Book Review: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day

By | October 4, 2011

If I had to try and summarize In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson, I’d say that is basically a book encouraging taking a “leap of faith” for God. However he takes a number of different angles and makes enough different points to where I feel like it’s difficult to say this is always the clear focus. The book is written to be inspirational, but some trade offs are made in order to achieve this goal. I feel like the book ends up being a bit unbalanced and some important points are clouded.

The greatest problem with this book is that it doesn’t make a clear distinction between our dreams and God’s plans. The result is that at times it sounds like Batterson is saying that we should take risks and face our fears simply for our own sake. In other words, he sounds like a secular motivational speaker. He also makes it sound like a formula for success: if you just take this step, all of your dreams will come true!

To be fair, Batterson does briefly mention one person near the beginning of the book whose didn’t achieve what he had hoped. Also, he does say that “God never promised that the reward for risk would always be given this side of eternity.” (p. 110) However it’s difficult to have many of these sobering statements in what is intended to be an inspirational book.

Batterson does talk a lot about God, prayer, God-ordained opportunities, calling and God “strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time” (p. 12). However he seems to assume that our dreams are God’s plan for us, a point I believe many people will misunderstand.

I do believe that God has created us in a specific way, and that he wants to use the talents that he’s given to us. (At the same time, he works in us through our weaknesses, which goes along with the points in the book about overcoming our fears and uncertainties.) In this way, the place God wants to use us will likely be a place where we feel alive. Additionally, as we draw closer to God and get to know his heart, we start desiring the same things as he does. We may develop a desire to share God’s love and hope to certain people. So if we look at it in these ways, our dreams and God’s desires can be aligned. If we’re in this position and feel God is calling us to do something, we can and ought to move forward with confidence knowing that God is with us.

The problem, as mentioned, is that Batterson never makes this clear. And I don’t believe most people will understand this by default. Without this understanding and without hearing from God, it’s easy to mistakenly think that God will bless our own plans. On one end we can think that because God loves us he wants us to be happy, and we’ll be happy with a steady job making a good income, living in a nice house with a perfect family. On the other side, we may have a big plan to start a ministry or church and think that surely God will bless it because we are doing “God things”. But remember, Moses had a sense that God wanted to use him to help his people, the Israelites. But when he tried to step into this plan, he ended up killing an Egyptian, running for his life, and living in the desert for 40 years.

Now allow me to try and summarize what I believe to be the main idea of this book, paraphrased in my own words. God has plans for our lives, and those plans can be things which seem entirely unlikely if not even impossible. God positions us in front of opportunities, but those opportunities can seem like insurmountable problems or obstacles. Batterson gives a number of steps for rethinking our situation. He then suggests that we need to overcome whatever is holding us back and jump into the opportunity. Doing so allows God to work through us.

The steps to “chasing lions” laid out in the book are roughly as follows:

  1. First of all, how we view a situation has a lot to do with what we believe about God. If we believe that he is watching over us, that he has sent us, and that he has the power to bring forth his will, this will give us much confidence in the face of large obstacles, fears and against great odds.
  2. Next, we have to face our fears.
  3. We should re-frame our problems through scripture reading, prayer, and worship. This will change our perspective; our problems often more perceptual than circumstantial.
  4. We have to embrace uncertainty. We will never be fully certain and prepared—we must be willing to go anyway or we will never do so. I also appreciate how Batterson says “You almost always second guess yourself [after stepping out in faith].” (p. 112)
  5. We’ve got to take some risks. (For what it’s worth, I evaluate risks based on considering the reward for success vs. the consequences for failure, and then the likelihood of success vs. the likelihood of failing.)
  6. We need to get in tune with the Holy Spirit so that we are led to and are able to see God-ordained opportunities. Then we need to seize these opportunities.
  7. We also have to be willingness to look foolish. The things which God calls us to do will likely appear foolish, at least to some people.

For me, if I see an opportunity or come up with some plan, I’ll move forward without too much hesitation, despite the reservations I might have. I know that I often see and think about things differently than most people apparently do. So maybe I’m abnormal in this way. Maybe most people need nudging in order to step out of the status quo and take a step ahead.

My problem is that I don’t feel like I’ve heard God tell me do much if anything. I’m not saying that he’s not; if he has something planned for me, it just may not be the time yet. Or, it could well be that he’s trying to talk to me but that I just don’t know how to hear him. In either case, I feel like what I need is less of a motivational speech to jump and more direction as to which way to jump. I know some would say—including me—to just go ahead and try doing something.

My frustration is that I have stepped out in faith and have taken risks, even big ones many may have thought unreasonable (and maybe they were). But the things I’ve tried have pretty much all failed, sometimes leaving me in a worse position than I was before. So when someone comes along and says something like, “One courageous choice may be the only thing between you and your dream becoming reality” (p. 123), it personally brings up significant frustration. I’ve heard this from different sources throughout my life, not only from Batterson. I feel like I’ve tried what they’re suggesting, but haven’t gotten the results they claim. When this subject comes up, I wonder “What about my experience?” So far I don’t have a complete answer.

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