CraShat 06-5-58


 God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy


Larry Crabb

Waterbrook Press, 2001, 218 pp.,  ISBN 1-57856-452-2

Larry Crabb is an internationally known author, counselor, and psychologist.  In the Book of Ruth he discovers how God works through our shattered dreams to draw us to intimacy with Him.  As with his other books, Crabb approaches the topic in widening concentric circles, adding depth to the material at each stage.  “This book is an invitation to taste and see that the Lord is good even when the bottom falls out of your life.” (4) 


“In their anguish, people on the spiritual journey abandon themselves to God.  Eventually they discover their desire for Him is stronger than all their other desires, and in their seasons of misery when life disappoints and they fail, they seek Him more earnestly. Making their lives more comfortable and themselves more acceptable is a secondary concern.” (125)


“God wants to bless us.” (1)  However, what He gives us doesn’t always seem good to us.  We are unaware of what brings us the greatest good.  “The highest dream we could ever dream…is to know God, to actually experience Him.”  “We just aren’t yet aware that an intimate relationship with God is that greatest pleasure.” (2)


“One way he works is to allow our lower dreams to shatter.  He lets us hurt and doesn’t make it better.”  While we suffer, he “is leading us into the depths of our being….  It’s there that we discover our desire for God.”  “Our shattered dreams are never random.  They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story.”  Pain is “always a necessary mile on the long journey to joy.” (4)  He “uses the pain of shattered drams to help us discover our desire for God….” (5)


“It’s hard enough to develop a personal relationship with an invisible God, one whose voice I never hear the way I hear a friend’s voice over the phone; it’s even harder to feel close to an unresponsive God.” (21)


“My real problem with God becomes apparent when long-held and deeply cherished dreams are shattered and He does nothing.”  And these are good dreams….” (22)  “Yet he tells us He is our most responsive friend.  …he would never withhold any good thing.” (23)


“In our struggle to handle the pain of shattered dreams, however, one question is rarely talked about with honesty.”  What do we do with how we’re feeling toward God?” (28)


“Trusting God is dangerous business.  Unless we’re trusting Him for what He’s promised to provide, the step after trust is disillusionment.” (29)


“When the capacity for soul-pleasure is lost, we become irresistibly attracted to lesser pleasures….” (30) 


“More than perhaps ever before in history, we assume we are here for one fundamental reason: to have a good time—if not good circumstances, then at least good feelings.”  “So we invent ‘biblical’ strategies for seeing to it that our dreams come true.” (31)  “Sometimes all that separates Christians from non-Christians is our understanding of how to produce those good feelings.”  “God becomes merely a means to an end….”  “Worship becomes utilitarian….” (22)


“It’s harder to discover our desire for God when things go well.”  “Shattered dreams are the truest blessings; they help us discover our true hope.  But it can take a long, dark time to discover it.” (33)


“Our pain will always have a purpose…the better hope of knowing God well enough now to love Him above everything else….” (35)  The writer of Hebrews includes a list of people who never lost hope, even though ‘none of them received what had been promised’ (Hebrews 11:39). (39)


“Maybe what the Bible wants us to hope for in this life is very different from what most of us think.” (40)  Jesus gave promised the disciples to ‘be my witnesses,’ ‘to remain faithful to Me no matter what happens in your life.’ (42) 


“God will never allow suffering to come into our lives that is not necessary to achieve His good purpose.  He doesn’t like to see us suffer.  He didn’t like to see Jesus suffer either.” (44)


“No farmer goes to the orchard in winter to pick apples.  Christians do it all the time.  And when the fruit isn’t there, we walk of in disgust.” (65)


“When you hurt, hurt.  Hurt openly in the presence of God.  Hurt openly in the presence of the few who provide you with safe community.  Feel your pain.  Regard brokenness as an opportunity, as the chance to discover a desire that no brokenness can eliminate but that only brokenness reveals.” (73)


“People who find some way to deaden their pain never discover their desire for God in all its fullness.  They rather live for relief and become addicts to whatever provides it.” (85)


“We need God.  He is all we need.  But until we realize that fact, we experience lesser desires as needs and devote our energy to arranging for their satisfaction.  That defines addiction.” (86)


