(Review)Walking With God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

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Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin. August 4, 2015.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 384.
Source: Purchased.
Rating: Recommend. Excellent.
Audience: Readers of Timothy Keller. Christian readers who are going through a hard season of suffering or want to understand suffering.

Amazon

 
Happy New Year!
This is the last book to review in 2018. This book took me the longest to read because of its content. Several times I had to reread a sentence, paragraph, and page. It is a book that has deep teachings and deep insight.

Summary:
The question of why God allows pain and suffering is one many people try to avoid in conversation. It is a question no one wants to think about. It is why some people leave the faith and why others will not become a Christian. It is that question that hangs on like a cartoon bubble above the character. The question will not go away, it just hangs there waiting for an answer. Its a question that I try and avoid, even though I’ve had pain and suffering in life. It is a brave thing Timothy Keller has done. He has written a book about an unpopular topic in hopes it will help people understand how to deal with pain and suffering, and more importantly how to comprehend God’s work in it.

My Thoughts:
I have a lot of thoughts. I’ve been told by well-meaning friends that I think too hard about things. It’s my introvert personality: thinking and contemplating. I also ask hard questions. I even ask God hard questions.
•Why did I have breast cancer and at such a young age?
•Why does my only grandson have autism and other issues?
•Why did my mother have Alzheimer’s 18 years?
•Where does all the hate and cruelty in the world come from?
•Why do so many children suffer with abuse, poverty, hunger; and some are murdered by their own parents?

Keller begins his book with some of these same questions that I’ve asked. And,
Keller writes that the answer comes, “by understanding our relationship with God.”

“No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.” Page 3.
“When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives but that we never were.” Page 5.

An interesting point: While writing this book Keller found people who turned away from God after suffering. But he also found people who came to know God during a hard time of suffering.

The book has three parts to it:
Part One: “Understanding the Furnace” -A look at human suffering.
Part Two: “Facing the Furnace: -What the Bible says about suffering.
Part Three: “Walking With God in the Furnace” -This part of the book is the practical section that answers how we walk with God during suffering.

Reasons why I gave this book an excellent rating:
•I learned suffering can have the opposite affect. Suffering can cause the person to grow stronger. “Suffering, then, actually can use evil against itself. It can thwart the destructive purposes of evil and bring light and life out of darkness and death.” Page 8.
•I was introduced to other forms of thought on suffering. For example: the beliefs of Friedrich Nietzsche, Victor Frankel, Susan Jacoby, Buddhism, Stoics, Hinduism, and the idea of karma. Also, how “modern Western culture” views suffering as opposed to “non-Western cultures.”
•Chapter 8 is a pinnacle point of the book: “The reason for Suffering.”
“So suffering is at the very  heart of the Christian faith. It is not only the way Christ became like and redeemed us, but it is one of the main ways we become like him and experience his redemption. And means that our suffering, despite its painfulness, is also filled with purpose and usefulness.” Page 163-164.
•And a point that I’d already learned through suffering. “…to trust God when we do not understand Him is to treat him as God and not as another human being. It is to treat Him as glorious-infinitely beyond us in His goodness and wisdom.” Page 174.
And a follow-up to this point is in chapter 9. “We should trust Him because it is His due, He is worthy of it, not because it will get us something. If we love and obey God for His own sake, not ours, it begins to turn us into something strong and great and wise.” Page 187.
•It is through suffering we pray as we’ve never prayed before. It creates a deeper prayer life. It also causes us to have a great compassion for others who are suffering.
•The “Epilogue” is a summary of what’s been taught in the book.
•Bible passages used are from Job, Psalms, Zechariah, Isaiah, and Proverbs.

I believe understanding the concept of suffering is not something we understand in one book or through one season of suffering. It is not even understandable in a lifetime. It is a gradual revealing of truths about suffering in our particular life. However, things will be perfectly clear when we are in His full presence.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 24. NIV.

 

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(Review) It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa Terkeurst

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way

Publisher and Publication Date: Nelson Books. November 13, 2018.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Disappointment.
Pages: 256.
Source: Purchase.
Rating: Excellent.
Audience: A Christian who is going through a journey of disappointment, depression, sadness, and grief. A person who is not a Christian would be faced with reading Scripture, the Gospel message; and a concept that the suffering and disappointment has been allowed by God.

