Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: Trusting God Even When Life Hurts

Given the original date of publication (1988), I'm surprised I never encountered Jerry Bridges' book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, before. What a powerful little gem! I'm so thankful that I selected this elective course at CBLI. Moreover, I'm especially glad that the teacher didn't allow discussions to boil down into political debates, but focused instead on the opportunity to express times when God's providence has seemed in contrast to what we would expect God to want for our lives.

The sovereignty of God is a difficult subject to wrestle with, yet it is key to surviving adversity and maintaining faith. Every one of us will face trials and tribulations that will cause us to scratch our heads in wonder and say, "Where is God in all of this? How could a good God allow this? Doesn't God want better for me than this?" Adversity can make us bitter. It can sap the faith right out of us. I know. I've been there before.

For me, at least, the author achieved his stated purpose: "to glorify God by acknowledging His sovereignty and His goodness [and] to encourage God's people by demonstrating from Scripture that God is in control of their lives, that He does indeed love them, and that He works out all the circumstances of their lives for their ultimate good." I was struck by my own past failures when he emphasized that "it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character."

Bridges teaches three essential truths in this book: "1) God is completely sovereign; 2) God is infinite in wisdom; and 3) God is perfect in love." First we have to ask if it is God or chance governing our circumstances. As Bridges clearly states: "His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited and His purpose can be thwarted, we cannot trust Him." Thus, the sovereignty of God becomes the foundation on which we build our faith. This sentence resonated with me: "God has not looked the other way or been caught by surprise when adversity strikes us."

I'm guessing the biggest struggle for people centers on the balance of God's sovereignty with man's free will. Bridges argues, "just as we must not construe God's sovereignty so as to make people mere puppets, so we must not press man's freedom to the point of limiting God's sovereignty." He points out God's sovereignty over people, nations, and nature. God can move the hearts of men in our favor or against us. He allows everything we encounter for the purpose of His eventual glory.

One of my favorite chapters was "Trusting God for Who You Are." God, in His sovereignty, designed each one of us in the womb. He allowed both our strengths and our weaknesses. He rules over who we are, what we are, and where we go in life. In thinking of my recent reading of Through the Eyes of Hope, I fully believe that God allowed that little boy to be born with his disabilities for a grander purpose than we may ever know.

Who better demonstrates God's glory through trial than Joni Eareckson Tada? She recently wrote an article reflecting on the 50 year anniversary of her tragic diving accident that left her a quadriplegic. She mentioned ten words from a friend that strengthened her in her trial: "God permits what He hates to accomplish what he loves."

God allows adversity in our lives to grow us deeper in Him, to glorify Him, and to allow us to share in His sufferings. He can and will use our distress. Nothing is wasted. It is all gain, even in the trial and the pain. Oh, how I needed that reminder!

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