JohSeco 06-12-180

Second Guessing God

Hanging On When You Can’t See His Plan


Brian Jones

Standard Publishing, 2006, 219 pp., ISBN 0-7847-1841-5


Do you wonder where God is and why He allows the pain you feel?  Brian Jones does.  He is pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia and he helps bruised souls find meaning and hope in facing life’s difficulties.  It is about recovering joy and the warmth of God’s presence. (26) Brian’s stories reveal the way.


When people doubt the existence of God, they have usually been disappointed with the way life has turned out.  They have felt run over or crushed by life.  But there is hope. (16-20) 


“Even though you can’t see it right now, God has been busy creating something breathtaking in you.”  “The problem is we can’t see what he’s doing while it’s happening.” (21)


God’s agenda is deep.  “Breathtaking transformation comes through trials.  Not one trial, but various trials.  Trials of many kinds.” (25)


Everyone asks: “Where’s God?” (33)  As Israel learned on the banks of the Jordan, “God is always at work upstream in our lives…beyond our line of sight.” (35) “The more we exercise faith—trusting God with our souls and not our eyes,…the more we’ll begin to recognize God working upstream in our lives.” (41) 


“Following Jesus means giving up control.”  “This is the only way you’re going to see God at work upstream, because God can’t work in a situation until we get out of the way.” (41)


We can’t see God at work because we’re focused on today.”  “God often does his best work over long periods of time.” (43)  God sees the big picture.  He isn’t as concerned as we are over the short-term solution. (44)


“To be a witness…means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exists.” (quoting Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard) (47)


“…one of the key reasons many give up on their faith: they believe it’s true; they just don’t believe it works.” (50)


Sometimes God chooses not to remove or resolve a problem.  Instead he gives miraculous strength for us to persevere and endure. This happened routinely in the Bible and it still does. (53)  The impact of perseverance miracles lasts longer. (60)


“…I needed to go through a slow, painful process of transformation.  It’s the same process he is taking you through.”  The first step is to be broken by hardship.  “Our brokenness lets us feel what others feel, and it gives us credibility when we reach out to other who are suffering.”  “There’s a reason why we’ve gone through what we have: our wounds give us power to feel another person’s pain.” (72) 


“The other reason God allows us to broken by trials is to help us gain credibility with other broken people.” (74)   “…because we’ve been in their shoes.”  “Once we are broken, God fills our emptiness with something powerful.” (75)  When I see someone in pain, I can ask, “Jesus, give me your heart for this person.” (77)  “Jesus allows you to see what he sees when he looks at people.” (78) 


“Struggling with doubt is a natural part of being a flower of Jesus.” See Mt 28:16-17, the verses that precede the Great Commission.  (87)  “Jesus uses people who struggle with doubt to change the world.” (88) 


“In my early years I felt … it was my job to shove my suspicions deep down inside and lock them in a corner closet of the basement of my soul.”  “A few years of serving people in churches cured me of that.” (90-1) 


When we doubt we are forced to discipline our emotions. (91)  “When we are going through tough times, one of the hardest things to discern is whether our doubts stem from a genuine struggle with God or our current emotional state.” (92)


“The third thing that happens when we doubt is that we are taught to live with unresolved questions.” (93)  “At the heart of a life filled with unanswered questions lies the very nature of Christianity.  Our faith is about a relationship with Jesus, not an adherence to a set of intellectual ideas we can memorize and master.” (95)


“I think the word desert is a perfect description of a Christian’s experience of God’s absence.”  “Yet the Bible attests that sometimes our greatest spiritual transformations occur in the desert.” (96)


“I think the trials we experience in life are a lot like those (Polaroid) sunglasses: they allow us to see things we would never see without them.” (107)


“God knew we could easily fall into the hypnotic stare of our culture and waste our lives….  God’s gift to us then, in those lethal moments, is to send trials to shake us free from our culture’s grasp to see our situation for what it really is.” (110)


“Trials also enable us to see that every moment we’re alive is a gift from God.” (112)  “Pain reminds us of our mortality, causing us to become more deliberate about the way we spend our time here on earth.” (113)


“The final thing God allows us to see through suffering is the importance of people.” (118)  “Jesus understood that the two most important things we do in life are to love God and love people.” (120)


“Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings of earth….” (123) 


“…a book on suffering that says nothing about Hell leaves out a good part of the account as well.”  “Jesus…made it quite clear that Hell is a reality to be avoided at all costs.” (124)  “I had always assumed that the Bible contained only a few scattered references to Hell.  I was wrong; it is taught everywhere.” (126)  “I tis inescapable: virtually every book in the New Testament underscores some aspect of the reality of Hell.” (127-28) 


“…God uses our pain as a catalyst to cause others to become interested in spiritual matters…. “ “I began to view my pain and struggles as one more way Jesus could draw people to himself.” (129)  “Our pain can draw people to Jesus when it changes us so we can deliver the message about the afterlife in a way God himself would want it to be communicated.” (130)


“Pain humbles us and breaks us so thoroughly that we become almost incapable of delivering a spiritual message in a condescending manner.” (133)


“In my experience, courage in the face of death is what ultimately separates Christians from non-Christians.” (136)


“This explains, better than anything else, why God allows us to go through rough stretches in our lives.  He knows that Heaven and Hell hang in the balance.  He sees people tumbling towards a Christless eternity and is furiously trying to capture their attention.” (138-39)


“There are times when the pain we live through is so intense, the circumstances so heinous, the situation so meaningless that any effort to justify it, explain it, or bring God into the conversation brings us to the point of utter rage.” (145) 


“The reason I think it is so important to pray the psalms while we are living in mystery is to learn how to be honest with God.”  “As you read through the psalms of lament, you will notice that the people who wrote these prayers tended to focus on three basic themes: accusations against God, hatred toward enemies, and vows of praise.” (148)


“…three specific things God has provided to help us hang on: the church, ministry, and Heaven.” (144)  “…the apostle Paul compared the church to a human body: ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it’ (1 Corinthians 12:26).” (167)


“Do you find yourself in the lethal grasp of despair right now?  God has provided a second way for you to hold on during life’s difficult moments.  In addition to living in authentic Christian community, serve others.” (186)


“We become spiritually sick when, like incessantly scratching our poison ivy, we become obsessed with our own pain.” (187)  “According to Jesus, one of the ways soul wounds heal is by leaving them alone and focusing the energy we’re tempted to expend on them outside ourselves instead.”  “…break outside yourself in order to serve others in spite of your pain.” (188)


“Don’t waste your pain.”  “Find some way of using it to help other people….” (196)



Further Reading on Suffering:

SHATTERED DREAMS - God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy by Larry Crabb

HOLDING ON TO HOPE - A Pathway through suffering to the heart of God by Nancy Guthrie

BROKENNESS - The Heart God Revives by Nancy Leigh DeMoss by Nancy Leigh DeMoss



* * * *