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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"Finding God in the Ruins" (Matt Bays)

TITLE: Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain
AUTHOR: Matt Bays
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2016, (256 pages).

Doubt is a part of life and we can either let it strengthen our faith or weaken it. Often, it is in the ruins of life that we find the power of living, and more importantly, the grace and presence of God. Yet, when we feel down and almost out, how can we do that? Is it not something that is often easier said that done? While the topic of pain, suffering, and doubt is nothing new, it is still being asked regardless of which era we live in. This contemporary age is no different. We live in an age of skepticism and an increasingly anti-Christian climate. Even among believers, the challenge is to make sense of God in the midst of dark pain. Questions like:

  • Where is God when disasters come?
  • What can we do with problems we cannot seem to solve?
  • Is the world any better without Jesus?
  • How can we believe that God still love us in the midst of tragic events?
  • What do we do when we encounter health dangers?
  • Stories of heartaches, tragedies, suicide, etc.
  • What does it mean by "God's higher ways" when we feel down in the pits?
  • How do unexpressed doubts become toxic?
  • .....
This book is essentially a series of reflections on what it means to experience God in the ruins of life. What does it mean to trust in Someone who has planned for something better, something greater, and something more bearable? How do we deal with mysteries and unresolved emotional wounds? Author Matt Bays forces us to consider the possibility of God's higher ways as being higher than our perceptions of "better ways." As Christians, we often use positive words like "redemption," "God working for our good," "higher purposes," and so on. Use too little and we are not sure whether we have presented our trust adequately. Use too much and we have inner conflicts between what we know and what we feel. More importantly, instead of dismissing ready answers or simplistic comments, Bays take the time to allow the emotions to be baked in the oven of time and spirituality. Simplistic comments like "When God closes a door he opens a window" is not a catchall phrase for encouragement, but must be wisely and sensitively used. Perhaps, the gist of the book can be summed up by Richard Rohr as follows:
"God wants useable instruments who will carry the mystery, the weight of glory and the burden of sin simultaneously, who can bear the darkness and the light, who can hold the paradox of incarnation—flesh and spirit, human and divine, joy and suffering, at the same time, just as Jesus did." (Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality)

We find God in the ruins by learning from the stories of everyday people. Bays coins the word "compathy" as a combination of compassion and empathy. It is about sharing our stories and finding common ground through it all. It is ok to be different.

Matt Bays is an author and speaker from Indianapolis. Just like the content of this book, Bays's conviction is in the ministry to the broken, the recovering, and people who need healing. If people have the courage to tell their stories and to be honest with their feelings, they can let God redeem them and save them from the pits of self-pity and pools of bitterness.  Know the truth and let the truth set us free.

Books on learning how to live through pain and doubt is a very popular theme. Philip Yancey's bestselling book is about pain and disappointment. Jerry Sittser becomes famous because of his writings on the fact of pain and the journey of healing. It would seem that literature and resources on dealing with such topics will always be welcome. For that reason, this book plays right into that sphere of learning how to live amid the difficult challenges of life. In order to benefit well from this book, I would advise readers to ponder and to reflect on the discussion questions at the end of the book. If you are feeling stuck in a tough situation, or confused about situations when your heart and head do not seem to come together, this book is like that healing balm or spiritual respite to whisper into your spiritual ear saying: "It's ok. Let God walk with you. Those who seek me will find me, even amid the ruins of your life."

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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