Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen: Book Review

If I were to write a book sharing what I considered to be the most important and vital truths of my life, it would carry the same messages found in “Life of the Beloved” by Henri J.M. Nouwen. I have read some of Nouwen’s writing in the past, but it did not have the impact of this book.

If you connect with the message of this book in the way that I did, you will not be able to put it down. But you will be stopping frequently to highlight or underline the profound statements that make you say, “Yes, yes! That’s it exactly!” My first quick read was a copy belonging to a friend, so I resisted the urge to mark these passages. I will go back through it at a more leisurely pace when I purchase my own copy.

A Letter to Fred

The book is written like a letter to one of Nouwen’s dearest friends, Fred. The book was written at Fred’s request. Fred is a secular Jew, and Nouwen’s writings previously had seemed too spiritual for Fred and his friends to relate to. “Life of the Beloved” is Nouwen’s attempt to communicate the deepest treasures of his spiritual life to his fully-secularized friend.

At the end of the book, we find out that this beautiful prose missed its mark, as far as Fred was concerned. But others who read the manuscript were captured, as I was, by its profound simplicity. I am so glad they encouraged Nouwen to have the book published and not filed away as an unimportant message.

Excerpts from the Book

I decided that the best way to tell you about the book is to simply share some of my favorite passages.

Being the Beloved

“My only desire is to have these words reverberate in every corner of your being – “You are the Beloved.”

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.”

Becoming the Beloved

“I know the fact that I am always searching for God, always struggling to discover the fullness of Love, always yearning for the complete Truth, tells me that I have already been given a taste of God, of Love, and of Truth.”

“When our deepest truth is that we are the Beloved, when our greatest joy and peace come from fully claiming that truth, it follows that this has to become visible and tangible in the ways we eat and drink, talk and love, play and work.”

Taken (Chosen)

“The eyes of love have seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal value.”

“When love chooses, … it chooses without making anyone else feel excluded.”

“you have to keep looking for people and places where your truth is spoken and where you are reminded of your deepest identity as the chosen one.

“Instead of making us feel that we are better, more precious or valuable than others, our awareness of being chosen opens our eyes to the chosenness of others.” 


“To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “Yes” to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.”

“A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness.”

“…claim your blessedness…through prayer and presence.”

“The real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me.”

“The movement of God’s Spirit is very soft, very gentle –and hidden. It does not seek attention.”

“(Blessings) are there, surrounding us on all sides. But we have to be present to them and receive them. They are reminders of the beautiful, strong, but hidden voice of the one who calls us by name and speaks good things about us.”


“Our brokenness is as unique as our chosenness and our blessedness. The way we are broken are as much an expression of our individuality as the way we are taken and blessed.”

“It is where we are most needy and most vulnerable that we experience our brokenness.”

“The step to healing is not to step away from pain, but to step toward it.”

“…the great task becomes that of allowing our blessedness touch us in our brokenness. Then our brokenness will gradually come to be seen as an opening toward the full acceptance of ourselves as the Beloved.”


“…we are chosen, blessed and broken to be given.”

“Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”

“During those painful times, we often felt our life had come to a standstill and we had nothing to offer; but now…those periods have proven to be the times that enabled us to give more instead of less.”

“The real question is not “What can we offer each other” but “Who can we BE for each other.”

Living as the Beloved

“…change from living life as a painful test to prove that you deserve to be loved, to living it as an unceasing “Yes” to the truth of that Belovedness.”

“The unfathomable mystery of God is that God is a Lover who wants to be loved. …God not only says: “You are my beloved.” God also asks: “Do you love me?” and offers countless chances to say “Yes.”

Live Loved, Live Free

What I have shared here are only gems pulled from their settings. As beautiful as they may appear on their own, they can only be fully appreciated when viewed in the context from which they were mined.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of “Life of the Beloved,” and enjoy the richness of what we are offered in this small book.