “Some people are separated from God because they don’t know Him, or haven’t given every area of their lives over to the Lord”

      Your above statement minimizes sin just as LT’s book does. They are separated from God because they are sinners. Every one of them, whether they know Jesus or not. People don’t go to hell because they don’t know Him, they go to hell because they are SINNERS who don’t know Him. If ever there were a perfect person on this earth who never sinned, but didn’t know Jesus, they would meet him in Heaven, but that person doesn’t exist because all of mankind are sinners. Otherwise Jesus would not have needed to come to Earth to die on a cross. He died to save SINNERS. Not simply people who don’t know Him.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Zion says:

    Thank you for addressing this issue. So many Christians are confused about this. The sin vs. mistake thing is wide spread across our country. Taking a hold of it and speaking the truth is not self glorious at all, because the only real solution we can offer is what Jesus Christ offers, death to sin and self, alive in Christ. I love prescriptions to sin to help me learn to avoid it and become more holy, but it’s very important to remember that I do what I do for and because of the glory of my risen savior in whom I am free to live.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. edwitnesstness says:

    Without going into the book itself, there are problems with the analysis of this book. And that is that there were many assumptions biblically that had to be made in order to critique it the way she did.
    1st- That Jesus died “in our place”. There is not a single scripture that supports this statement. Dying for someone does not mean dying in their place. Especially when they are already dead like we are. Jesus entered into death WITH us. On our behalf. This happened when He said “Father, why have you forsaken me?” At this point Jesus was separated from the Father just as we are.
    Men still die physically, right? This body goes back to the dust because flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God. It is a spiritual kingdom. We are natural. 1Cor.15:45-49. The eternal separation that comes after physical death when we die not knowing Him is what Jesus died to conquer.

    2nd- Because the Bible says that we sin does not mean we have a “sin nature”. It means we have the same free will to choose to sin or not to sin that Adam had before he sinned. Ps.51, Rom.3:23; 6:23; and 7 do not refer to a sin nature.

    3rd- When we are in relationship with God nothing, not even sin, can separate us from His love. Rom.8:38,39- “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
    Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
    The relationship remains intact no matter what.
    The reason you ‘feel’ that fellowship has been adversely affected by your behavior(sin) is that you believe the accuser’s(satan’s) lies, instead of the word of God.

    When someone sins they need to know that the prayer of David has been fulfilled by Jesus’ death and resurrection. David’s prayer was in Psalm 32:2 “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Since Israel has been made free from the law they are also free from sin. Rom.7:5,6 “For when we were in the flesh(under law), THE MOTIONS OF SIN, WHICH WERE BY THE LAW, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
    But now we are DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

    And here we find this principle in Rom.4:15 “Because the law worketh wrath: FOR WHERE NO LAW IS, THERE IS NO TRANSGRESSION.” Rom.5:13 “For until the law sin was in the world: BUT SIN IS NOT IMPUTED WHEN THERE IS NO LAW.” We are in the dispensation of grace, not law. Eph.2:8,9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

    The condemnation the devil would use against you has no foundation. Because “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.
    For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH.” Rom.8:1,2

    THIS IS WHAT JESUS DIED TO GIVE US. FREEDOM FROM DEATH, WHICH GIVES US THEN FREEDOM FROM SIN, AND TO GIVE US ETERNAL LIFE.
    JOHN 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

    Blessings:-}

    Like

    • Rick Smith says:

      I appreciate your post Ed, but have to respectfully differ:
      1) Substitutionary atonement (Christ dies in our place) is clearly taught in Scripture (Isaiah 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21; and 1 Pet. 2:24 are examples). It was not merely death that Christ suffered, but the Wrath of God upon sin, and this He suffered in the place of the believer, who will never feel that well-deserved wrath thanks to the Lord who bore it for us (this is the Gospel). Jesus was as clearly our substitution as was the ram caught in the thicket a substitute for Isaac (Genesis 22:13)
      2)There are many proofs in scripture regarding our sin nature:
      First is what Dr. Curt Daniel calls “the unity of the human race” (Ephesians 2:1-3; acts 17:26). All humans have a sinful humanity in common. If this were not the case, then it would be possible for there to be some sinless person (other than Christ) in the world – but there are none and have been none. All have fallen short of the Glory of God.
      Secondly we have our inherited nature, as powerfully evidenced by sinful infants. Even the children of truly born-again believers inherit a sin nature from their parents (I have 9 children, and I can assure you that all one needs to know that children are sinners by nature is to take away their bottle or their toy. The only thing that keeps them from murdering you and taking back their toy with a smile as they step over your carcass is the fact that they are in an infant’s body. Praise God He gives us time to teach them self control before they get bigger than us! 🙂 ) I may not be the best parent ever, but I promise I never had to teach my children to say “Mine!” God created Adam in His image (Genesis 1:26; 5:1-2), However, Adam begat “a son in his own likeness, after his image (Genesis 5:3) – and that is what we are – made in the likeness of fallen man and dead in our trespasses from conception.

