Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers

by Dane C. Ortlund

Hardcover, 2020


Checked out
Due 31 March 2024

Call number



Crossway (2020), 224 pages


Christian Nonfiction. Religion & Spirituality. Nonfiction. HTML: How does Jesus feel about his people amid all their sins and failures? This audiobook takes listeners into the depths of Christ's very heart??a heart of tender love drawn to sinners and sufferers.

User reviews

LibraryThing member wilsonknut
Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund feels like being wrapped in a warm, Puritan weighted blanket for your soul. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but here it is. It’s theologically rich, and at the same time easy to understand and encouraging. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of my
Show More
favorites of the year.

Ortlund uses Matthew 11:28-30 as his primary text. It’s a favorite of mine:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

There’s so much hope and promise packed into that short passage. It has been popular lately for good reason. John Mark Comer focuses on the same passage in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Ortlund’s approach is a little different. Gentle and Lowly focuses on the fact that this is one of the rare times that Jesus tells us about his heart—the very core of who he is.

We tend to think that God is just barely putting up with us, especially when we are struggling with sin. I remember my hyperactive cousin testing my uncle’s patience when we were kids. His dad would take off his belt, snap it, and say, “One more time and see what happens!” That’s kind of how we think God deals with us.
Ortlund writes that this book is for—

Those of us who find ourselves thinking: “How could I mess up that bad—again?” It is for that increasing suspicion that God’s patience with us is wearing thin. For those of us who know God loves us but suspect we have deeply disappointed him. Who have told others of the love of Christ yet wonder if—as for us—he harbors mild resentment. Who wonder if we have shipwrecked our lives beyond what can be repaired... It is written, in other words, for normal Christians.

Ortlund points out that when Jesus tells us about his heart and who He is at the deepest level, he doesn’t mention impatience. In fact, he doesn’t say he’s demanding or strict or tough. He doesn’t even say he’s generous or joyful, though he is. He says, “I am gentle and lowly in heart.”

Well, what does that mean? That’s what Ortlund spends the rest of the book examining. He uses a wealth of cross-references from both the Old and New Testaments, scripture speaking to scripture. Ortlund also uses the Puritans as guides. Gentle and Lowly draws from Thomas Goodwin, Sibbes, Bunyan, Owen, and Edwards. The Puritans have the reputation of being focused on the wrath of God. After all, Edwards wrote “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” but here Ortlund points us to how they treasured God’s mercy.

I greatly appreciated Ortlund’s ability to take dense passages from the Puritans and translate them into easily understandable language. For example, after quoting portions from Thomas Goodwin’s The Heart of Christ, Ortlund writes:

Translation: When you come to Christ for mercy and love and help in your anguish and perplexity and sinfulness, you are going with the flow of his own deepest wishes, not against them. We tend to think that when we approach Jesus for help in our need and mercy amid our sins, we somehow detract from him, lessen him, impoverish him. Goodwin argues otherwise.

Ortlund is aware that there could be a tendency to overlook other aspects of God while focusing on his affectionate heart. He addresses that concern early in the book. Gentle and Lowly doesn’t overlook or downplay the wrath of God in any way. He is careful to judge everything against what the Bible says. This is by no means a theologically weak book. Ortlund writes:

...the wrath of Christ and the mercy of Christ are not at odds with one another, like a see-saw, one diminishing to the degree that the other is held up. Rather, the two rise and fall together. The more robust one’s felt understanding of the just wrath of Christ against all that is evil both around us and within us, the more robust our felt understanding of his mercy...

He goes on:

Throughout the rest of our study we will return to the question of how to square the very heart of Christ with actions of his or biblical statements that may seem to sit awkwardly with it... In short: it is impossible for the affectionate heart of Christ to be over celebrated, made too much of, exaggerated. It cannot be plumbed. But it is easily neglected, forgotten. We draw too little strength from it. We are not leaving behind the harsher side to Jesus as we speak of his very heart. Our sole aim is to follow the Bible’s own testimony as we tunnel in to who Jesus most surprisingly is.

Everything in Gentle and Lowly is grounded in scripture. I used to wonder how pastors could take just a few verses and talk about them for forty-five minutes. Ortlund points out that the Puritans would take a single verse and “wring it dry” for an entire book. Many chapters of Gentle and Lowly begin with a single verse, but then dive into every word in the verse and what it means in relation to Jesus’ heart.

The book flows naturally from defining what gentle and lowly means, to Christ being able to sympathize with us, on through how Christ’s heart demonstrates his great love for us. Along the way, the book dismantles our human assumptions that God is somehow like us, which is a good thing. The truth is much more encouraging.

My favorite chapter is “His ‘Natural’ Work and His ‘Strange’ Work,“ which I felt especially reveals our common misconceptions about God and his feelings towards us. The chapter opens with Lamentations 3:33—He does not afflict from his heart. Ortlund illustrates how This verse tells us that yes, God does afflict, but the promise is that it is not His heart. He finds no joy in it. He argues that even the Old Testament is leading us to a savior whose heart is gentle and lowly.

