I was recently asked to provide a review for a book called “ Life is Beautiful : How a Lost Girl Became a True, Confident Child of God” by Sarah M. Johnson. The book’s genre is described as Self-Help / Memoir / Christian. The official summary is below:
Life is Beautiful takes you on a full journey of trauma, loss, and finally resilience. While on a mission’s trip in Guatemala, a small plane’s engine blows while carrying fourteen passengers. Unfortunately, the plane crashes in a remote village, leaving 11 of the 14 passengers dead.
One surviving passenger, Sarah, shares her story in Life is Beautiful, about the deaths of her father and brother; her mother’s extreme physical and emotional injuries, and Sarah’s self-discovery to accept this new life…
Sarah also discusses her struggles with alcohol use and depression; where she eventually hits rock bottom. It is not until she starts seeking God through prayer, books, and therapy, where she starts to turn her life around.
Life is Beautiful is a true testimony of God’s love for His people, and when one seeks a spiritual journey and connection with God; He gives back in love, forgiveness, and happiness.
Sarah’s story is truly remarkable.
As the summary says, Sarah had to cope with:
- a plane crash that killed her beloved dad and brother,
- her mom’s slow and painful recovery,
- and the emotional whirlwind that comes from an experience as tough as this one
Life is Beautiful has a story-telling structure, where you get a peek into what these experiences were like. Sarah not only describes the events, but also her thoughts and emotions through it. It is a very descriptive book, and it was hard for me to put it down!
Sarah faced these very traumatic experiences, yet God protected and sought her out every step of the way. It is truly a great testimony of God’s goodness and grace even in the worst of circumstances.
If you are looking to be encouraged by how God interjects in a person’s life, this will be a great book.
I asked Sarah about how writing Life is Beautiful helped her on her journey…
1. Sharing your story like you did in this book took a lot of courage. The Bible says that “he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov 11:25). What would you say have been the benefits of sharing your story and refreshing others with it?
Sarah: Honestly, writing the book was all about sharing my story of trauma, loss, and resiliency. I was hoping to help others who are going through a difficult time. Instead, I have been refreshed or humbled on how much I have learned about myself and the spiritual path I have embarked on. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my spiritual beliefs would play such an important role on promoting my book. I didn’t realize as I was writing my story so much would be focused on how God works in our lives…It makes me wonder what God’s real plan was for my book. My intentions were different than how things are working out today… It is awesome to see things slowly unfold before my eyes.
2. Would you say writing this book also played a part in your growth and healing process?
Sarah: Writing the book was a wonderful experience for me. I was able to process the reality of the experience in a different light. I was able to see the pain I was carrying around years after the accident. While I was writing the book, I was able to cry again, accept the experience, and move forward. It was a wonderful two years of writing; because it was HEALING. Now, as I promote the book, I am finding myself on a spiritual journey. I am finding myself wanting to not only heal the trauma of the airplane accident and the deaths of my father and brother; but the entire spectrum of my life…I want to live a life with integrity; I want to be the best I can be to show others healing is possible. Happiness is possible.
I can definitely relate to Sarah on how writing out what God is doing is very helpful! By writing, I am not only able to process and learn from what God wants to teach me, but it can help me remember what He has done already!
Sarah also shared some thoughts about healing from difficult experiences…
Sarah: Healing ONLY occurs when we make the CHOICE to heal. God has given us free will, and we can dedicate our lives to being the best we can be, just “settling,” or living miserable. It is our choice. I have chosen to accept my life, experiences and people in it to grow spiritually, personally, and professionally…I try daily to take an active role in my life, rather than being a victim in my own life.
Sarah’s story is such a great reminder that our circumstances do not define us!
Even though it is categorized as “Christian,” the emphasis on God and Jesus is very minimal throughout Life is Beautiful.
I was constantly scratching my head whenever Sarah did mention God, because she called God her “Higher Power” and made reference to this “Higher Power” as something she could define herself. There is also vague mention of the Bible, the Gospel, and really, any reference to the Christian message.
