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Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  7,764 ratings  ·  513 reviews
Initially written for a Jewish friend, Life of the Beloved has become Henri Nouwen’s greatest legacy to Christians around the world. This sincere testimony of the power and invitation of Christ is indeed a great guide to a truly uplifting spiritual life in today’s world.
Kindle Edition, 161 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by The Crossroad Publishing Company (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,764 ratings  ·  513 reviews

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Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-life
While I love Nouwen, I was disappointed by this work. I found it to be a beautiful depiction of the Gospel message with one vital omission: Christ. He speaks of us as being (like the bread of the Eucharist) taken, blessed, broken, and given. It is a wonderful way of presenting the role we play in this world, and how God prepares us for this role. However, without the explanation of why we are broken and how we are blessed, the work rings hollow.

I find it interesting that in the epilogue Nouwen
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Parts of this book were incredibly good, but I can't recommend it unreservedly.

I resonated with his explanation of our being loved by God, missing that point, and therefore trying to substitute affirmation from the world in place of God's love.

I disagreed with his premise that we can influence this world as spirits after we die. I think that's Catholic vs evangelical theology.

But at the end, it turned out that he missed the mark. The book was written to a friend, a secular Jewish m
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
Not in any way a hard read, but one I needed to take my time with, to let it settle in and make space for reflection and action.

It's seemed remarkably in tune with the relationships and topics on my heart right now, but I think perhaps it's a simple enough book and has enough wisdom that might always be true.

It was a nice moment to have it recommended as a source of comfort right now when I had just been reading it. I could go back to a specific passage and find it even more helpful in facing
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book became a horrible frustration for me to read. It started out well enough, but there were such gaps and glaring omissions and confusing logic that by the end I could barely read two pages in a row without having to put the book down. There are a few poignant points, which saves this book from getting one star, but overall this book doesn't say much that better books have said much better.

Henri Nouwen explains from the outset that this book is written to explain the spiritual life to se
Sep 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith
Written by a priest to a Jewish friend to explain the spiritual in everyday terms and thoughts that a secular person would understand.

I don't believe he accomplished his goal and his friend attests to that. However I did pick up a few thoughts that are worthy.

~When we persist in looking at the shadow side, we will eventually end up in the dark.
~Every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for.
~You have to choose where
Lori Galaske
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've only read one Nouwen book that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. After reading Life of the Beloved, I've still only read one Nouwen book that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed (and I can't remember the name of that one). This book was, however, different from most of his other books, but his humility and love for God and people still seeped through every page. I loved this book for its simplicity and down-to-earthness. No high and lofty theology here - just the basics. We're human: broken and imperf ...more
Anna Clark
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"From the moment I was helped to experience my interpersonal addiction as an expression of a need for total surrender to a loving God who would fulfill the deepest desires of my heart, I started to live my dependency in a radically new way. Instead of living it in shame and embarrassment, I was able to live it as an urgent invitation to claim God's unconditional love for myself, a love I can depend on without fear."

I think I may have found my new favorite book.
Rachel A.  Dawson
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I have already come back to it more than a handful of times to soak up the words again and again and again. I have always loved and wrestled with the idea of being beloved, and this book illuminated all of that. Originally written by Nouwen for a Jewish friend, I found it incredibly convicting and humbling and stunning as a lifelong Christian. I want to get the word beloved tattooed on my body to remind me forever of the core truth of my identity: ...more
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably one of Henri's most important books. It is difficult for many people to understand themselves as "Beloved".
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When we keep claiming the light, we will find ourselves becoming more and more radiant.

I was talking with a friend recently about the tumult of life, how it can frustrate and embitter. You can spiral into depression when you feel you have no control or power to affect your own life. It is critical to ground your life in something immutable or you will be jerked around by constant change. Henri Nouwen shares in this slim letter the root of his own resilience. In a world that shouts you are no
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel I could pick up this book at any time and be reminded of the most simple and profound truths of identity. Nouwen's conversational prose with a friend makes the heart of the book easily identifiable and accessible.
Ramón S.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really consoling if you are passing times of trouble and darkness
Cassidy Griffith
Too good to be true!!
Kristin Gottron
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poignant and helpful in reflecting on my own spiritual journey. I like that Nouwen is familiar with and is writing in the modern context because he speaks to struggles with which I am very familiar and reminds of the need to stay in touch with the truth of being Beloved.
Michelle Kwon
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cried on the last page! God is gracious; God is redemptive.
Chris Didonna
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a beautiful guide to saying yes to God’s pursuing love in our everyday lives. So much of our culture has made sex and marriage the bread of life, but Henri Nouwen shows how to interact with God as our one true lover. It was a challenging read for me because I tend elevate human love over God’s love, but this book is helping me find satisfaction and belonging in God’s love first.
Thanks, Connor K, for waiting patiently for me to read and reflect on this book. On the surface, it's the story of a friendship. A younger Jewish man and an older Catholic priest. Their differences may define them, but they find bridges to each other and forge a strong relationship. Here Nouwen attempts to explain to his young friend why faith is important in the modern world, and how it can help people lead their very best lives.

