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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four books about Christians and suffering reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "Tour d'America," June 18, 2011

Choosing to See

It is hard to imagine a family tragedy with more far-reaching consequences than when one child accidentally kills another. That's what happened to the Chapmans when their 17-year-old son ran over their 5-year-old daughter in the driveway of their home. Mary Beth Chapman, wife of singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman, tells that story in the context of her walk with God. She shows how God grew her through prior struggles with depression, challenges brought about by her husband's celebrity and a growing family, and their experience of adoption. She writes honestly about difficult things, and you come away from the book seeing God's faithfulness even in this hard chapter, and how Chapman's Christian community served as conduits for His love.

Life Interrupted: Navigating the Unexpected

Shirer examines the book of Jonah from her perspective as a wife and mother, writing in an informal, inviting style: "I know we share a common language when it comes to understanding what interruptions look like, feel like, sound like, scare us like, bug us like." She compares Jonah's running with our tendencies to be irritated or angry when life doesn't go the way we plan. She invites readers to see that the main character in Jonah's life "is God. Every single chapter-in fact, every single verse-speaks of the grandeur of God, the grace of God, the sovereignty of God, the beckoning of God, the discipline of God. Everywhere you look . . . God is there . . . He is right in the middle of every interruption."

God Can't Sleep: Waiting for Daylight on Life's Dark Nights

This book tackles the heavy questions of how a good and sovereign God can allow suffering. It marries sound theology with passion for a hurting world. Chinchen describes evil and injustice, but he also points to a God who is present and active in it. He is a gifted storyteller with an abundant supply of illustrations drawn from his experience growing up in Liberia and Malawi, and his frequent return visits. The stories become vivid metaphors to describe the seductive power of sin, the paralyzing power of fear, or the loving power of being known by name. One caveat: Chinchen's understanding of compassion and economics doesn't distinguish between good intentions and discerning doing.

My God is True! Lessons Learned Along Cancer's Dark Road

Pastor Paul Wolfe was 28 when doctors told him he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He'd been married 11 months. Over the next year he had surgery, underwent two kinds of chemo, and had radiation treatments. His cancer did not bring him to faith: He was a seminary student when he became sick. But his cancer showed him the comfort and strength that comes from a robust view of God's sovereignty and an understanding of the gospel. The cancer offered a heart test: "In the face of this or that fear, or struggle, or setback, could we say with Habakkuk, 'I will rejoice in the Lord'?" Wolfe offers solid scriptural teaching that will sustain and fortify those going through suffering.


Singer, songwriter, and Bible study teacher Kelly Minter's The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ is an insightful look into Christian virtues-compassion, kindness, peace, forgiveness, humility, and joy-that Paul talks about in Colossians 3. What exactly are those virtues and how are we to put them on? She begins with the first part of Colossians 3:12-"Therefore as God's chosen people, holy, and dearly loved"-and teases out what those words mean and why understanding them is vital. Minter's style is clear and personal, with examples drawn from her own life-which makes The Fitting Room a great book for young women. She explains her goal: "What I promise to give you is honesty, story, and my sincerest understanding of what Scripture has to say about clothing ourselves in the character of Christ."


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