Skip to main content

Review: Beyond Our Selves by Catherine Marshall

Title: Beyond Our Selves
Author: Catherine Marshall
Publisher: Chosen Books, 1961
Genre: Non-Fiction
Labels: Depression, Crisis of Faith, Christian Living, Overcoming Adversity
Format: Hardcover
Age: Adult
Pages: 266
Rating: 3 Stars

Catherine Marshall's idea for Beyond Our Selves began with her illness in 1943, she'd been very ill with the early symptoms of tuberculosis. Looking back on that time in her life, "with four walls" to surround her during her recuperation. Her aim was to help other's who were going through a similar situation of recovering from an illness, a traumatic life event, or depression. She wrote the book for people looking for "something more". A yearning, restlessness for something more. 
"The search for God beings at the point of need." page 1.
Catherine Marshall (1914-1983) was married to Peter Marshall (1902-1949). His death in 1949 propelled her into becoming a published author with her fist book A Man Called Peter. Their son Peter John Marshall also became a minister. Peter John was born in1940 and died in 2010.
Peter Marshall Ministries:
Peter Marshall

My Thoughts:
It was many years ago that I read Catherine Marshall's book Christy. I have this book and plan to re-read it, as well as the 2nd book entitled Julie.
I'd not read any non-fiction work by Catherine Marshall. Beyond Our Selves was published in 1961 and Catherine's formal language style is different than the more relaxed writing style of contemporary author's.
There were a couple of things I disagreed with her on, from chapter 2.
"So the word lost came to be for Mrs. Hannah Whitall Smith (quoted from My Spiritual Autobiography, Or How I Discovered the Unselfishness of God) a term of greatest comfort. If a person is a 'lost sinner,' it only means that he is temporarily separated from the Good Shepherd who owns him. The Shepherd is bound by all duties of ownership to go after all those who are lost until they are found. For Hannah Smith the question about the plight of individuals who have had little change in life was forever answered. 'Who can imagine a mother ever dropping a search so long as there is the least chance of finding a lost child?' Mrs. Smith wrote. 'Then would God be more indifferent than a mother? Since I had this sight of the mother-heart God, I have never been able to feel the slightest anxiety for any of His children. We can trust Him." page 30. 
I agree we can trust God with the lost sinners. But, I disagree in that all sinners will be saved. The Bible does not say that all the lost people in the world will be saved. Jesus Christ did die for the world, see John 3:16. But, there will be people who will choose to not accept and believe in Jesus Christ. As a human we tend to want to project our finite minds into what we believe God to be, or will choose to do, etc.
Read Job chapters 38-41. Romans chapters 1-3. Ephesians 1:18-22, especially "and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe."
It would be best to begin reading with 1 Corinthians 2:1-16. I am only quoting the last few verses. 
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."  1 Corinthians 2:14-16.
A second point I disagreed with her on---happiness:
"In my dealings with people I have been surprised to find that so many honestly do not believe that God wants our happiness and fulfillment. We have heard all of our lives that God is love, but we insist on 'spiritualizing' this. Many Christians have been taught that God's love is different from ours-not consciousness is the idea that God is primarily interested in our spiritual and moral rectitude; that, therefore, most of what He requires of us will be about as welcome as Castor oil. Of course God is concerned about our growing into mature spirits. And the God I know sometimes asks difficult things of us, it is true. But His will also includes a happiness here on earth abundant enough to float every difficulty." page 30-31.
I really disliked the Castor oil image in my mind. Happiness as we know, or should know, is fleeting and superficial. A person can be happy during a drunken stupor, at least till the alcohol content in his stomach regurgitates, and or the next mornings headache is painfully intolerant. I'm sure this last sentence is not what Catherine Marshall was talking about, but reader's may take happiness to their definition of happiness.
Joy though is one of the fruits of the spirit, see Galatians 5:22-24. Joy is not a result of any outward circumstance, but a gift produced from the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit in a believer. See also John 16:20-22.
I do not believe as a Christian we are to live with down-cast eyes, nor to have a permanent scowl on our face. But, happiness is not our mission or goal; our spiritual growth, character, and telling others about Jesus Christ is.

There were a few quotes I did like:
"The only way we can really know God is by looking at Jesus Christ. Christ is the center of Christianity." page 37.
"Faith is not a feeling". page 71.
My favorite chapter was 12, she wrote about the "nice people theory". This chapter is about ego.
"The main trouble with the 'nice people' theory is that when we try living by it, we find ourselves getting nowhere.What is more, it is not Christianity. Nowhere do the Scriptures tell us that, with God's help, we can sort out the good and the evil in ourselves and cultivate the good. Rather, these writers insist that ever since the first man and woman were tempted to pull away from their Creator, hoping that they would be 'as gods,' all men have been tainted with the same desire to bow the knee to no one but themselves. Our nature might be compared to an apple shot through with brown specks of imperfection. There is no way to cut out every brown speck and save the apple; the doom of decay is on the fruit." page 181-182.  
This is a classic book by Catherine Marshall that's been in my TBR pile for several years! Since before I began blogging!
Sadly it is not currently available on Amazon except by ordering it through other avenues, which most copies available would be used.
I did find it on Alibris: