Without further ado or fluffy introduction, here we go:
Rejoice and Tremble by Michael Reeves
I love everything I’ve read by Reeves. He is a refreshing voice in the evangelical world because he’s willing to challenge ideas and ways of thinking within the subculture that get repeated so often that we don’t really stop to question or challenge them (or fear that we must be wrong, so we don’t say anything or raise the questions). In this book, he masterfully tackles the topic of the fear of God, pointing out ways that we commonly misunderstand what this means.
“Just as it was in the garden, Satan’s chief labor is to misrepresent God. He would present him to us as purely negative threat, the embodiment of anti-gospel. When we perceive God as pure threat, we will run from him in fear; wishing that the heavenly ogre did not exists.”
“When people become simply afraid of God, they will never entrust themselves to him but must turn elsewhere for their security.”
“In this childlike fear, there is not an atom of that fear which signifies being afraid. We, who believe in Jesus, are not afraid of our Father… It is not the awe of creatures before their tremendous Creator. It is the overwhelmed devotion of children marveling at the kindness and righteousness and glory and complete magnificence of the Father.”
“No glory even of God should breed terror. When a child is afraid, it is a sign that the word ‘Father’ is not yet freely fashioned by the child’s spiritual mouth.”
Living Life Backward by David Gibson
A friend recommended this book, and I’m so glad she did. I love how David Gibson speaks so practically yet insightfully. This is one of the most accessible and helpful books on Ecclesiastes that I’ve read. I think you’ll find that it challenges the way you think and live and that it provides insights you haven’t thought of before.
“Do not be surprised to find yourself in a frustrating situation from which you cannot escape by means of controlling it. Not everything can be fixed. Not everything is a problem to be solved. Some things must be borne, must be suffered and endured. Wisdom does not teach us how to master the world. It does not give us techniques for programming life such that life becomes orderly and predictable.”
“Wisdom can never achieve the kind of control over your life and destiny that you seek. It is God who rules the universe. And so although you can live well, and die well, and know some things truly, you cannot know all things completely. Do not make an idol out of wisdom.”
“To know all there is about everything there is to know, to know it in all ways and at all the right times so that I have every bit of relevant data in front of me, well, that is the kind of control over the world that Ecclesiastes has been teaching me to surrender.”
“Live the life you have now instead of longing for the life you think you will have but which you actually cannot control at all.”
Recovering Eden by Zack Eswine
Gibson’s book quoted this book, so I read this one after I finished Living Life Backward. Eswine is a really gifted writer who knows how to turn a phrase. His writing has a philosophical and poetic bent to it, so if you enjoy gifted wordsmiths, you’d probably like this. But it’s also down-to-earth and practical. I was personally more impacted by Gibson’s book, but that may be because I read it first, so some of the things that punched me in the face in Gibson’s book weren’t new concepts by the time I read this one.
“Being wise gives us no immunity under the sun. Those who try to be good and wise in order to get God to do favors for them under the sun will find disappointment.”
“Both good things and bad things happen to us. God is within the thing either way. This means that something larger than our prosperity and something larger than our adversity has a hold on us. What does this mean? We get to lighten up. All our energy spent in trying to control and preserve our lives is next to worthless. There is no secret formula in life that if you could just figure it out or get in with God well enough, you could make everything happen the way you hope. It is time to relax your grip. The whirlwind in your mind constantly trying to figure out everything in order to hold everything together is like chasing after the wind. We add wear and tear to our lives that God does not ask of us.”
Angry with God by Brad Hambrick
I love reading Brad’s articles and books and hearing him speak. He’s a gifted counselor who has a good grasp on trauma and a shepherd’s heart. This is a very small book that packs a very large punch for those who have gone through deeply painful suffering and/or trauma. But even if you haven’t, you really should read it to understand better what the people around you are facing and how to serve them most helpfully (and how to avoid hurting them even more).
“Whether our anger is with or at God is largely determined by how we believe God responds to us in moments such as these [referring to deep suffering, grief, trauma].”
“When we read that Jesus wipes away every tear, we notice that those being welcomed into heaven have been crying. Jesus’ instinct is to come near them. He notices their pain. He is tender in his approach. Much of what causes our unrest after suffering is how seldom we get these responses from those around us. Too often when we are hurting, people pull away, look away, and show their discomfort. This adds to our hurt. Heaven will be nothing like this.” (emphasis mine)
“When anger is part of our response to suffering, it is an emotional affirmation of how God sees things. Anger calls bad things bad. Angry grief calls for comfort, not repentance.”
“The people who hurt us with their naïve faith quickly move toward pronouncing everything okay, fail to weep with us, and force an end-of-the-journey perspective on a middle-of-the-journey moment… Sometimes cheerfulness is not situationally appropriate. The moment is bad and should be honored as such. When believers assume that in hard times faith should be fast, cheerful, and already containing hindsight, their attempt to encourage faith has mutated into naivety.”