God Took Me by the Hand is a short autobiography of the life of longtime servant of God and author Jerry Bridges. Bridges, whose whole ministry was in conjunction with the Navigators (he recently passed away), uses his simple and clear writing skills to chronicle how an ordinary boy was greatly used of God. The purpose of this book, he writes in the first chapter, “is to explain, illustrate and exalt God’s providence” (p. 12). He accomplishes this goal, detailing how the Lord orchestrated his life step-by-step. Bridges does not whitewash his life as he transparently admits times of failure, confusion, hurt, loss and doctrinal error. But through it all God’s providence, defined as God’s “constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people” (p. 19), was evident. And Bridges assures us that God’s providence is at work in our lives as well:
I do know that for over sixty-five years God has been leading me by His invisible hand of providence, most of the time in fairly routine ways and sometimes in remarkable ways. But whether it was routine or remarkable, God has been leading me. I trust Him to continue to do that until He calls me home (p. 147). But what has been true of me is, in principle, true of every one of us who are His children (p. 148).
I must admit however, despite my deep respect for Bridges, to being disappointed by his many references to mystical leading of the Holy Spirit in his life. He admits that most of our lives are lived under the common grace of God (p. 24), that many disagree with his view on mysticism (p. 29), and that these mystical encounters have been few in his own life (p. 30). Nevertheless, Bridges believes the Holy Spirit can guide us through direct impressions, an inaudible voice (pp. 28-30), and through impressions from Scripture even if taken out of context and not designed to be applied to us personally (pp. 92, 97, 115, 117, 126, 136, 143, 144). Bridges’ emphasis on this type of mystical leading is prevalent in the book (pp. 49, 71, 75, 77, 80, 100, 143).
I believe that Bridges is mistaken concerning this extrabiblical understanding of the Lord’s leading, and I am especially bothered by his poor hermeneutics and subsequent misuse of Scripture in an attempt to support his views, so much so I would be hard-pressed to recommend this book. But that Jerry Bridges faithfully served Christ and was mightily used of the Lord is not questioned. I loved the man, and have deeply appreciated many of his writings, but the mysticism as found in this volume is disturbing and potentially misleading.
God Took Me by the Hand A story of God’s Unusual Providence by Jerry Bridges (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014) 191 pp., paper $11.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel