Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Review: Stronger

Stronger. Clayton King. 2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I have read some great books this past year, Stronger may be one of my personal favorites. The subtitle explains why: how hard times reveal God's greatest power. Within pages, I knew that Stronger was going to be an absolutely amazing read for me. I admit it. I cried reading some sections of this one.

Here is an excerpt from his journal which he shared in the introduction:
Hard times don't make me happy, but by God's grace, they can make me holy.
Where there's no death, there can be no resurrection. Where there's no cross, there can be no empty tomb.
Peace isn't the absence of crisis. It's the presence of Christ in my crisis.
Just because I feel invisible, it doesn't mean I'm not valuable.
God works in our weakness because that's all he has to work with.
Before every triumph, there is a trial. Before every testimony, there is a test.
I can't stop when I feel stuck. I have to keep moving forward in faith that Jesus is stronger.
I want to give up, but if I'm not dead, then God's not done. If I'm still breathing, then I can keep going.
I don't have to feed every feeling. Just because I'm lonely, it doesn't mean that God has left me.
I can grow bitter or I can become better. If my pain serves the purpose of seeing Jesus more clearly and preaching the gospel more boldly, then I want to embrace it, not escape it.
I keep asking Jesus to give me something, but he keeps trying to show me something. Maybe the real gift is the revelation of his presence in my pain.
I should stop seeking happiness in my weakness and start seeking holiness. Pain has a way of purifying my motives and clarifying my calling.
God is not punishing me for failure. He is pruning me for fruitfulness.
The things that break me are the things that bring me closer to God. (15-16)
He writes clearly, honestly, powerfully. There isn't a page of Stronger where he doesn't make himself vulnerable. The book is his personal story of how God has used his pain, his grief, his suffering. These are truths learned about God, about life, the hard way. It's a compelling read, and a necessary one. For as King points out in the first chapter, we are all broken whether we admit it or not.

King is sharing his experiences with readers. It is a personal story. He writes of losing family members he loved. Of taking care of his mom and dad, but particularly his dad in his final years. These memories are intense and resonate with emotion. I think many readers can relate to his experiences, and will appreciate King's sharing. But it isn't just about him. It is never just about him. Every chapter shows readers something about God. King is challenging readers to grow in their understanding of who God is, and to reexamine how they think.

My favorite chapters were "Presence," "Vulnerability," "Worship" and "Glory."

None of us like to feel broken. We want to feel strong, in charge, full of courage. We want to stop feeling so frail, so human--we wish we could be unaffected by the pain of the world in and around us. We would not choose to be crushed, to feel rejected, to feel spurned. We would not choose to be heartbroken. But we don't get to choose what breaks us. We only get to choose how we respond. We can never escape our weakness. So we must embrace it. (36)
Fear must be present for faith to exist at all. Fear is the thing that calls faith out of us. The obstacle that's too big for us, the situation we can't fix, the sickness we can't cure--these bring fear to the surface. But if we look behind those fears, we will find that faith is hot on their heels. Every fear is an opportunity to have faith in God's power… Fear is actually a kind of faith; it's faith in the wrong thing, the bad thing, the worst thing. We succumb to fear when we forget that God is still there with us, in us, and for us. I think we have gotten the idea of faith all wrong. Faith does not mean the absence of fear. Faith means moving forward in the face of fear. It's owning our fear and forging ahead into an uncertain outcome. (90)

No comments: