I was originally given this book as a first time visitor at a local church here in Las Vegas. It was written by the lead pastor. I had no intention of reading it but it somehow made it into my “To Read” stack instead of my “Goodwill” box. I’m glad it did.
Life hurts for myriad reasons. One person may be in anguish over the loss of a loved one. Another may be in agony over being overwhelmed with utter confusion as to where their life is going. You cannot compare your pain to someone else’s but that doesn’t mean it is not incredibly real. Our initial tendency is to ask “why?” But will knowing “why” really help us to reconcile our circumstances and make the pain go away? Jud Wilhite says no. Instead, in “Torn” he discusses in a practical way, the “hows” of dealing with the tragedies of life.
Instead of why, Jud Wilhite says that the fundamental questions should be, “who?” “Who will we trust in the calamities and challenges of life? To whom will we turn? Who is worthy of our trust?” Though I don’t say it aloud, when I face struggles, my actions reflect a belief of, “Thanks God, but I’ve got this one covered.” How absurd? It is much more fitting for us to trust God and hand it over to him. As C.S. Lewis said “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Our longing for something better and our instinct to cry out, “why” and “help” in anguish reveals that there is something or someone greater that has the answers. He is the answer! God wants us to hope in him. He is worthy of our trust, He is good, He provides hope, and He loves us. This is the dominant theme and a recurring point that Wilhite makes.
The author explains what that trust looks like and how to trust God’s promises and worship through our torn lives, rather than either passively accepting it, which leads to despair and depression or actively beating our fists against the world, leading to bottled up bitterness and anger.
He goes into detail concerning some of the common false beliefs associated with suffering. Maybe it is a lack of faith or punishment for past sin. One point that hit me specifically hard was Pastor Wilhite’s own realization that, “refusal to accept God’s forgiveness was actually the height of arrogance and pride.” This is so true in my life. This is a manifestation of the belief that that my word is stronger than God’s.
LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! As a contributing factor, Wilhite points to the fact that our worldly perspective is off. Facebook, twitter, instagram, and our culture in general instill the belief that it is all about us. But the truth is that the main attraction is so much bigger and so much better than us. We need to recognize that we don’t understand it and that we probably won’t understand it.
He discusses what he calls “Reframing Expectations”. “The world is about God and His glory more than it is about us and our comfort.” But God is the God of the mess and he is the one that promises to make the mess beautiful. He uses repeated references to Job to remind us that God is the creator of the universe. As Job did, maybe if we gave Him his due glory we would not be so quick to question the “why” of circumstances when we feel that life gets out of whack. He reminds the reader of the importance of keeping the proper perspective. God transcends this fallen world. This book is well founded in the Gospel and is dripping with scripture that helps reiterate the theme of trusting God through uncertain circumstances. But he also repeatedly reminds the reader that our God is a loving God who’s sufficient grace pours out on us.
He does not pretend that trusting God is easy. It requires a bold, courageous type of faith that is rare, but totally worth it. His power in our lives gives us the strength and cause to fight for joy. It doesn’t mean that the problems will go away, but Christ will hold His children and love us through those problems.
But Pastor Wilhite doesn’t end with, “Trust God, but it is going to be hard.” He gets into the practical aspects as well. Trusting God fully requires living life in community. He emphasizes the necessity of safe and open community. A family of believers where we do not pretend that all is well but instead reveal our suffering. As much as the thought of dealing with other people makes me cringe, it is true. We have to fight, but not fight alone. We are called to mourn with each other and to carry each others’ burdens. We need to preach the truth to each other and be the strong believer in others’ times of weakness.
We should not be surprised when we experience suffering. He told us that it was coming. So often God does some of His best teaching and refining it times of pain and waiting. It may be preparing you for something great. It may be making you more Christ-like. But we must choose to bring our pain to God, trust Him as our head, move forward, and choose to fight for joy; boldly, not timidly. You have to fight tooth and nail for joy in God. I constantly have to ask Him to help me trust Him and restore my joy in Him.
A great book for anyone who has, is currently, or will experience pain of any kind. So everyone!