by Merrie Eizenga
The title of Lysa Terkeurst’s new book, It's Not Supposed to Be This Way, immediately caught my attention and I knew I would be adding it to my “must read” list. She asks, “What do you do when God’s timing seems questionable, his lack of intervention hurtful and his promises doubtful?”
Terkeurst isn’t the only one asking. As one of the directors of Focus on the Family Canada’s Kerith Retreats, we hear those same questions from pastors and leaders who visit us. Kerith Retreats gives them a safe, judgment-free place to wrestle through the difficult questions they – and many others – are facing.
It won’t be a surprise to anyone that it’s not just leaders who are asking these aching questions. As I travel across Canada, it doesn’t seem to matter where I speak or whom I’m speaking to, this topic of disappointment – both with God and with people – comes up over and over again. I hear people describe it like a heavy coat they never wanted to wear but don’t know how to take off. People are desperately looking for help, for comfort and for a godly perspective in the midst of their disappointment. Terkeurst’s book may well be an answer to their prayers.
She weaves the story of her husband’s infidelity, his addictions and abandonment, and her breast cancer diagnosis together with honesty and biblical principles that offer people hope in the middle of the brokenness they are facing. She is an engaging storyteller and, in true Terkeurst style, when you aren’t crying with her, you’re laughing at her.
This book is beautifully compiled. At the end of every chapter, there is a “Going to the Well” section, which is simply the main theme of that chapter. There is a “Remember” section, which is several of the key sentences so you won’t forget them. Then there’s a “Receive” section, which is the main Scripture she used in that chapter. And finally there’s a “Reflect” section where she poses questions for the reader to consider the material they have just read. She then offers a heartfelt prayer. It’s a beautiful recap of that particular chapter. It’s like nailing down what you have read, and securing the truth to the door of your heart.
Additionally, at the end of the book, there is a chapter entitled, “Nine Scriptures for Surviving the Times when God Seems Silent.” I found it to be a very helpful resource I will go back to often.
While I thought her entire book was rich in both story and substance, it was her clear warning in chapter 9, “Exposing the Enemy,” that deeply resonated with me:
“If [the enemy] can isolate us, he can influence us. And his favourite of all entry points is through our disappointments . . . The enemy uses disappointments to cause so much trouble in an unsettled heart . . . Remember, dangerous desires birthed inside our unsettled disappointments are nothing but a setup for a takedown.”
I suppose I knew this academically, but I’m not sure I ever viewed my disappointments as a specific strategy that the enemy would use against me.
It has been, for me, a wake-up call: “Merrie be careful what you do with your disappointments!” I certainly must not bury them or deny them. I am meant to feel them deeply but then I’m to offer them back to the One who will not leave me in the middle of it all. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
I cannot end this book review without including what Terkeurst writes in the epilogue:
“I’m sitting on my back deck. Art reaches out to hold my hand. [Art is her formerly estranged husband.] He’s read every word of this book and nodded to say it’s good. I’m honestly stunned that we’re here. It’s a respite that I’m equally terrified of and grateful for . . . I long for this second chance to be girded with guarantees. But that’s not the way it is. I’ll have to step out into this new normal with eyes wide open to the fact this is risky . . . Trusting God is the hardest lesson to learn but the most crucial. We trust a God who allows hurt. But we also trust a God who uses hurt for good . . . We would have never chosen these changes but they are good. They are the hardest good we’ve ever lived through”.
If you need someone to pray with you today, Focus on the Family Canada cares. You can call them at 1.800.661.9800 and someone would be so happy to help carry your burden in prayer.
Merrie Eizenga is one of the program directors at the Alberta Kerith Retreats location with her husband, Marshall. For more information about our retreats, visit Kerithretreats.ca
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