“Only true worship expresses our deepest freedom.” (86)  “When we discover our desire for God, we can live for nothing less.”  “But there’s a problem.”  “When the pain of shattered dreams helps us discover our desire for God, God seems to disappear.   Or at least His absence becomes obvious.”  It is the frustration of our desire for God that deepens it.” (91)


“When life gets tough and God does nothing, the Spirit is telling us that this world is not our home.” (101)


“Evangelicals are tiring of a half-hour of contrived worship on Sunday morning and forty minutes of a motivational talk disguised as a sermon.  Increasing numbers of hungry people are going away on silent retreats, aware of an unsatisfied longing for God and sincerely wanting to meet Him.  Protestants are turning to Catholic priests and nuns to find spiritual direction.  Fasting, solitude, and other spiritual disciplines are commonly practiced.  Small groups devoted to spiritual formation and to journeying together toward God are entered into by folks who want more spiritual reality in their lives.” (107)


“To the degree that pain teaches us that our deepest desire is for God, we will abandon ourselves to Him.  We’ll do whatever it takes to create an awareness of space in our souls that only He can fill.  And in His mercy, we’ll find a confidence developing that he is there….” (111)


“We so easily pray for ourselves and the people we love that we will all be drawn closer to God.  I wonder if we know what we’re asking.  Are we asking to enjoy His blessings with little interest in enjoying His Person?” (134)


“The belief that there’s no higher good than feeling better now, and the top priority urge to feel better now—these represent the single biggest obstacle to our enjoying God’s Presence.  The Bible calls it the flesh.” (144)


The good news of the gospel, for this life, is that … we will be empowered to draw close to God and to love others well and to do both for one central purpose, to glorify God, to make Him look good to any who watch us live.” (155)


“When God seems most absent from us, He is doing His most important work in us.” (157)  “Bad times provide an opportunity to know God that blessings can never provide.” (159)


“I long to experience the Presence of God moving through every detail of my life, both good details and bad ones, carrying me into a richer encounter with God, into a  closer experience of community with others, and into an experience of personal transformation that makes me more like Christ.” (165)


As I hold him in my arms, “I realize the very best thing I can do for my newborn grandson is to be a grandfather who delights in the pleasures of God.”  “My heart swells with worship.  I discover again how deeply my soul pants for God.” (175)  “There’s no higher dream than experiencing God.” (176)


“As a church, we’ve lowered our sights; we ask for too little.  We dream only of escaping the pain of life by entering the bliss of heaven.  And until then, we dream only of surviving this life with less heartache and more blessing.  We have given up the dream of knowing God now.” (182)


“I struggle to believe that God is my greatest pleasure.” (183)


“Only a thrilling, soul-pleasuring encounter with God that generates more pleasure than sin will free us from our addiction to sin.” (186)


How do you think about God? 

“Our Christian culture has weakened our understanding of the holiness of God by introducing too soon the idea of grace.  We now talk about grace in a way that changes our view of God from holy to paternal, from justifiably enraged to strict but understanding. Very few Christians today see God as an irate judge who violently hates our sin.  He is now a bit more flexible, more tolerant, still insistent that we measure up to at least some of His standards, but gracious when we don’t.” 


“God means for us to obey His rules, we way, but if we don’t (and no one does, of course, not completely), He’s really quite understanding.  That’s our view of grace.”  “It develops when we talk about grace before we tremble at God’s holiness.” “We reduce the holy God of passionate wrath to a fatherly God with strict standards.” (191)  “God has now become the helpful God of useful principles.” (192)


How do I think about myself?

“In our Christian culture, we’ve weakened our understanding of personal sin by talking too soon and too much about our longings and our needs.  We want to feel good about ourselves, we long for enjoyable relationships, we desire effective and recognized ministries.  We become the point and see nothing really wrong with it.  Because we focus more on our longings than our evil, we see ourselves not as hopelessly arrogant, worthy of eternal misery, but as scoldably selfish, deserving of perhaps a slap on the wrist.”   We have become in our own eyes, “understandable strugglers who deserve to be understood and helped.” (1950


“When understandable strugglers meet a helpful God of useful principles, they use Him to make their lives more comfortable.”  “When scoldably selfish people meet a fatherly God of strict standards, their encounter with God is never intimate.  It breeds resentment and distance.”  “But when arrogant people who know they deserve eternal misery tremble before a holy God of passionate wrath, they discover grace.  They encounter the depths of God’s kindness and love, a kindness and love they find nowhere else.” (196)

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