The chapter uses Thomas Goodwin, Jonathan Edwards, Lamentations, Hosea, and Jeremiah to unpack what exactly is God’s natural work. None of those sources are exactly hesitant about God’s wrath; yet, they all point to God rejoicing in doing us good rather than afflicting us. Ortlund writes:

Edwards, Goodwin, and the theological river in which they stand were not mushy. They affirmed and preached and taught divine wrath and an eternal hell. They saw these doctrines in the Bible (2 Thess. 1:5–12, to cite just one text). But because they knew their Bibles inside and out and followed their Bibles scrupulously, they discerned also a strand of teaching in Scripture about who God most deeply is—about his heart....

Left to our own natural intuitions about God, we will conclude that mercy is his strange work and judgment his natural work. Rewiring our vision of God as we study the Scripture, we see, helped by the great teachers of the past, that judgment is his strange work and mercy his natural work.

Which leads me back to one of my favorite quotes from Gentle and Lowly:

This is why we need a Bible. Our natural intuition can only give us a God like us. The God revealed in the Scripture deconstructs our intuitive predilections and startles us with one whose infinitude of perfections is matched by his infinitude of gentleness. Indeed, his perfections include his perfect gentleness.

I found myself wanting to highlight quotes on just about every page of Gentle and Lowly. If you need an encouraging and Biblical book in these uncertain and difficult times, I highly recommend picking up a copy. It releases on April 7, 2020 from Crossway. I’ll leave you with anther favorite quote from the book:

Christ was sent not to mend wounded people or wake sleepy people or advise confused people or inspire bored people or spur on lazy people or educate ignorant people, but to raise dead people.
Show Less
LibraryThing member LudieGrace
One of the most genuinely helpful Christian books I’ve read in the past decade, probably. Doctrinally rich in a heart-satisfying way; always biblically grounded. It’s made me love Jesus more, and I’ll be reading it again. Highly recommended, especially for those who struggle with assurance.
LibraryThing member lachlanp
I've been reading on-and-off a chapter of this per night, as a short devotional, and it's been great. It brings together a bunch of Puritan authors to talk about the unfathomable, hard-to-convince-ourselves-of, and unwaning love of Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

When I started reading, I
Show More
was at first a little put-off by the casual tone. Rather than a straightforward lecture, it's more an engaging speech encoded in words. Dane uses plenty of short choppy sentences to describe things. Like this. Many flowery adjectives. Other describing words. Probably adverbs. Unexpected metaphors at least.

I got over it (to be fair, I write that way sometimes), and it wasn't really a problem. It's like comparing the Isaiah to Paul's letters -- more poetic vs more propositional. Both have their place.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Tower_Bob
This book works better as a daily devotional then as a study. It is very repetitive and the author continually quotes great Christian leaders from our Puritan past, but these quotes do not add much to the argument except to highlight how much the author has read old Christian works.

The message of
Show More
the book is important, but the writing could be better.
Show Less
LibraryThing member BDartnall
Thoughtful, focused examination about the "heart" of Christ - read with other women from Lighthouse Church (Holly Mehrling's book club)... what a rich and reassuring exploration of Christ's nature and the Triune God's love for us sinners. No matter what. No matter how apart from God's grace we
Show More
feel, or how miserably we fail in our efforts to holy living, or spiritual growth... I had no idea how much this lovely little study (filled with Scripture) would minister to my aching heart.
" 'Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Matthew 11:28 Christians know what Jesus Christ has done--but who is he? What is his deepest heart for his people, weary and faltering on their journey toward heaven? Jesus said he is 'gentle and lowly in heart.' This book reflects on those words, opening up a neglected yet central truth about who he is for sinners and sufferes today" (front flap). As Paul E Miller says (back cover recommend blurbs) "Your soul needs this book. I highly recommend it".
Show Less
LibraryThing member bookworm12
The two major points that stuck with me are God’s tendency to mercy and our inability to earn it. No matter how good we think we are, we need gods mercy more than anything.

“The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger but open arms.”

“For those not in Christ, this life is the best
Show More
it will ever get. For those in Christ, for whom Ephesians 2:7 is the eternal vista just around the next bend in the road, this life is the worst it will ever get.”
Show Less
LibraryThing member khoyt
This is a fascinating book! Looking at the Bible through the focus of Jesus's heart. The depth of His love is still unfathomable from the viewpoint of fallen people. However, it is good to realize that even with all our wounds, defects, mistakes, and obstinances, Jesus still enfolds us with His
Show More
arms of grace and mercy and stands beside us as we try to navigate this fallen world. A must-read!
Show Less
LibraryThing member thornton37814
This book helps Christians understand the heart of Christ in the midst of all the suffering and failures of life. Drawing from Puritan theologians, Ortlund examines the topic from a Reformed doctrinal viewpoint. While the book is devotional in nature, the author's writing style is suited more
Show More
towards Christians with a solid theological grounding.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Leann
This is such a beautiful book! It is filled with biblical truth and encouragement. Every Christian can benefit from reading about the One who is Gentle and Lowly to know Christ more deeply.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

8 inches


1433566133 / 9781433566134
Page: 0.6032 seconds