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Thursday, December 31, 2015

"I Am Strong" (John S. Dickerson)

TITLE: I Am Strong: Finding God's Peace and Strength in Life's Darkest Moments
AUTHOR: John S. Dickerson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (211 pages).

Those of us who have been Christians for a while will remember the verse in 2 Corinthians 10:12, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” What does that mean? More importantly, what happens when we encounter hardships and troubles? How will our faith look like in these circumstances? Whether expected or unexpected, this world is certainly not an easy place for many of us. While we hope that things would be always sunny, we all know that it is only a matter of time before we experience low moments. It is nice to talk about hope when the times are good. It is very hard when the bad times come. This is where author John S. Dickerson comes right in. Starting with a moving story of Joy Veron, whose self-sacrificial act saved her three young children, Dickerson points out that true strength appears during moments of crisis. A widely sought after speaker and author of several books, Dickerson helps us appreciate the deeper meaning of what it means to find strength in Christ. He probes questions from the school of hard knocks:
  • If God is good, why is there pain and disappointment?
  • If one truly believes, why is one not healed?
  • Is pain and suffering a type of punishment from God?
  • How can God bring about good in the midst of terrible evil? 

With 17 chapters strewn across five parts, Dickerson talks about how we can draw strength from God in different situations and circumstances. First, he acknowledges the reality of earthly imprisonment of circumstances. He shows us that God’s strength is far greater than ours. No matter how circumstances wear us down or trip us up, we can always bring a godly perspective to it all. The apostle Paul has the thorn in his flesh, yet he was able to joyfully serve the Lord in spite of his struggles. We can find strength in spite of our weaknesses; in spite of the thorns of hardships; and in spite of unforeseen circumstances that plague us.

Second, we draw strength from God. As children of God, the best thing we can do is to trust our Heavenly Father who would gladly comfort us and walk with us through all difficulties. It is not simply we hurt, but God also hurts together with us that truly comforts. In drawing strength from God, it is crucial to learn to align ourselves with God, to ask for things according to His will. Using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide, we are encouraged to ask confidently, ask specifically, ask for our needs, ask for all hunger, and ask on a daily basis, help from God. When we are truly hurting, ask God for healing both inside as well as outside. We can learn of answers from history and past experiences of fellow believers. We can long for the joy of deliverance. We can receive the great comfort that comes when we go through the valleys of life.

Third, readers will learn of the various approaches in trying to answer the tough questions of life. Even as he points out the problem of sin, he writes in an assuring manner that God understands exactly where we are and how we are feeling. Drawing strength from God is a choice we can make. Understanding that God is sovereign helps us to adopt an “already/not yet” stance in trusting God for constant guidance.

Fourth, he guides us toward the window of hope to trade our limitations with God’s unlimited resources. We are limited but God is not. As we learn to see from God’s perspectives, we are able to smile through the storm. When we see God coming through, the joy would be unspeakable. God’s deliverance is sure, steadfast, and certain. Hope is essentially looking forward to an eternal destination. One is able to smile based on the promise of redemption. One finds refuge in God and the rescue that comes when God appears.

Fifth, we find ourselves being carried by God in our lowest moments. Jesus knows what it means to be deserted, and thus He says to us that we would never be left alone. God will always be with us. The irony of faith is that the more we surrender, the more we receive God’s strength in all its fullness. We learn to be more focused on Him. We get that sense of focus and determination to finish our race faithfully.

The book’s cover itself shows us a remarkable progression from despair to hope. Whether one is hurting, confused, angry, fearful, doubting, lost, struggling, feeling betrayed, or weak, one eventually arrives at the place in which one can declare outright: “I am strong.” This is a quick reminder that if the sufferings and pain is in the present, God's deliverance and God's victory are at the end. In between are opportunities for us to navigate the paths of hope, trusting that God's presence would always be with us, regardless of whether we feel it or not. This book is filled with encouragement to help us find God's strength. Based on the Bible, we understand how God helps us deal with our present struggles. We learn of God's perspectives with regard to the injustice in this world. We check our own intellectual struggles by learning that our existing struggles are not necessarily God's way to punish us.

Dickerson writes this book with the weak, the lonely, the depressed, and the hurting in mind. All of us will surely fall into some state of melancholy or sadness at various points of our lives. Yet, the one thing never change: God will always be with us. God’s strength is available to us and God will deliver. Just because we don’t see tangible results according to our own schedule does not mean God does not care. It simply tells us to wait, to hope, and to long more for God. This book may very well be a refreshing does of hope for the weary, the down, and the almost out.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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