The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg

Life You've Always WantedSummary

Published in 2002 by Zondervan, John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for ordinary people, provides practical wisdom on spiritual disciplines that can transform human temperament.  Ortberg (2002) invites the reader to take the book as an “invitation to live Christ’s Way, as it is the only invitation that really matters” (p. 9).  The author begins with an introduction to the purpose of spiritual discipline, then elaborates on eight specific disciplines.  Finally, Ortberg concludes the book with a suggested plan for how individuals can integrate and endure disciplines for spiritual growth.

Ortberg (2002) asserts that the primary purpose of spiritual life is transformation.  Where transformation occurs as an internal and real development of the fundamental nature of an individual (Ortberg, 2002).  However, the author cautions against “pseudo-transformations” that happen as superficial and pretentious changes in appearance, judgment, approachableness, weary pursuit, and shallowness (Ortberg, 2002, pp. 30-40).  Furthermore, spiritual disciplines do not indicate spiritual growth, but rather, provide exercises that inspire a capacity for love (Ortberg, 2002).   Thus, spiritual disciplines expand and strengthen an individual’s capacity for love, which leads to spiritual growth.

Such, spiritual disciplines involve “training” and not just “trying” (Ortberg, 2002, p. 41).  It stands incorrect for individuals to measure spiritual performances based on certain disciplines (Ortberg, 2002).  Though, spiritual disciplines may not always be pleasant, nor are they a way to “earn favor with God” (Ortberg, 2002, pp. 46-47).  Furthermore, spiritual disciplines include any activity that gives an individual the strength to “live life as Jesus taught and modeled” (Ortberg, 2002, p. 48).  So, as an individual train, she need to be wise.  For, Ortberg (2002) affirms that the wise training of spiritual disciplines respect the Holy Spirit; considers unique temperament, gifts, season of life, challenges, decision making, and choices of an individual (pp. 50-58).

Regarding the eight identified spiritual disciplines, Ortberg (2002) begins with the importance of joy.  Triumphant celebration remains an important component that indicates sin is no longer attractive (Ortberg, 2002).  Next, the author discusses the discipline of slowing, which moderates an unrelenting attempt to achieve more by defeating the sickness of hurrying (Ortberg, 2002).  Then, Ortberg (2002) explores the discipline of prayer, which allows an individual’s soul to unite with God in a personal bond that recognizes experiences and concerns.  While, the discipline of practiced servanthood develops humility into the life of a Christian, especially when service happens in secret (Ortberg, 2002).  Subsequently, Ortberg (2002) emphasizes confession, though not necessary for communication with God, it can provide a freeing effect from guilt and sin.  With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Ortberg (2002) demonstrates the need for spiritual mindfulness and attentive listening for daily guidance.  Additionally, the discipline of secrecy helps and individual overcome the need for other individual’s approval (Ortberg, 2002).  Finally, Ortberg (2002) encourages reflecting on Scripture, which stabilizes thinking and develops a mind for repentance due to the transformative effect of biblical principles.

In conclusion, Ortberg (2002) shares a plan for integrating the practices of spiritual disciplines into daily life for endurance and spiritual growth.  In addition to “developing one’s own rule of life” Ortberg (2002) takes the reader beyond a balanced life to a “quest for a well-ordered heart” that leads to “living in the name of Jesus” for a “plan of transformation” (pp. 193-207).  Even during suffering and challenges, it is possible for in individual to live a life of endurance when spiritual disciplines remain practiced (Ortberg, 2002).  For practicing these eight disciplines allow the nature of an individual to transform and become more Christ-like.

Concrete Responses

I frequently feel the need to be in a hurry.  There always remains something to do, something I forgot to do, or something that I need to redo.  This became clear to me one day when I noticed that my daughter was rushing.  No matter what she engaged in she rushed to finish, rushed to tackle the next task, or rushed to acquire the next item.  I remember saying to her, “Emily, don’t rush all the time.  Let’s stop and be thankful and give God some praise.”   But in truth, my daughter reflected my practices.

Ortberg’s (2002) chapter on “An Unhurried Life: The Practice of “Slowing”” reminded me of that conversation with my daughter.  When I hurried from one activity to the next without focus on the spiritual draining that was taking place in my life.  No matter how much I accomplished, there was always something left to achieve.   As an individual recovering from what Ortberg refers to as “hurry sickness” (p. 77) I appreciate the spiritual discipline of slowing down.  I no longer claim, multi-tasking as a proud vocabulary word.

I am very thankful that the Holy Spirit revealed to me through my daughter that my reflection needed improvement.  So, I began to reconsider my actions and aligned them to what I did and not just what I said.  While, I did not have a name what I did, I now realize that it is called “slowing” by Ortberg (2002).  I consciously slowed down.  As a practical spiritual discipline, I will continue to eliminate hurry from my life each day.


Ortberg’s statement, “We have largely traded wisdom for information, depth for breath. We want to microwave maturity”.  That state resonated deep within me.  I have watched young people try to rush to the first to reach some useless goal.  I have eve participated in the pursuit of such useless treasures.  Only to witness tired, overworked, emotionally drained individuals struggle to find balance in the prime of life.  When they should be excelling, and producing. Yet, they are recovering from years of “hurry sickness” (Ortberg, 2002) from their youth.

Sometimes, we pack too much on the front end of life by rushing to accomplish goals based on information instead of gaining wisdom.  As an educator, I seen so much of this constant push to meet a goal with little attention to spiritual grow.  I wonder what it would be like if we were as wise as we were informed?  What if time was relevant to knowledge gained and not hours spent?  What if there was value in a person growing and maturing spiritually in a comfortable amount of time for her?  What if we practice the wisdom of Philippians 4:6, and be anxious for nothing and stayed in daily communication with God?  What if we patiently grew in grace in favor in our attempt to be more like Jesus Christ?  Could we embrace spiritual discipline as a constant companion?

Maybe when we stop hurrying and slow down.  We will recognize, while time spent on earth is important, we must not become unfocused on the time we will spend in eternity (Ortberg, 2002).  Practicing spiritual discipline will allow us to embrace the love and restoration of Jesus Christ.  Thereby, giving us the correct perspective on life.


The Life You’ve Always Wanted (Ortberg, 2002), provided practical applications for spiritual growth along with a plan to accomplished the task.   The book was enjoyable with easy readability.  The kind of book that you keep on your coffee table to re-read again and again.  I found myself wanting to go back over the material as soon as I finished, because I recognized Ortberg’s desire that as a reader, I truly understand and take meaning from the words on the pages for application to my life, my struggles, and my hopes as I seek to grow in love and be more like Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, while all eight spiritual disciplines were applicable to my life, slowing down and not hurrying is most applicable at this present time.  Not just physically slowing down, but being able to slow down in my thoughts.  Being able to spend time thinking about Scripture and not about what I need to do.  Though, I have respect for timelines and deadline, I know that Ortberg (2002) is talking about so much more.  Like reading my Bible more, leaving work on time, spending less time talking on the cell phone, and maybe even driving a little slower, all to practice spiritual discipline for spiritual growth.


Ortberg, J. (2002). The life you’ve always wanted: The spiritual disciplines for ordinary people (Rev. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.