A Source Of Great Hope
He writes to Gen Z and Gen Y, millennials and centennials. His book is written to give hope and to inspire those generations and anyone else who’s “struggling and confused and just plain tired of it all.” Curiously, even though his book doesn’t prescribe solutions to depression directly, in the depression category it’s currently the #1 new book on Amazon.
If you’ve ever struggled with depression; or if you’ve ever felt misunderstood by your family, friends, and others around you; if you’ve shared your dreams and had people respond in a dismissive or disparaging way, you’ll find hope and encouragement and inspiration from Optimisfits.
Inspiration From A Variety Of Topics
Courson writes frankly about his own struggles: betrayal from the one closest to him, the death of his sister, the imminent death of his brother, and his ten year battle with depression. He’s transparent to the point where he even discusses a time when he considered suicide.
He writes about how he doesn’t fit in with the world, or with traditional church culture and how that’s a good thing because it’s in our uniqueness that God can best use each of us.
In the science chapter we learn that the most famous of subatomic particles, the electron, doesn’t orbit the nucleus of an atom as we were taught in school, but rather it leaps from one point to another, it teletransports if you will. A quantum leap. And we learn that if you blew up an atom to the size of a football stadium, its nucleus would be the size of a grain of rice, but the grain of rice would weigh more than the stadium. And we learn that a neutron star can weigh 200 billion tons and fit inside a teaspoon.
One of my favorite chapters is titled My Heroes. Here Courson describes a man who “got kicked out of his job as a pastor because some members of the board of elders thought he put too much emphasis on God’s love. He believed that God was more generous and grace-filled than some people’s ‘orthodox’ theology could accommodate.
That man was George MacDonald.
He also lists as his heroes G. K. Chesterton, Billy Graham, and Alexander the Great.’
Courson writes of these men: “None of my heroes chose the safe route. None of them were normal. None of them settled for small successes. So, if life is a battle, let’s take our place alongside our Heavenly King. We are childlike, we are faithful, we are brave.
“And we are just a little foolhardy…in the best possible way.”
The description of Alexander the Great is part of a tone that’s felt throughout the book, and it’s a tone of rebellion. Rebellion against expectations imposed on us by the people around us or by our culture in general that isn’t essential to what Jesus wants from his followers. Courson writes of Optimisfits: “We want to rebel against both the culture of hopelessness…and against the culture of vanilla-flavored Churchianity.” In another place he writes, “Our job is to find whatever doesn’t represent heaven on earth, and, well, vanquish it!”
He also writes of famous misfits like Walt Disney, who, early in his career, had a boss fire him as a cartoonist because “Disney lacks imagination . . .” And he writes of less famous misfits like his friend Cam who makes movies — but doesn’t watch movies.
What Sets Optimisfits Apart?
Courson’s transparency, and the place he’s writing from are what set this book apart for me. He’s been there. He’s experienced betrayal. He fought a losing battle with depression for a decade. He lost his sister at a young age. And he recently lost his older brother.
He shared his dreams with others and they didn’t get it.
And they didn’t get him.
So when he shares, what he has to say has a weight and a level of credibility that’s rare.
Optimisfits spoke to me directly. Depression and pursuing a dream and being criticized for it have been two points of struggle for me personally. Even today there are people close to me who don’t understand why I do what I do on God Running, and on social media. So Courson’s book was food for my soul.
His topics are eclectic. His writing style is stream of consciousness. But it comes together in a way that’s engaging and inspiring.
I came away from the book filled with hope and courage.
If you’re struggling with depression, or doubt, or if you’re feeling isolated and alone, or if your dreams are ridiculed and rejected, you’ll take hope from Optimisfits.
On his website Ben Courson defines the term Optimisfit as,
“a nonconformist, an adventurer, a person who lives with wild abandon, childlike wonder, and unapologetic optimism.
“You were never meant to fit in. You were made to stand out.”
After reading this book, I want to join them.
You might also like Brooks Gibbs’s take on this book.
Full disclosure: Ben Courson is a personal friend. He was my next door neighbor for eleven years and an associate pastor at the church Kathy and I attended. I’ve not only drawn inspiration from Ben’s book but also from the way he lives his life. I have found him to be the genuine article.