Amazon
Lysa Terkeurst official website
Proverbs 31 Ministries

I follow the Facebook page for Lysa Terkeurst. Everyday when I read through the news feed on Facebook quotes from this book are given. It’s easy as a consumer to focus on the commercialization of the book, and miss its wisdom and importance.
I finished reading this book almost two weeks ago, but have needed time to process its content. Why? Because the story of Terkeurst resonates with my story. And it is easy as a reviewer to let the content become too personal in a way that thwarts a solid review.

After reading the title for the first and even umpteenth time, It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way, I’ve chuckled to myself and said, “okay, how is it supposed to be?” I’ve lived long enough to understand: life does not turn out the way we think it will, it just doesn’t, and disappointments are a surety and so is suffering. Whew! Glad to have this first thought off my chest.

Summary:
In brief, Lysa Terkeurst, over a short period of time goes through a painful marriage crisis and two health crises. It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way is the part memoir and part teaching on what Terkeurst lived through.

Sometimes to get your life back, you have to face the death of what you thought your life would look life. Page 2.

The word “death” stands out to me in the above quote. Death means the person or living organism is dead. The dead is dead. New, means something brand new is created. I will come back to this thought later.

I loved several things about this book:
•The visual layout of the book. The “Going to the Well” sections at the end of each chapter. This section is a “recap” of what was taught in the chapter. There are remember points, Scriptures to read, deep questions, and a prayer. The subtitle pages are two pages in length in bold block print. Important quotes are set off by themselves in the chapters.
•The chapters at the end of the book: Epilogue gives an update on her marriage, an additional one on her health, “9 Scriptures For Surviving The Times When God Seems Silent,” “A Prayer Of Restoration,” “Getting The Help You Need,” “Acknowledgements,” an index of “Scriptures,” further information about the author and Proverbs 31 Ministries, and two free bonus gifts.
•Terkeurst does not go heavy in to details about her marriage. She gives enough information that I understand the problems. The emphasis is on Scripture and what is learned by the crisis. Some readers may find her memoir lacking in details; however, it is important to understand the emphasis is to answer the questions of disappointments, hurts, and sufferings. In addition, Terkeurst could have gone the way of bitterness and revenge against her husband. I admire her humility and self-control.
It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way is a heavy meal kind of book. This is not a book to whiz through each page like a popcorn snack. I read the book slowly. I read the book making marks on certain key points and quotes I liked. I wrote down a few of them on index cards to place on the wall beside my reading chair.
•The book is personal-directed and addressed to us. From page 208, “Just so you know, I wish I could take way every disappointment that nips at the edges of your happiness and sits heavy in your heart…..I’d offer you some warm slice-and-bake cookies and whisper, ‘I get it. Let’s chat.'” For a person going through a crisis, a friend is what is needed. Even the most introverted of us needs a friend who listens and understands.
It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way is an excellent book for small groups. I feel it is better to have the group be all female or all male. Why? Because women may want to discuss things amongst other women without men present. Some aspects of life are painful, and we need to be in the presence of trusted people.
•Terkeurst addresses issues from “well-meaning” people. For example: gossip and advice.
•Terkeurst is transparent in not agreeing with God about her life.
•I wrote down 5 pages of quotes I loved. Some of my favorites are:
“Feeling the pain is the first step toward healing the pain. The longer we avoid the feeling, the more we delay our healing. We can numb it, ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist, but all those options lead to an eventual breakdown, not a breakthrough.” page 36.
“May we carefully choose what we remember and what we forget. I’m so quick to remember others’ hurtful words but slow to remember God’s healing words. We must set our minds and our hearts on things above by choosing to remember God’s words, repeat God’s words, and believe God’s words about us. We must let God’s Word become the words we park our minds and hearts on. We must let God’s Word become the words we believe and receive as truth. We must let God’s Word become the words of our story.” Page 65.
“We must sip the suffering of today, so we don’t have to drown in the devastations of tomorrow.” Page 183.