I was not going to assume anything, as I’ve heard numerous people talking about a “Higher Power” and, 99.9% of the time, they don’t mean Jesus.
To remove any confusion prior to writing the review, I decided to ask Sarah myself.
3. There is a popular notion that God can be whoever people define Him to be, that it doesn’t really matter what you believe (whereas in the God of the Bible, Allah, other deities…), as long as you believe in something. This can be a source of confusion for many people who are trying to find truth, and are overwhelmed with the many avenues and “options” they are given. In the book, you often mention God and call him “your higher power”. To clear up any possible confusion for future readers — who is God to you? In the book, there was a sweet conversation that you had with your brother about God, where he said “…but I know that in my death bed, I’ll be praying to Jesus.” Is Jesus your higher power?
Sarah: God to me is EVERYTHING. The Creator of All Things. God lives in everything; in me, in you, in your pet, in the flowers. God is the Thing that allows every single thing to “keep going.” Dr. Wayne Dyer said something to the effect that God, The Divine, The Light, The Universe, Allah, etc. is the Being that keeps our finger nails growing. We don’t have any function over this, but our finger nails will grow until we pass over. God is LIFE (and life never ends).
Like Sarah wrote, God is the creator. However, He is not a “thing”, the Allah of Islam or the Universe. Thankfully, the Bible provides clarity of who God really is!
“there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6
Sarah: If a woman is intrigued by a certain religion or beliefs, than that is probably your calling and path to God. If one does not agree with or has doubts about a certain religion, well, then your path to God may be different than others. Keep searching, and follow for what feels right FOR YOU.
Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is deceitful above all things”. Often times, what we want to do, what “feels right,” is not the right thing to do. This is why we need the Holy Spirit and God’s word to help us walk in the right path. I would encourage you that although God’s path is difficult and can be unpleasant (and not what your “heart” wants) it is worth it!
I would also caution women to NOT give up or reject Christianity just because you have doubts. ASK! I know a lot of believers, and myself, would be happy to help answer questions and walk you through it.
Sarah: …I consider myself Spiritual: I am finding the journey of the POWER of my Spirit (as said by Cynthia Myss). I am a Child of God and so is EVERY human being on this planet.
This is a common misconception. The Word says that everyone is a creation of God, but only those who believe in Him, Jesus, will be called His children.
“But to all who have received him – those who believe in His name – he has given the right to become God’s children ” John 1:12-13
Sarah: God works through me to fulfill my Destined Purpose if I CHOOSE to allow His will. I have surrendered to allow my Contract to unfold.
With this last part, I completely agree! We have to choose to follow God’s will for our life. We have to surrender our own desires for His. However, it is vital to understand who God truly is. Who are you surrendering your life to? This can’t be vague.
Conclusion: Life is Beautiful Book
Although the book is categorized “Christian”, it is important to understand that Sarah does not identify as a Christ-follower, so the book reflects her understanding of God through the lens of her own eyes. I point this out because it can be confusing, as it was to me, if you are reading the book expecting to hear about Christ, the Gospel and overcoming from a Christian perspective. It will not provide that.
However, as a memoir, Life is Beautiful can be a great encouragement of how God can protect and work in a person’s life in even the most difficult circumstances. No matter how terrible the trial, there is always hope. There is always good that can come out. There is purpose.
Check out the Life is Beautiful book page here.
Final Thoughts: Defining God
I can’t help but think: if everyone were to define God as they please, how different would God be from person to person! He would have an identity crisis. 🙁
How would you feel if every person you meet would define you as they please, and those definitions would form and define your identity? Your identity would be based on what people think.
You wouldn’t like that, right?
God is real, alive. He is not molded or defined by us, but He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That is such a relief! God doesn’t change based on who we think He is, but His character, His goodness and His faithfulness are unchangeable.
We don’t have to strive to “figure out” who He is in obscurity — His unchanging truth is available to us through His word!
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalms 119:105
We can trust that truth to guide our lives. And that is wonderful news!