Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve, Ken Shigematsu

I have often argued that the Christian life is a struggle to reach an equilibrium: Christians should be emotional but also studious; Christians should believe in the sovereignty of God but also the free agency of man; Christians should pursue Bible reading tempered with prayer.

Ken Shigematsu believes the same. In his book, “Survival Guide for the Soul,” he brings to the foreground a juxtaposition of two paradoxical positions: the striving Adam and the soulful Adam. The striving Adam is the person who focuses on success in their professional lives. For example, Ken pastors a church in Vancouver B.C., but before this he worked for Sony Corps in Tokyo, Japan. He explains that the pursuit of his aspirations in that position was the embodiment of the striving Adam. Conversely, the soulful Adam finds solace in centering on those things that are healthy for our spirits. For example, making priorities of God, family, and friendships all typify the soulful Adam. Every human, as Ken argues, embody these two Adams. They are not at odds with each other for many would agree that you need both to survive in this world. However, humans have a tendency to worship the former. Often times we are so wrapped up in our accomplishments, the future, the successes at our workplaces, or other distractions that we forget to tend to our soulful Adam. This book is about navigating this world by feeding our soulful Adam a diet of spirituality in, as the subtext of the book describes, a “world that pressures us to achieve.”

Part 1 of this book examines the two selves, the soulful Adam and the striving Adam. Part 2 is the meat and heart of the book: the “survival habits of the soul,” or those practical disciplines that guide our soulful Adam. The chapter themes are as follows:

meditation; sabbath; gratitude; simple abundance; servanthood; friendship; vocation; and redefining greatness.

I found some of these chapters to be extremely helpful. Friendship, in particular, was a convicting chapter to read. Friendships strengthen us, as Ken explains, encourage us and builds us up. Jesus surrounded himself with friends and we too need to have godly Christian friends that refreshen us in the chaos of the world. Ken challenges the reader to pursue those friendships that “…[inspire] you toward Christ and his call upon your life…” I also found the chapters on simple abundance, gratitude, vocation, and redefining greatness helpful as a reminder to continue to practice such things.

I also found the chapters on meditation and the sabbath to be inapplicable to me personally. While I was reading this book, I was telling my wife about the chapter on meditation. I asked her if she would meditate and she quickly, without much thought, said flatly, “no.” While I understand the spirit of meditation (and specifically what Ken talks about when he says “meditation” is not identical to the Buddhist type), I don’t find that practice particularly helpful to me. I do not believe there is mandate for a sabbath as well in the Bible, so while I think it is a good idea to get rest on one day, I do not that that Christians are sinning if they do not.

These are a few minor points to an otherwise well written and well thought out book. I think this book will be very helpful for those who struggle with battling their career driven desires. The chapter on redefining greatness sums this up nicely:

“When we come face to face with our own death, we realize that it doesn’t really matter if we went to a great school, are on a prestigious career track, have spectacular achievements, or have raised accomplished children. What matters is that we know that God loves us and cares about who we are becoming far more than what we do or don’t do.”

These words ring true for so many. For more information, please visit the website:

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for providing an honest review.

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