      There is a lot more I could say – but I will simply leave it with a few quick points. Christ did come to give us life, and life abundant – then He defined that when He said “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3)
      Who is the “They”? – Those who believe, the elect – whose faith was not something the freely “chose” from a position of moral neutrality, but was itself a gift of God, given by His Grace, for His glory, so that no man could boast before Him (Ephesians 2:8 paraphrased)
      The question in my own mind, and the deepest desire of my heart is to know that I know Him, to follow the admonition of 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

      Rebekah – thanks for taking the time and having the courage to put your thoughts and beliefs into the public square. I believe your commentary is spot-on, rightly separating the wheat and the chaff. It is encouraging to see you and so many others truly passionate about God’s glory and His Truth in an age of easy-beliveism and spiritual laziness (everyone want the pre-digested sound bite, not the meat (not even the milk really). May the Lord richly bless you and your family.

      Rick

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      • edwitness says:

        Rick Smith,
        I appreciate your thoughtful account of what you believe is being taught in the passages you mentioned.
        However, when you actually read the passages there can only be one conclusion. And that is that Jesus ENTERED INTO DEATH WITH US and not IN OUR PLACE. Please let me show you what I mean?
        In Isaiah 53:4-6 we find in the first verse the key to what is being conveyed here and throughout the rest of the chapter. When it says “yet we did esteem Him”, who is this refering to? It is clear that it must be refering to those who observed Jesus’ death. What was the attitude of most of those who watched Him die? They believed that He deserved it.

        To them He had transgressed the law and made Himself equal with God. To them He had committed blasphemy. For which the law requires death, right? This is why we read in vs.4 that it was “we” who “esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
        In the next verse we find that there it starts with a contrasting word. “But”. This shows us that God had a different view of what was happening. And that view is explained as, rather, or “but”, “He was wounded FOR our transgressions, He was bruised FOR our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed…….”

        If this is saying that He did this and took all this punishment in our place, why do we still have these things affect us and in our lives since then? Shouldn’t these things be “done with” in our lives if He took them all IN OUR PLACE? Yes, because that is what the meaning of IN OUR PLACE is. But, we do still experience pain,and suffering etc… Why?

        Because He did not take them on Himself IN OUR PLACE. He ENTERED INTO THEM WITH US. All of the affects of death that we experience He experienced also. We find this illustrated in Heb.4:15 “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in ALL POINTS tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

        If Jesus died IN OUR PLACE, then why do we still die? If He suffered IN OUR PLACE, then why do we still suffer? If He bore our sicknesses and diseases IN OUR PLACE, then why do we still have them? These questions express the problem with defining the word “for” as “in our place” instead of the way it should be understood as “on our behalf”.

        If you were set to be executed and I volunteered to be executed IN YOUR PLACE, wouldn’t that mean you don’t get executed? If I suffer all diseases and afflictions IN YOUR PLACE, doesn’t that mean you won’t have to suffer them? Yes. And that is the problem with defining the word “for” as meaning “IN OUR PLACE”.

        On our behalf expresses the fact that he entered into death, that is, under death’s power, WITH US, and not IN OUR PLACE. The scripture relates to us that God became a man just like we are. In every way. The purpose of this is so that He could experience along WITH us all the things that man experiences. And in doing this He would also die a man’s death. With the result being that He conquered death by the resurrection. Thus, making the “way” for us to also conquer death through faith in His resurrection. Through faith in Him.

        I will try to keep this from getting too much longer than it already is by referencing just one more thing you said about not having to teach children how to say “mine”. The truth is, that is exactly what we do. Although unintentionally.

        I’m sure you would agree that before a child can speak, they must relate to the world around them somehow. When they are hungry, they cry. When they are wet, they cry. When they are comforted by their binky and you take it from them, they cry. How can you interpret this as sin when it is all they have to get your attention so you will address their need? They can not do it themselves.

        Now your child gets older and begins to walk, but still does not speak clearly. He sees you enjoying something you are drinking. He reaches out wanting you to share it with him. You pull your drink out of reach and say “No, you can’t have this because it is hot. It will burn you”. All he knows is you will not share with him. He doesn’t know it will harm him and you are just protecting him. You have just reinforced, as you have many times before, although inadvertently, the idea of “mine”.

        These are indeed learned behaviors. They are not “inherent”. All that we know and do is learned. This is why you see a grown child have mannerisms much like that of the parents.

        I have 3 siblings. My mom and dad were divorced when we were very young. We all went with my father. None of us exhibit any behaviors or mannerisms that my mother has. But, we all exhibit similarities with our dad. This is because we learned them from being around him. Just like we do by being around and with Jesus.

        Blessings:-}

        PS Isaac was already dead spiritually. The ram did not replace him in that. Separation spiritually from god. His literal death would not express what God was to do in Christ and would have ended the line that Jesus was to come through. Only Jesus could accomplish entering both into spiritual and physical death with us. He died a man’s physical death and in being separated from the father experienced spiritual death with us as well.

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  6. Kay Cude says:

    Oh, thank you Rebekah for this piece! God’s Truth is so very beautiful, even when it cuts deeply into our “self” and exposes to our spirit the very depth of our sins against Him are not “unfortunate” little errors or careless mistakes common to all mankind. Thank you for succinctly pointing out that our sins glorify our flesh and not God. That knowledge alone should make our hearts and spirits weep in repentance.

    Liked by 1 person

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