I’d written earlier in the review about the words “death” and new.
I’ve been married 36 years. It’s been a long arduous journey. My husband came from a very broken home. Both of his parents were abusive to each other and the children. It is a large family. My husband is the youngest of 8 children. A few of his brother-in-law’s took him under their wing and introduced him to the drug world. This was not just using drugs, but selling drugs and all the things that go along with having a drug business. Add to this, the other addictions that were present in the family and was passed down to the children. One of the addictions is sex. Meanwhile, I was 17 when I met my future husband. I had just ended an abusive relationship with another boy. I had no idea what kind of person this new guy (future husband) I was dating was really like. On purpose, he deceived me, lied, manipulated, and coerced. He was a great actor. For many years, people believed he was this likable guy. However, there was another person who only came out for certain occasions. After many years of marriage several things were revealed. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I chose to focus on that nice guy, and be numb to what the bad guy had told me he’d done. It’s a strange thing, and even more strange to try and explain adequately in words.
My husband has been through counseling. He is not a reader. He is not a person who will really talk about the hard stuff. He only talks about the mechanics of life. He wrestles with many things: anger, inability to express self, and the eating addiction. However, because of serious health problems he is no longer able to do certain things. Is it possible God allowed these health events to stop the “activities”?
Where does this leave me? I’ve chosen to stay married. Yes, I’ve question my sanity and intelligence. However, it is what I’ve chosen to do.
I focus on other things like reading, art, and volunteer work.
I’m a mentor for women who’ve been sexually abused.
I have a great network of close friends.
I have many interests and hobbies.
I cannot focus on my husband. I pray for him, but I have a life to live, and I want it to be a great one.
It’s difficult to talk about these things because people are judgmental, and not just in the Christian community but everywhere.
I’ve gone through periods in life where I’ve wrestled with deep anguish and anger. I’ve also had breast cancer, sent a son to war, have a special needs grandson, cared full-time for both parents, financial problems, and the death of close friends.
If I had not gone through the hard times what kind of person would I be? I don’t know. I know who I am today, a person sharpened by the hard of life.
I’ve been told many times, “Oh, you are so strong.” I never know how to respond to that. Do I say thank you? My usual answer is just a smile.
For me several things help, but even then I have nights when I cannot sleep, moments and days when I have a pity-party. Most of the time I’m good. No I am not numb anymore. I feel and weep and move on. The things that help me is daily reading Scripture, Scripture memorization, writing Scripture and helpful quotes on index cards to place on the wall beside my reading chair. Also, having a great supportive network of friends, having hobbies and interests, volunteering with children (this gets me out of the house and focused on others), reading self-help or psychology books, journaling, and art journaling. And the final thing, but not the least, is prayer. This is not necessarily quiet prayer, but I walk around my house crying out to God and asking Him hard questions and stating hard stuff that I feel.
Death means that thing is dead, and it needs to be grieved and buried. Some people move on by divorcing, I chose to stay. The new is newly created from a new way of thinking, responding, and living. It is a new thing, not a chapter 2 or 3. It is a new book and a new way of living.

Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19 CSB Incourage Bible.

(Review) Healing the Scars of Childhood Abuse: Moving beyond the Past into a Healthy Future by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, with Ann McMurray

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Publisher and Publication Date: Fleming H. Revell Company. August 2017.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Child abuse. Recovery.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent. Recommend.
Audience: Readers who are an abuse survivor or want to help understand an abuse survivor.

Amazon

Gregory L. Jantz is on Facebook if you want to follow his page for helpful posts.
Website for Gregory L. Jantz PhD

 

Early in the book, pages 20-21, defines child abuse. Jantz defines the “behaviors” and “also the effects of those behaviors.” What I found interesting is Jantz asks: what was our normal as a child? This question was enlightening given the fact I’ve heard people remark, “the only normal is the setting on a washing machine.” Is it possible that many people do not know what normal is? A normal behavior. A normal healthy functioning home life. A normal work environment. I bet many people would scratch their heads. The question Jantz asked is a perfect starter question for a small group studying this book!
One of the big things I look for in a book about psychology or recovery is am I learning something new? Does the book prick my mind about something I’ve not yet learned?
In Healing the Scars of Childhood Abuse, I respond with a big yes to the above questions.
A few of the things I learned are childhood abuse survivors feel like they are constantly preparing for war. And, survivors are quick to believe they are at fault. Survivors also assume “the worst” in situations. This is a form of protection. What I didn’t like reading is some of these patterns of survivors is essentially trying to control a situation by the response. For example: if I accept blame for something then it is an, “attempt to have some measure of control over the situation.” Page 43.
Chapter 6 is the “Emotional Cost of Childhood Abuse.” Some examples are “anxiety, flashbacks, dissociation, fear of failure, anger, and sexual avoidance.” Jantz ends this chapter with clarifying his intention is to help the survivor understand overcoming these behavior patterns are possible.
Chapter 7 examines additional patterns like “co-dependency and relationship addiction.”
An important factor in healing is to begin to really feel-do not live in numbness anymore. This is something I learned a few years ago. Live a life of mindfulness! Living in the moment and not in the past or in a fantasy world. Do not check out. Enjoy and be thankful for the present.
Chapter 9 is on “cognitive healing.” This is an important chapter in changing the ugly thought patterns of past words used against us that were lies.
Chapter 11 holds one of my favorite parts in the book: “Twelve Steps to Healthy Communication.”

