First sentence: Job, his wife, and his three friends agreed on two things. Our lives are “few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1), and God’s hand is intimately mixed up in our troubles. But strife and perplexity set in among them when they tried to explain exactly how God and troubles connect. (12)
Premise/plot: Powlison's new book is about suffering. He walks his readers through the stanzas of the hymn "How Firm A Foundation." Through exploring the hymn AND the scriptures--mainly psalms--he seeks to help Christians find meaning in their pain and suffering.
Half of the book focuses on the God revealed in Scripture, general truths that provide a good, solid foundation for believers. The other half focuses on the personal. Powlison shares his experiences in each chapter; he invites his readers to do the same. He has thoughtful questions to ask his readers to answer in each and every chapter. These questions challenge readers to make the reading experience interactive. The book becomes more practical and less theoretical when readers are fully engaged. "We are not going to discuss the general topic of God and suffering. We will consider how God’s grace enters directly into your suffering" (20).
My thoughts: I LOVED the book. The book stands in real contrast to the false messages of the prosperity gospel which would have their followers believing that if they're in pain, if they're suffering, it's because they lacked enough faith; it's because their prayers weren't good enough. God never promises any believer a pain-free, problem-free existence. In fact, God specifically promises that there will be trouble, pain, hardship, suffering, loss. Having a right view of God helps one to have a right view of suffering. "The purpose of this book is to anchor your experience more deeply in God’s goodness" (15).
IF there is one truth that is essential for believers to grasp, it is this one: "The wisdom to suffer well is like manna—you must receive nourishment every day. You can’t store it up, though you do become more familiar with how to go out and find what you need for today" (16). God provides grace for you daily. Grace to endure. Grace to strengthen. Grace to find hope. Grace to find peace. Grace to find joy. Grace to find wisdom. Grace to find love. Grace to find goodness. Grace to lean--and lean hard--on God's promises, on God himself. "God uses significant suffering to teach us to need him. And when we need him, we find him" (40).
Powlison on "How Firm a Foundation":
In “How Firm a Foundation,” you sing in an unusual voice. Only in the first stanza do you talk about the Lord and call each other to listen to what he has said. In the rest of the hymn, God is talking directly to you. Notice that each of the last five stanzas begins with a quotation mark. These are the Lord’s words. Though we sing these words, we are placed in the role of listeners—as in Psalm 50:5–23. God is talking to you. Ponder that. You sing this hymn by listening intently. What does the Lord talk about? Interestingly, he is speaking directly into your significant suffering. He tells you who he is, and what he is like, and what he is doing—not in general, but with respect to what you are going through. He breathes his purposes into your heartaches. He promises the very things you most need. Most hymns express our faith—to God, to each other, or to ourselves. This hymn is more elemental. God’s voice invites faith. He’s calling to you. (27)
Our hymn takes God’s simple “I will not” and says it ten times in a row: “I will never, no, never, no, never—never, no, never, no, never forsake you.” Far more than a mere doubling, this is a promise to the power of ten. It is pastoral wisdom, helping us to hear the fierceness and triumph of God’s lovingkindness. You will never be abandoned. You will never be alone. He will never give up on you. (113)Another favorite quote:
Pain disrupts normal. It’s supposed to disrupt normal. It’s supposed to make you feel a need for help. Psalm 28 is not a placid “quiet time.” It’s noisy and needy. When you let life’s troubles get to you, it gets you to the only One who can help. (67)© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible