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The Secret Things of God: Unlocking the Treasures Reserved for Youby Henry Cloud
You may have picked up this book because you've read or heard of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. In that book, Byrne explores our relationship to the universe and how understanding what lies beyond the veil drastically affects our lives, relationships, and goals. The fact that millions have responded to The Secret shows the deep hunger we all have for two things: one, we all want to understand the nature of the universe and those things beyond what we can see; and, two, we all have a hunger for principles and practices that make life work.
While so many have found The Secret's message to be intriguing and inspiring, it has raised several questions from those of the Judeo-Christian faith: (1) Are the forces that control the universe and our lives impersonal and detached, as The Secret explains; or is the force behind it all of a more personal nature? (2) Is there just one secret; i.e., your thoughts create your life, good or bad? Or, just like in the physical universe, does the spiritual universe have a set of laws that make life work? (3) Is making your life work all up to you; or is it a collaborative effort between you and a force greater than you, who cares about you and has a plan for you? It is these questions and more that The Secret Things of God will address.
This book is not a Christian argument for or against The Secret. In fact, it sometimes agrees with and sometimes differs with it. Over and above being a discussion on the principles of The Secret, this book affi rms the deep spiritual hunger that the success of Byrne's book has shown all of us to have. And it offers tested spiritual truths based on the Bible that help make life work. For all of us long to know what more is out there, who this force is, how it works, how we can get on the right side of it, and if it has a name.
Today's spiritual environment reminds me of that of ancient Greece, where all kinds of spiritual discussions and ideas floated around. When the apostle Paul entered the scene, rather than bash those with different perspectives, he affi rmed the quest itself. He basically said to them, "I see that you are a spiritual people, building an altar to an Unknown God. This Unknown God is who I've come to tell you about." He told them one of the things I want to share with you: God wants a relationship with you; he wants you to seek after him and to fi nd him. Even further, he said our very existence and purpose is wrapped up in him.
This book's title comes from a letter the apostle Paul wrote. In it he said, "Regard us...as those entrusted with the secret things of God." These secrets are, indeed, a great trust — a treasure that can literally change your life. The spiritual truths shared in these pages will connect you with the God who created the universe and will unlock the secrets to making life work.
The Secret Things of God © 2007 Dr. Henry Cloud
The Beginnings of My Own Search...
It was the spring semester of my sophomore year in college. I was at the end of my efforts to fi gure it all out. I had a failed dating relationship, a failed dream, and I was failing at getting out from under the depression that haunted me every day. I was at the end of my rope.
On this particular Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in my dorm room, just thinking. I was thinking about how I had come to college with high hopes in all three of those areas of life. Just a year and a half before, I was full of dreams and optimism. As I headed off to college, I was looking forward to a satisfying relational life, after going through the usual hit-and-miss of adolescent dating. I had hoped to accomplish my dream of a successful college golf career, and I had certainly hoped that all of that would bring me happiness. But after the breakup, a hand injury affected my golf game to the extent that I was not playing well enough to continue. The loss of both made it a struggle to even get up and going each day, and I was painfully aware of the gap between where I had thought I would be and where I was. And that gap was huge.
So there I was, pondering it all. I was wondering, How do you make it all work? How did people find the right person to fall in love with? How did they fi nd that special path for their real talents and gifts that would become a meaningful and successful career? Forget meaningful...how did they even make a living? And how did they achieve happiness? What was the trick? What was the "secret" to making it all go well?
Now at this point, I was not what you would call religious, by any stretch. I would not even call myself spiritual, which at the very least means someone who puts time, thought, and effort into developing a spiritual self in some significant way. I was just a guy trying to find my way and make it all work. So understand, I was not approaching my situation that day with any sort of spiritual hopes, plans, or thoughts that God was going to reach out of the sky and make it all better. That was not a part of my experience base, so what happened next was a total shock to me. I had no idea that everything was about to change — forever.
