Tag Archives: suffering

Book Review: Finding God in the Hard Times

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For a number of reasons, I’m excited to share this book with you! I always like a book that tackles well the topic of suffering, and this one fits the bill. The actual meat of Finding God in the Hard Times consists of less than 70 pages (five chapters). But not to worry—Matt and Beth Redman, writers of the popular contemporary worship song “Blessed Be Your Name,” make efficient use of the space.

The book is organized into four main sections, once you get past the forewords and introduction: five chapters of material, complete with reflection questions; a small group discussion guide; an appendix that lists Scriptures quoted throughout the book; and a final appendix of recommended books on suffering.

I found the chapters to be full of gospel truth that point the reader to Christ at every turn. The Redmans are straightforward; sometimes, what they have to say is a hard, but necessary, truth. The brevity of the book doesn’t allow time to touch on the theology of why suffering occurs, but that’s okay. That’s really not the purpose, in my opinion. This would be a great book to read before you’re in the throes of suffering. (I recommend a different book for when one is in the valley.) It’s a quick read (though packed with truth)—one that is very accessible. I read it in about an hour, but I can see the value in reading it with a discipleship partner or with a small group. The discussion questions in the back of the book serve to bring the reader deeper into an investigation of the concepts covered in the chapters. I think they would do just that; they definitely sparked more contemplation as I pondered them.

All in all, I would recommend this book to just about anyone who might encounter suffering (which is everyone). Priced for Kindle and paperback at under $7 (at the time of this post), you have nothing to lose!

Soli Deo Gloria,

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*In exchange for my honest opinion, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.

 

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Praising God in the Pain

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Last weekend I reached the end of my rope. I found myself sitting on the edge of the bed, weeping tears that were too heavy to spend any time sitting on my cheeks. They had to keep moving to make room for the next set. And boy, like little soldiers, they were marching quickly.

My heart was (is) overwhelmed by the suffering around me. Cancer. Long-term illnesses that breed continued and compounding complications (including my own). Life-transforming injuries. Death. More cancer. Friend, it’s just too much for my feeble mind and heart to understand.

It took a lot of Scripture reading and praying to understand why my heart felt so desperate. I discovered that the enemy had leaned close to my ear, and he was hissing lies — terrible, gut-wrenching lies.

Lie #1: God is not in control.
Lie #2: God is not good.
Lie #3: God is not near.

The sum of these three is the biggest fallacy of all: I can’t trust God.

This topic of trusting God in suffering is entirely too gargantuan to tackle in one blog post. But I want to nestle into the Word and examine what it says about trusting our Heavenly Father, even while walking through the darkest of valleys. Posts that combat each of the lies above are forthcoming.

Recently I began to read A Place of Healing, by Joni Eareckson Tada. In all honesty, the subtitle is the reason I bought the book: “Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.” My soul gasped a mighty yes, and three clicks on Amazon put the book in my hands. If there is anyone who can write with authority about suffering, Joni is the girl.

In the first chapter (through which I wept my way, for the record), JET brings us directly into her own suffering. The voice is raw and authentic, because she chose to write this volume in the midst of per pain instead of glancing at it in her rear-view mirror. She grapples with real fears: “Is my life beginning to unravel? Have I reached my limit in what I can endure?” (p. 30). She describes in detail her current physical maladies. Yet, I never felt as though she is complaining. Rather she is simply opening her life and bearing her heart so that the rest of us in the valley can see the light of Christ.

And she points the reader to Christ with such skill! She acknowledges that, in the suffering, “we are all much more dependent on God for help” (p. 32). She writes of the heart desiring a strong Jesus, as opposed to the “sugary, sentimental images many of us grew up with” (p. 35):

Come on. Admit it: When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, when you feel like Morton’s salt is being poured into your wounded soul, you don’t want a pale, emotional Jesus who relates only to lambs and birds and babies. You want a warrior Jesus. You want a battlefield Jesus. You want His rigorous and robust gospel to command your sensibilities to stand at attention. . . . You want mighty. You want the strong arm and unshakable grip of God who will not let you go — no matter what. . . . I need Jesus the rescuer, ready to wade through pain, death, and hell itself to find me, grasp my hand, and bring me safely through (p. 35-36).

Yes! Knowing that nothing can pluck me from the hand of God is comforting in a deep, abiding way.

Finally, JET reminds the reader that “these afflictions . . . this very season of multiplied pain — is the background against which God has commanded me to show forth His praise.  . . . God bids me that I not only seek to accept it, but to embrace it, knowing full well that somewhere way down deep — in a secret place I have yet to see — lies my highest good” (p. 39).

What a challenge this is to my tired heart! My instinct is to grumble, but no. That will not do! I am to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, [and] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [me]” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). I am to trust that all things are working towards my good in Christ — my real good, not the “good” that I prefer or that feels the best —even if I can’t see it yet (or if I never see it on this side of glory).

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

From time to time, I’ll likely whip up another post about this book because, so far, the Spirit is using it to minister to me in such sweet ways. I know myself, so I won’t make promises about a timeline. But I’ll write again soon. 🙂

Soli Deo gloria,

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Photo credit: hiveresources.com

Kissing the Wave

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Today, a dear friend in the Lord wrote this to me: “I know it isn’t fun to hear, but I know the Lord will teach you something from this experience.”

Indeed, He will. So why isn’t this fun to hear? Shouldn’t I be thrilled by the prospect that my heavenly Father sees fit to further mold me into the image of His Son? Yes! But, let’s be honest. I’d rather my sanctification feel more like a leisurely walk in the park than yet another round of pain and questions and tears.

So to keep me from becoming conceited . . . a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

As one who is independent by nature, I tend to put a lot of stock in what I can accomplish in a day. The past two months have been challenging, both physically and emotionally. I understand Paul’s sentiment here; I, too, have begged the Lord to remove my thorn. Yet, He continues to give a resounding, “No,” and urges me to rest in His sovereignty. It is crystal clear that the Lord is showing me that I do not establish my steps and move myself through my day. The Lord does these things, and I have been a fool to think otherwise! Lord, forgive my arrogance! Help me to walk in Your strength and power and count my own as rubbish.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . .No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:31-39)

In trials it is easy to start wondering if God isn’t actually FOR us. But He is! And He is always good, despite how things look from our perspective. I feel like I am learning how to make this quote true in my life:

I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.
(
C.H. Spurgeon)

I don’t want simply to endure a trial; I want to embrace it for the good God has for me and the glory to be brought to Him. THAT is suffering well, I think. And the only way to do that is by yielding to the power of the Spirit in all of it. Because my flesh and my frail human heart reject the pain entirely, and it brings me to the brink of despair.

I am starting to see that these concepts are the same: We are to hold anything He gives us with an open hand, because it’s not ours anyway. He gives and takes away according to His will. In the same way, we must hold our hands open for whatever He brings in the way of suffering. Closing our fist to it is a rejection of the good He has for us. And why would I want to reject that, of all things? By bringing this pain, these questions and tears, the Lord is loving me. He is loving me in a way that is eternal in consequence.

This blows my mind.

I should open my arms — “kiss the wave”, so to speak — and joyfully welcome His method of growth in my life.

Lord, help me learn to kiss the wave, and to be grateful that it’s tossing me against You.

Soli Deo gloria,

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