(Review) Absolute Surrender: Read and Reflect With The Classics by Andrew Murray

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Publisher and Publication Date: B&H Publishing Group. 2017.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 160.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Okay. I recommend another book by Murray, Humility. The kindle edition is .99 cents.
Audience: Readers of Andrew Murray.

Amazon

Summary:
Absolute Surrender was originally published in 1897. The book has been published in different formats and by different publishers. It is considered a classic Christian book. Andrew Murray was a South African pastor and writer who was born in 1828 and died in 1917. The following link from Christianity Today has a biography.
My book republished by B&H Publishing Group is a dark blue cloth over board book. The book does not have a biography of Murray. A brief two-page, “Letter to the Reader” is included. The book does not include an index, about the author, or notes section.

My Thoughts:
One of my favorite Christian books is Humility by Andrew Murray. I’ve heard other authors remark about this book. I believe Humility is a gem in Christian books!

I was disappointed in Absolute Surrender. It’s not that it is a bad book. It just didn’t hold my interest like I’d hoped. I take notes when reading, and this book has one page of notes.

Chapter 1: Absolute Surrender
Chapter 2: The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love
Chapter 3: Separated unto the Holy Ghost
Chapter 4: Peter’s Repentance
Chapter 5: Impossible with Man, Possible with God
Chapter 6: O Wretched Man That I am!
Chapter 7: Having Begun in the Spirit
Chapter 8: Kept by the Power of God
Chapter 9: Ye Are the Branches

Chapter five was my favorite: “Impossible with Man, Possible with God.” In this chapter, the stages in a Christian life are explained. A Christian is to be humble and surrender to God’s power in the Christian life. A Christian can not try and live it solely in our own strength. Peter is a Bible character who is given as an illustration.
All the chapters in the book end with three sections: “Bible Study Questions” and  “Personal Reflection Questions” and “Prayer.”

(Review) Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting by Dave Furman

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Publisher and Publication Date: Crossway. 2016.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Compassion. Healing.
Pages: 176.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Recommend. Excellent.
Audience: This book is for Christians who want to minister to those in crisis.

Amazon

This book was recommended by, Crystal M. Sutherland, author of Journey to Heal. I recently took part and became certified as a mentor to sexual abuse survivors through Sutherland’s training program @ “Journey to Heal Ministries“.

When I think about “being there” for a person during a crisis, I think about a story mother told me. September 1, 1957 my mother’s young handsome husband went wade fishing at Galveston. He stepped into a sink hole and drowned. He was in the prime of life. He was an avid outdoorsman. He was an excellent swimmer. Mother was at home fixing dinner and had baked a cake. She and their three children were waiting on him to return, and they’d sit down to eat as a family. He didn’t return. Instead, a family friend came to the house to inform mother Walter had drowned. His body had not been recovered. Mother took to her bed. People came and went out of their home. Family cared for the three young children. Three days later his body was recovered. During the those three days mother stayed in bed. The sister of a friend sat beside mother on the bed. This woman never said a word, but mother knew she was there. Mother was comforted by the presence of another person who was quiet and calm.

In the book Being There, the above story I shared is an example of helping another person during a crisis, just quietly being there.
Dave Furman has a health crisis in his life. His story of the crisis, and the things he learned, is passed to the readers.
Furman is transparent in the stages he went through. For example, feeling sorry for self, the thoughts of, “if only.”
He states, “weep honestly at the loss we’ve experienced.” He is quick to remind us we have, “hope in our loss.” What is that hope? God is always with us, He will not abandon us. Secondly, we have the hope that this life is not all there is, “pain and suffering are not the final word in our lives.” We have the hope of eternity with Jesus Christ.
Page 37 held a gem. I loved this teaching: “We are armed with the Spirit of God.” Don’t be put off by friends who have “negative responses.” Be forgiving. Be loving; and remember God’s love and grace is never ending.
Chapter eight gives several examples of practical ways to help the suffering.
I read this book prior to another book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. Both books compliment one another because of a similar theme: the reality of real suffering in this life that is unavoidable.

Grow in your love for the Lord, and you will grow in your love for the hurting. If you’re going to help the hurting, you need to walk with God. Page 43.

Being There is a practical book for the reader, not just a memoir of a person who is living through a health crisis.