He's organized his letter around the concept of being
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nouwen, christian
Re-read before Easter 2014. Nouwen's writing is amazing!!

"Life is a God-given opportunity to become who we are, to affirm our own true spiritual nature, claim our truth, appropriat and intergrate the reality of our being, but most of all, to say "yes" to the One who calls us the Beloved."

Nouwen wrote this book in response to longtime friend, Fred Bratman, request for "a word of hope to people who no longer came to churches or synagogues."
Nouwen explains spiritual life as
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More than being about what other people tell us spiritual life is based on experience. Anyone who reads this book will bring to the reading of it their own experience. It could not be otherwise. The experience of the book is an interaction, a kind of alchemy, between the experience of the reader and the writing of the author. And with each reader, the book becomes something new.

Henri Nouwen wrote this book for a friend, and the friend, in his honesty, found that the book did not turn
Winston Elliott III
In this sublime work Fr. Nouwen offers: "The greatest gift my friendship can give to you is the gift of your Belovedness. I can give that gift only insofar as I have claimed it for myself. Isn't that what friendship is all about: giving to each other the gift of our Belovedness?"

This book is, at its essence, a love letter. A love letter from Nouwen to God, from God to each of us, and if we so choose, an offering of our love returned to our Creator who calls us Beloved.

Pat Treff
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a sincere telling of the abundant love that God has for mankind and how we can find fulfillment and purpose by seeing ourselves as Chosen, Blessed, Broken, and Given. It speaks to those who have already found themselves hungry for spiritual food.

The secular world that Fred lives in allows him to function and even prosper without God and that is His design. Followers of Christ know the richness of having our spiritual life but who can see color if they are blind? For me, Henri describes
Gerald Thomson
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are a few books a person reads in their lifetime that changes their life. This is one of them. In a clear, straightforward delivery, Nouwen provides his view on how to live life well. The principles are nothing new (know that you are beloved by God, give yourself to others, bless those you come in contact with), but Nouwen’s personal openness effected me like none of his other books that I have read. Written as a letter to a younger, secular Jew, the friendship shared, the struggles gone t ...more
Mar 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
According to a friend I read this book with, it is very similar to Letters To A Young Poet, except with a Christ-centered perspective. It was meant to be written for a friend of Nouwen's (the author) who did not have the same faith as Nouwen and was entrenched in the secular world. He wanted to communicate that in a world so fast-paced and self-serving, when we know God's love we are able to claim our identity as "The Beloved". This allows us to not be as affected by the criticism of the world, ...more
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
So many gems in this slender volume. It is deep, and simple, and filled with so much love. This is a book to be savored a few pages at a time, not gobbled up in one sitting.

Nouwen's spirit in writing, which I adored, is well expressed in the epilogue where he says, "I feel within myself a deep-rooted resistance to proving anything to anybody...I can only say, 'for me, God is the one who calls me the Beloved, and I have a desire to express to others how I try to become more fully who I already a
Crimson Sparrow
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am deeply inspired and greatly comforted by this work. Nouwen's frankness is, simply put, beautiful. Vulnerable. Respectful. Cherishing. I am shocked by its simplicity - so easy to read - alongside its deep and tender wisdom. Nouwen is delightfully transparent and remarkably succinct in capturing the essence of truths too marvelous for words and struggles too complex for diagrams. He manages to issue a compelling invitation to redemption without demonizing anyone or anything in the process. He ...more
Connie Inglis
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very few books receive 5 stars from me, but this is one of them. Maybe partly because I opened this book without expectation and was subsequently blown away by the focus on being God's beloved. This is something God has been showing me over and over again in the last 5 years--about how much HE LOVES ME and then what my response should be to a world that feels so unloved. A MUST read!
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read in a while..
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith-religion
Since the insights in this little book are inspired by the life-long spiritual journey of its author, many of the concepts may remain somewhat abstract for readers who haven’t had at least a small taste of similar experiences or thoughts. But one large idea is the thread that weaves itself amongst all others: you (we) are the Beloved. Our value as human beings is not something we have to prove but is something innate within the fact of our existence. From Nouwen’s perspective, the assumption beh ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nouwen is one of those spiritual writers that speak to me. He speaks the language I understand and often I find his words mirror my thoughts. The Life of the Beloved is a book that anchors itself on the idea that we are Beloved to God, for he knew us before we were born. An idea quite perplexing to those who are from the Secular world and an experience so profound to those who have been converted. I was reading this in the midst of dealing with people who come to me with so much self-hate that t ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a difficult book to review: The majority of this book landed easily in my "5 star" category - beautifully written insights that I found myself savoring and actually slowing down my reading pace in order to really soak in. This book was headed to be one of my favorites of recent years - I kept waiting for the author to articulately and sensitively weave in Christ as well as the issue of sin, but both were noticeably absent. About half way through I figured it was just around the corner but a ...more
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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of teaching at the Men
“Aren't you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don't you often hope: 'May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.' But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.” 196 likes
“the real "work" of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me.

To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing-- that demands real effort. ”
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