Waking the Dead: The Secret to a Heart Fully Alive

Waking the Dead: The Secret to a Heart Fully Alive

by John Eldredge


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Waking the Dead—newly revised and updated for these trying times—reveals the secret of finding a full life, identifying the fierce battle over our hearts, and embracing all that God has in store.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s the offer of Christianity, from God himself.

Jesus touched people, and they changed: the blind had sight, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the dead were raised. To be touched by God, in other words, is to be restored, to be made into all God means us to be. That is what Christianity promises to do—make us whole, set us free, bring us fully alive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718080877
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 88,679
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

John Eldredge is a bestselling author, a counselor, and a teacher. He is also president of Ransomed Heart, a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God, recover their own hearts in God’s love, and learn to live in God’s kingdom. John and his wife, Stasi, live near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

Waking the Dead

The Secret to a Heart Fully Alive

By John Eldredge

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2016 John Eldredge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-8089-1


Arm Yourselves

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

— Jesus of Nazareth (John 10:10)

We and the world, my children, will always be at war. Retreat is impossible.

Arm yourselves.

— Leif Enger, Peace Like a River

We were running low on fuel, and still the fog refused to lift. Icy Straight spread out below us, beautiful and threatening. I've always loved the ocean, the wilder, the better. But clearly, this was no place to run out of gas. If by chance we survived ditching the small plane, we'd last about seven minutes in those waters. The nearest chance at rescue lived more than forty minutes away. Great. This is just how it happens, I thought. We'll make Reader's Digest. "Family on vacation lost in fatal crash" Rain and mist smeared the windshield as we strained our eyes ahead, searching for a break in the clouds. There's no radar in these planes; bush pilots fly VFR — visual flight rules. If you can't see where you're going, well then, mister, you can't go there. And you can't keep trying forever either; the clock that's running is the fuel gauge. Three more minutes, and we'd have to turn back.

"We'll give it one more pass."

"Fairweather Mountain" is a total misnomer. With a name like that, don't you picture some lovely place in Hawaii or maybe Costa Rica — balmy breezes, gentle green slopes, the weather always, well, fair? These mountains explode fifteen thousand feet or more above sea level, right off the coast of southeastern Alaska, sheer cliffs and foreboding glaciers. Some of the world's worst weather hangs out here.

The pilot was yelling above the drone of the engine, "They get their name 'cause you can only see 'em in fair weather."

How cute. What idiot came up with that cleverness? Raw fear had swallowed my sense of humor whole. They ought to have named them the Peaks of Frozen Death or the Don't Even Think About It Mountains. Fair weather? Around here, that means maybe twenty days a year — if you're lucky.

We got lucky.

And I have never seen anything more breathtaking in all my life. We banked along vertical granite walls that rose and fell thousands of feet on either side, like a sparrow gliding among the Himalayas. "Are those waterfalls?" I asked, pointing to several cascades of white falling through thin air over the black cliffs.

"Avalanches. It must be warm up here today."

Massive crevasses in the glaciers below held pools of clear water — a color I never knew existed, something between azure and cerulean blue.

"Those cracks are so big we could fly right down 'em."

I pretended not to hear. I felt we'd slipped through Death's grasp, and I didn't want to give him another swipe. The beauty that now engulfed us was enough.

In Desperate Need of Clarity

Twenty clear days a year — that sounds about like my life. I think I see what's really going on about that often. The rest of the time it feels like fog, like the bathroom mirror after a hot shower. You know what I mean. What exactly are you perfectly clear on these days? How about your life? Why have things gone the way they have? Where was God in all that? And do you know what you ought to do next, with a deep, settled confidence that it will work out? Neither do I. Oh, I'd love to wake each morning knowing exactly who I am and where God is taking me. Zeroed in on all my relationships, undaunted in my calling. It's awesome when I do see. But for most of us, life seems more like driving along with a dirty windshield and then turning into the sun. I can sort of make out the shapes ahead, and I think the light is green.

Wouldn't a little bit of clarity go a long way right now?

Let's start with why life is so dang hard. You try to lose a little weight, but it never seems to happen. You think of making a shift in your career, maybe even serving God, but you never actually get to it. Perhaps a few of you do make the jump, but it rarely pans out the way you thought. You try to recover something in your marriage, and your spouse looks at you with a glance that says, "Nice try," or "Isn't it a little late for that?" and the thing actually blows up into an argument in front of the kids. Yes, we have our faith. But even there — maybe especially there — it all seems to fall rather short of the promise. There's talk of freedom and abundant life, of peace like a river and joy unspeakable, but we see precious little of it, to be honest.

Why is it that, as Paul Tillich said, it's only "here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves" we see any evidence of a new creation? Here and there, now and then. In other words ... not much. When you stand them side by side, the description of the Christian life practically shouted in the New Testament compared with the actual life of most Christians, it's ... embarrassing. Paul sounds like a madman, and we look a little foolish, like children who've been held back a grade. Why is it that nearly every good thing, from taking the annual family vacation to planning a wedding to cultivating a relationship, takes so much work?

It's almost as if there is something set against us.