As I sat there on my bed, pondering all these things of life, I looked around the room, and up on my bookshelf was my Bible. I felt some sort of pull, or intrigue, or a wondering if it might have something to say to me in my dilemma. However you would describe that impulse, I had not felt it before; for I had not taken that Bible off the shelf since I had come to college. But there it was, so I walked over and picked it up.
Then it happened. I opened it up, randomly, and my eyes fell immediately to a verse that seemed to jump off the page. Here is what it said:
But seek first his kingdom
and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
"All these things?" What things? What was it talking about? I looked at the verses before that one, and it was talking about all the things of life, all the stuff we worry about, like the things that I was concerned with that day...like my entire future. Then it said this:
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Wait, I thought. Let me read that again. What it was saying was that if I would seek God and "his kingdom and his righteousness," then all of this stuff would somehow work out? Is that what I was reading? Could that be true? At that point, I had no clue what his kingdom or righteousness even were, but I got the gist. It was telling me that I should not worry about all the stuff I was worrying about; but instead, I should seek God and he would make it all work.
For a nonreligious fraternity type, this was beyond anything I could actually believe would work. But I was not beyond having a wish for it to work. I mean, who wouldn't want that? A life that actually worked because God was working things out? It felt a little like wishful thinking to me, but my way certainly was not working. So I was confronted with a choice. Should I try the "God thing"?
I have to admit, my first thought about "seeking God" was that there was no way I was going to turn into one of those religious types. I thought they were weird and definitely not the kind of people I could ever see myself hanging out with. Weren't they the ones who didn't even party? I knew that would never work. But I decided that I had to put all that aside and take one step: I had to find out if God was there. Then if it turned out that he was, the next step would be to see if he would help me without making me weird. That sounded like a plan. So I decided to go for it. I would "seek God," to see if this could work.
Figuring I could not do this in a dorm room, I wandered across the SMU campus and found an empty chapel. It was cold and dark, and I went down to the altar and said a simple prayer. It was something like this: "God...I don't even know if you are there. But if you are, I need your help. If you help me, I will do anything you tell me to do. Just help me. Find me." At that point, I knew something had changed.
No — nothing happened. No lights, no burning bush, no feelings of peace. Just empty silence. Nothing on the outside was different, but I knew that inside something had changed. I had just taken a real step of faith...and I knew that if God did not show up in some real way, my life had just gotten a lot worse. I knew that if he did not answer me, I was truly alone in the universe. All my life I'd had the good ol' American security blanket of "There is a God out there who is nice and loves us." But now, I had actually stepped out and asked him to do something. It's one thing to believe in God and have the security of thinking he exists, even if you have never tested that faith or done anything about it. At least you can believe he's there and take some bit of naive comfort in that. But once you step out of the boat, I thought, you'll find out whether or not he is. And if he doesn't respond, even the little faith you have is gone. It's one thing to have a faith you don't use. It's quite another not to even have an untested faith you can fall back on if you ever decide you want to. I had jumped in.
So far, not so good. No lights, no zapping, no nothing.
So I just left the church and went back to my room. The emptiness was huge, and I tried not to think about it. What I did not realize was that my entire life was about to change. After I got back to my dorm room, the phone rang. It was a fraternity brother whom I had not talked to in a while. What he said floored me. "Okay, you are the last person I would think of calling about this, but for some reason, you kept coming to mind. We're starting a Bible study, and I wanted to see if you would like to come."
It was not hard for me to connect the dots and realize that God had heard my prayer. "I will be there," I said. "Tell me when."
I went, and it was there I began to discover that what that verse said was true.
The Search for Real Answers to Real Questions
Fast forward about twenty-five years...I was sitting on an airplane
just enjoying the idea of a few hours of quiet time...no kids, no phone, no work. Just a little space in the air to relax, ignore a cheesy movie, and read a good book. Then it happened, my worst in-flight nightmare...even worse than bad turbulence. The woman sitting next to me turned to strike up a conversation. On this particular day, that was the last thing I wanted. But she looked at me and asked, "So, what do you do?"
