Saturday, November 26, 2011

Where is God in our pain? - Book Reviews

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Thanksgiving. This week, it is an event on our calendar, a day off work, a holiday, an excuse to indulge in a huge meal, a time to make memories with family.

But Thanksgiving is so much more. It is an attitude of the heart, a spirit of giving thanks every day of the year. 

But many days our table isn't laden full. Sometimes there is a face missing at our table. We notice the void, the emptiness, and feel deprived, not blessed.

Some days giving thanks doesn't come natural. Can we find gratitude amidst our sorrow? Can we see God's glory in our pain?

I've only had brief brushes with pain and grief which for others is a constant companion. But still I've had times of wondering if God does care? Where is He when His children hurt? In the past year, reading books like 1000 Gifts and Light My Candle helped show me that God can use our pain to draw us close to himself and help heal others.

The three books I read in November all echoed the same message of how God can use unlikely circumstances, what looks to us like trials or mistakes.

In The Power of the Powerless, Christopher De Vinck shares the story of his handicapped brother, who despite not being able to see, think, feed himself, or do anything "normal," impacted his life in extraordinary ways.

Christopher wrote a short article about his brother which was printed by the Wall Street Journal and reprinted in Reader's Digest and many other places. He received letters from many who were impacted by the story. In this book, Christopher shares stories from his life plus interviews with several families who wrote letters to him such as a father with a still born child, a man with a Down Syndrome brother.

I don't know what Christopher's relationship with the Lord is and the book lacks the power of Jesus Christ, but he is right on with his message that the weak and powerless have something to share and teach us.

Then I read These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot about Elisabeth's first year on the mission field. After describing the intense struggles of daily life, the bugs, the rains, the mud - I expected an outpouring of God's blessing for these ladies who have sacrificed much for the cause of Christ. But instead there is loss.

I like that the book doesn't pretend to have pat answers. It doesn't answer all the "Why, God?" questions. There is only a trust in  God. And that has to be enough.

A few quotes: "Usually we need not bow. We can simply ignore the unexplainable because we have other things to occupy our minds."

"To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss."

The same day I finished These Strange Ashes, a friend lent me Life is a Gift by Jenny Miller.

Jenny's story perfectly echoed Elisabeth's. Completely different setting - Mennonite community in Colorado instead of steamy Ecuadorian jungle. But same God teaching many of the same lessons to His daughters.

Jenny tells the story of her handicapped daughters. I had briefly met Jenny and her oldest daughter when she was only a few months old, so I had a tiny connection. But I would have cried through the book even if I knew her not at all.

I was impressed with Jenny's raw honesty with her struggle to surrender her perfect dreams for her family. She doesn't pretend that life is a bed of roses and Christians have all their prayers answered. But the overriding theme of the book is hope. As much as Jenny loved her daughters, God loved them, and Jenny, even more.

I think this may have been the only time I borrowed a book, read it, and immediately bought my own copy. I wanted to share Life is A Gift with others and reread it.

Some quotes: "Faith is easy when we get what we want. Faith is put to the test when life doesn't go our way and we have to choose our response."

"It is in our brokenness that we realize His greatness."

I have been thinking a lot about thanksgiving. I think of those who have lost husbands and children this year and wonder how they can ever give thanks. I wonder why I don't give thanks for all I have. I so often take for granted my dear husband and my healthy, energetic (read "wild") children. Why would I wait until it is taken, to appreciate, to give thanks? Have you ever heard the saying "What if I would lose tomorrow, everything I did not thank God for today?" Do I see all of this messy, hectic, crazy life as a gift?

Today, I'm thankful for the authors who have opened up their heart to help me see the Giver and His greatness and challenged me to count His gifts.


  1. Please tell Jean that the Lord has been bringing her to my mind this week, and when He does, I pray for her and the children as they face the holidays without their precious husband and father. Thanks be unto God for each moment we have with our loved ones.

  2. Thank you for this post! It lead me to some Bible readings which in turn brought me out of my befuddled mood. I must learn to work harder at daily readings as they bring about almost instant inspiration.

  3. Thank you for your blogspot Gina! It is always a blessing,whether a recipe, family update, praise, concern or profound question, it is always a welcome corner in my life.

  4. This post so touched me. The simple questions "I wonder why I don't give thanks for all I have.... Why would I wait until it is taken, to appreciate, to give thanks?" speak volumes to how comfortable we all get sometimes. When at anytime our lives could turn upside down just like Job's.
    I want to get these books as soon as possible.
    Thank you for sharing.


  5. Thanks for sharing these books. I love reading and appreciate ideas about good books to read. Enjoy your day and God bless.

  6. Thank you for the recommendations ~ they sound like books I need to read.
    What a beautiful post ~ I too am not as thankful for the many blessings I have as I should be.


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