Shell Shock

Some dear friends of mine just returned from a three-week vacation in France. It had been their dream for nearly twenty-five years. What could be more romantic than strolling the Champs-Elysees in the evening, as lovers do? It seemed an ideal way to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. They'd both served God faithfully for decades, but over the years a European rendezvous seemed about as reachable as the moon. Then, late last fall, things suddenly came together.

Friends of theirs were headed to Europe and offered two tickets to come along. Time off was available. They were going to France. And right after they made it to Paris, it all fell apart. Craig came down with walking pneumonia; Lori wanted to leave on the third day. All sorts of issues in their marriage surfaced, but since they were with friends, the issues mostly played themselves out in their own thoughts — which tended toward divorce. It wasn't romantic; it was hard. Afterward, as we talked on the phone about the whole thing, Lori said, "Life never seems to turn out the way you think it will about 90 percent of the time." No kidding. Haven't we all got a story that goes with that little bumper sticker?

Just the day before, I received another call. That was the morning our son Blaine was to have his final cardiologist appointment, and I was anxious to hear the news. Now, I know that every parent thinks his child is head and shoulders above the rest, but I'm telling you — Blaine is a special one. He turned eleven this year, and he's one of the healthiest, happiest kids I've ever known. His heart is so good, so spiritually aware, so keen to the hearts of others. He's surprisingly compassionate for a boy his age, and he's also the most courageous one of us all. When it comes to rock climbing or cliff jumping or skiing, Blaine is always the first to go for it. He's a great athlete and a talented artist and a riot when it comes to his humor. He plays the violin; he memorizes cowboy poetry; he blows stuff up; he wants to be a Jedi knight. I love this boy.

And it's a long story of prayer and hope and worry over Blaine. When he was young, his pediatrician picked up an anomaly in his heart during a routine checkup. The cardiologist confirmed through a battery of tests that, indeed, Blaine had several holes in his heart. "He'll need surgery," he said. We opted to wait until Blaine was older, to give God a chance to intervene. The thought of putting my son under open-heart surgery gave me the shudders.

Over the course of those years we spent many nights in prayer that God would heal Blaine's heart. During one of those times, Stasi, not usually given to visions, had a picture of a light penetrating his heart. At that moment, she felt certain God had healed him. And just this morning, the day for his annual checkup, as I began to pray for Blaine, I sensed Jesus say, I've healed him. My heart rested, and I waited for the good report.

"Hi ... it's me." A long silence. "Blaine needs surgery ... right away."

Hope vanished. I felt that sick-in-the-gut feeling of an imminent free fall, that feeling you get on top of a ladder that's starting to sway under you. All kinds of thoughts and emotions rushed in. What? Oh no ... Not after all this ... I ... I thought ... My heart was sinking. Despair, betrayal, abandonment by God. Failure on our part to pray enough or believe enough. I felt moments away from a total loss of heart. It seemed inevitable.

These moments aren't a rational, calculated progression of thought; they're more like being tossed out of a raft in a storm. It comes fast and furious, but the pull of the current is always toward a loss of heart. Most of the time we are swept away; we give in, lose heart, and climb out of it sometime later. Some never climb out.

Eyes to See

When Spillane treats injured seamen offshore, one of the first things he evaluates is their degree of consciousness. The highest level, known as "alert and oriented times four," describes almost everyone in an everyday situation. They know who they are, where they are, what time it is, and what's just happened. If someone suffers a blow to the head, the first thing they lose is recent events — "alert and oriented times three" — and the last thing they lose is their identity. A person who has lost all four levels of consciousness, right down to their identity, is said to be "alert and oriented times zero." When John Spillane wakes up in the water, he is alert and oriented times zero. His understanding of the world is reduced to the fact that he exists, nothing more. Almost simultaneously, he understands that he is in excruciating pain. For a long time, that is all he knows.

John Spillane is a para-rescue jumper sent into the North Atlantic, into the worst storm of the twentieth century, the perfect storm, as the book and film called it, to rescue a fisherman lost at sea. When his helicopter goes down, he is forced to jump into pitch blackness from an unknown height, and when he hits the water, he's going so fast it's like hitting the pavement from eighty feet above. He is dazed and confused — r ust as we are when it comes to the story of our lives. It's the perfect analogy. We have no idea who we really are, why we're here, what's happened to us, or why. Honestly, most days we are alert and oriented times zero.

Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as "part of life," suck it up, even though it breaks our hearts? After a while, the accumulation of event after event that we do not like and do not understand erodes our confidence that we are part of something grand and good, and reduces us to a survivalist mind-set. I know, I know — we've been told that we matter to God. And part of us partly believes it. But life has a way of chipping away at that conviction, undermining our settled belief that he means us well. I mean, if that's true, then why didn't he_________? Fill in the blank. Heal your mom. Save your marriage. Get you married. Help you out more.

Either (a) we're blowing it, or (b) God is holding out on us. Or some combination of both, which is where most people land. Think about it. Isn't this where you land, with all the things that haven't gone the way you'd hoped and wanted? Isn't it some version of "I'm blowing it," in that it's your fault, you could have done better, you could have been braver or wiser or more beautiful or something? Or "God is holding out on me," in that you know he could come through, but he hasn't come through — and what are you to make of that?

This is The Big Question, by the way, the one every philosophy and religion and denominational take on Christianity has been trying to nail down since the dawn of time. What is really going on here? Good grief — life is brutal. Day after day it hammers us, till we lose sight of what God intends toward us, and we haven't the foggiest idea why the things that are happening to us are happening to us. Then you watch lives going down with the Twin Towers, read about children starving in Ethiopia, and wham! If a good God is really in charge ... all that.

I felt so bad that Paris wasn't what my friends hoped it would be, but I wasn't sure what to say. Like most Christians in that situation, I simply asked Lori how I could pray for them. "That we would have eyes to see what's going on." My heart leaped. Brilliant! Perfect! That is exactly what we need. Eyes to see. Isn't that what Jesus offered us — clarity? Recovery of sight for the blind (Luke 4:18)? We need clarity and we need it badly. A simple prayer rises from my heart: Jesus, take away the fog and the clouds and the veil, and help me see ... give me eyes that really see.

The Offer Is Life

The glory of God is man fully alive.

— Saint Irenaeus

When I first stumbled across this quote, my initial reaction was ... You're kidding me. Really? I mean, is that what you've been told? That the purpose of God — the very thing he's staked his reputation on — is your coming fully alive? Huh. Well, that's a different take on things. It made me wonder, What are God's intentions toward me? What is it I've come to believe about that? Yes, we've been told any number of times that God does care, and there are some pretty glowing promises given to us in Scripture along those lines. But on the other hand, we have the days of our lives, and they have a way of casting a rather long shadow over our hearts when it comes to God's intentions toward us in particular. I read the quote again, "The glory of God is man fully alive," and something began to stir in me. Could it be?

I turned to the New Testament to have another look, read for myself what Jesus said he offers. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Wow. That's different from saying, "I have come to forgive you. Period." Forgiveness is awesome, but Jesus says here he came to give us life. Hmm. Sounds like ol' Irenaeus might be on to something. "I am the bread of life" (John 6:48). "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:38). The more I looked, the more this whole theme of life jumped off the pages. I mean, it's everywhere.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Prov. 4:23)

You have made known to me the path of life. (Ps. 16:11)

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

Come to me to have life. (John 5:40)

Tell the people the full message of this new life. (Acts 5:20)

I began to get the feeling of a man who's been robbed. I'm well aware that it's life I need, and it's life I'm looking for. But the offer has gotten "interpreted" by well-meaning people to say, "Oh, well. Yes, of course ... God intends life for you. But that is eternal life, meaning, because of the death of Jesus Christ you can go to heaven when you die." And that's true ... in a way. But it's like saying getting married means, "Because I've given you this ring, you will be taken care of in your retirement." And in the meantime? Isn't there a whole lot more to the relationship in the meantime? (It's in the meantime that we're living out our days, by the way.) Are we just lost at sea? What did Jesus mean when he promised us life? I go back to the source, and what I find is just astounding.

I am still confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13)

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18:29 — 30)

Jesus doesn't locate his offer to us only in some distant future after we've slogged our way through our days here on earth. He talks about a life available to us in this age. So does Paul: "Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). Our present life and the next. When we hear the words eternal life, most of us tend to interpret that as "a life that waits for us in eternity." But eternal means "unending," not "later." The Scriptures use the term to mean we can never lose it. It's a life that can't be taken from us. The offer is life, and that life starts now.

Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (Rom. 6:4 nlt, emphasis added)

The glory of God is man fully alive? Now? Hope unbidden rose at the thought that God's intentions toward me might be better than I'd thought. His happiness and my happiness are tied together? My coming fully alive is what he's committed to? That's the offer of Christianity? Wow! I mean, it would make no small difference if we knew — and I mean, really knew — that down-deep-in-your-toes kind of knowing that no one and nothing can talk you out of — if we knew that our lives and God's glory were bound together. Things would start looking up. It would feel promising, like making friends on the first day of school with the biggest kid in class.


Excerpted from Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. Copyright © 2016 John Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Part 1 Seeing our way Clearly 1

Chapter 1 Arm Yourselves 3

Chapter 2 The Eyes of the Heart 20

Chapter 3 The Heart of All Things 38

Part 2 The Ransomed Heart 55

Chapter 4 Ransomed and Restored 57

Chapter 5 The Glory Hidden in Your Heart 74

Part 3 The Four Streams 93

Chapter 6 Walking With God 95

Chapter 7 Receiving God's Intimate Counsel 116

Chapter 8 Deep Restoration 135

Chapter 9 Spiritual Warfare: Fighting for Your Heart 154

Chapter 10 Setting Hearts Free: Integrating the Four Streams 172

Part 4 The Way of the Heart 193

Chapter 11 Fellowships of the Heart 195

Chapter 12 Like the Treasures of the Kingdom 214

Acknowledgments 235

Appendix: The Daily Prayer 237

Notes 243

About the Author 245

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