Usually, when caught in those kinds of crosshairs, I pull out my secret weapon for making unwanted airplane conversations disappear. I say, "I am an author. I write books about God." Almost without exception, that buys me an immediate three hours of silence, as people give some sort of nice nod and raise their newspapers back up to pages they have already read. It always gets me off the hook. But I must have been off my game that day, because I said, "Oh, I am a psychologist."
Wrong answer. She immediately said, "Oh, my gosh. I have to tell you about my boyfriend. I need help. I am just stuck and don't know what to do. I love him so much, but..." She went on to tell me about her relationship with a guy she was very much in love with but who was pretty self-centered and would get angry when he did not get his way. She described a cycle: Whenever she would say "no" to him, he would get mad, the controlling behavior would escalate, and they would have a big disconnect. She would feel alone and far away.
"So what do you do then?" I asked.
"Well, I can't stand it when we have a disagreement like that, and I feel so far away from him. I usually just give in, and that makes it okay between us; and we're fi ne after that. But it keeps happening a lot, and I just don't know if I can do this anymore. But I really like him."
"Makes sense that it keeps happening, though," I said. "You know, there is an old saying that goes, 'Do not rescue an angry man, or you will have to do it again tomorrow.' If you give in, the cycle will only continue — usually for years."
"Oh, my gosh!" she said. "That is an amazing saying, that thing about 'rescuing an angry man.' That is so true. Where did you get that?"
"It's in the Bible," I said.
"What? The Bible?"
"Yeah. Proverbs 19:19. Check it out."
"No way! I did not know stuff like that was in the Bible. I will have to check that out."
We went on to talk more about her rescuing patterns of giving in to the temper tantrums of this three-year-old in a thirty-five-year-old body, and it actually was a nice conversation and hopefully helpful to her. But it really had an impact on me. It almost became a defi ning moment for how I now like to spend a lot of my time and why I wanted to write this book. Why?
That Came from the Bible?
It was the look on her face when I told her that the saying came from the Bible. She just looked at me, sort of stunned, almost with a blank stare that said, "What? Something that was 'exactly right where I am at' came from the Bible?" She was surprised in a way that was very pure and yet said volumes. The things that it said to me reverberated in my soul and are three things that I am continually amazed at.
First of all, she was stunned at the accuracy of how the Bible spoke directly to her situation. As a psychologist, after years of practice and working with lots of people and overseeing the treatment of many more, I am blown away in situation after situation when I see the "secret things of God" validated by research and clinical practice. One example is how the whole codependency movement has helped millions of people find better lives and relationships through the application of just that one verse I mentioned to her. Marriages and relationships are healed every day when other principles from the Bible are applied correctly in those contexts. The most successful, researched, and proven treatments for depression, anxiety, and addictions are all right out of the Bible. In fact, I do not know of any successful clinical process or practice that does not agree with God's secrets. And in business, financial wizards make billions of dollars through practicing the principles of finance and investment taught right in the Scriptures.
So, almost every day I share her amazement at how God's secrets speak to life. To her it was a surprise. At this point in my life, it is a little more like, well, there it is again. Not to mention the validation of God's secrets that I have experienced in my own life over and over again since that first day in my dorm room when I wondered if God was really there. It is uncanny how God's secrets make life work, but it makes sense if you consider who better than the designer knows how something works.
Secondly, I am amazed every day at how surprised people are that those things are actually in the Bible. I do not in any way mean this as pejorative, but so many of us are just unaware of what is actually in there. I was, if you recall my story from the beginning of this prologue. In my search to figure it all out, I just did not know that God had a promise in there about how to order life. And, I found later, I was unaware of countless other life-changing secrets that were in there as well. But I guess what surprises me still is that while so many of us know "about" the Bible, we just don't know much "of" the Bible.
And the third thing I am always moved by, are the preconceptions that people have about the Bible, which showed on her face as well. It said something like, "I didn't know there was anything in there that I would even be interested in." Though people are searching for meaning and answers, so many still see the Bible as a book of myths and fables and as antiscientific, outdated, religious, and moralistic. Then when they find out it may actually contain something helpful, it bumps up against their preconceptions.
The reason this one moves me is that so many people come by that opinion honestly. They have seen weird Christians on TV or even stranger ones in real life, and from those experiences have decided that the whole Christianity thing must be wacky. I remember thinking a long time ago that I did not have a problem with God; it was his friends I couldn't relate to. So when I talk to people about God and find out they have lost interest in him because of goofy expressions of faith by strange people, I always want to say, "Don't do that!" — don't get turned off because of one weirdo or one bad experience. That would be like going out to eat, having a bad meal, and deciding to never go to another restaurant.
Enter The Secret...
I first heard about The Secret by Rhonda Byrne from a good friend of mine. He knew that I was into spiritual things, and he said the book was a huge phenomenon and that I should read it. He said that everyone from Oprah to his kids were into it. So I picked up a copy and put it in my stack of things to read the next time the person I was sitting next to on an airplane didn't have a controlling boyfriend. I remember being interested, but didn't know what was to come next.
What did come was a call from a literary agent saying that the publisher was looking for a Christian to write a similar book from a Judeo-Christian perspective, one that described the "Secret" according to the Bible, and wanted to know if I would be interested. I told them I would look into it, and when I did, I got very interested.
I got intrigued because I found that the interest in the book was telling an even bigger story than The Secret itself. The story that grabbed me was the huge interest people have in spiritual things. While The Secret is a book about getting what you want in life, it is also a book that looks beyond a logical plan to reach your goals. It searches for a spiritual and metaphysical reality that transcends the everyday lives most people lead. It says that there are spiritual realities that govern the universe and that those are as real as the physical laws that we all live by, like gravity. And people are reading it by the millions.
Certainly, part of the appeal is that people want to know how to get the things they want out of life. I can relate to that, as that day in my dorm room reveals. But I think we all want more than that too. I think the interest in the book tells us that we all have a spiritual side to us, too, and that we all are searching for something more than ourselves and long to be connected to Someone greater. We long to be connected to something beyond the material universe we see, touch, and feel. We long to know the things that are beyond our sight. We want to know the real secrets of it all. If there is more, we want to connect with it.
And that is why I am writing this book. I believe that, as The Secret says, there is more to life than just what we see in front of us. It is true that the visible things we see and attain do not begin in the visible world, but the invisible world. If you reach your goals, you do so because spiritual principles are at work. If you find a fulfilling relationship, it is not just because a friend sets you up or you find a good dating service. There are invisible laws at work. If you overcome depression or addiction, it is not just because you tried harder. It is because spiritual realities are involved. The Creator of the universe who set it all up has built into life spiritual laws that are as real as physical laws, like gravity, and when we get on the right side of those laws, life just works better.
In this book, I want to show some of the most powerful secrets of God that affect the kinds of things that psychologists worry about...and that you care about:
In addition, this book will also discuss how some principles in The Secret relate to principles in the Bible, where the Bible goes even further, and where the Bible has a different perspective from The Secret. I think it will be a fun exercise and interesting for you to not only discover some of the "secret things of God" that you did not know were there (without the plane ride) but to also compare how people of different faith perspectives talk about some of the same issues. It will also be interesting and helpful for those of you who have known some of these secrets all your faith-life, yet still don't know how to make them work in your life. We're going to talk about how to do that.
I hope that no matter where you are in your search — whether to find God for the first time or to get to know him even better-you find three things in this book. First, that God is very real and loves you very much, no matter what you might have heard. Second, that he does have some secrets for us that really, really do work. And third, if you're like me, you'll be glad to know that you don't have to be very religious to enjoy both of those realities. Just be open and real as you go through this journey. God will do the rest. Let's go.
The Secret Things of God © 2007 Dr. Henry Cloud
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