As you may know I am the librarian for our church library, and I come across a lot of titles while I am inputting into the library. If you ever have a chance, you really ought to come and have a look, our library is growing by leaps and bounds.
While working on a pile of new titles last week I came across this little gem. It's entitled "Trusting God Through Tears" by Jehu Thomas Burton. At first I thought, ok, here's another little grief counseling book, and thought to get it processed without looking too much at it, as I have frankly had my fill of grief counseling books that don't even scratch the surface. Most of them are written by doctors or the like who have never had to cope with the loss of a loved one, nevertheless think they understand other people's grief and despair. But this little book caught my eye as I was sticking the bar code on the back cover.
Jehu and his wife woke one morning in 1991 to find their 12 year old son Kelly dead in his bed as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. This tragic event changed and shaped them as no other event ever could. Mr. Barton journals those changes and his journey through devastating and debilitating grief.
While I found much of the book very difficult to read without shedding many, many tears, I was comforted and encouraged by Jehu's journey and his thought processes. Having said that, there are a few things in the book that jarred a little. He spent a great deal of time trying to fathom the why's of his sons death. He comes to the conclusion that he may never know why God sent his family this difficult trial, however he acknowledges that one reason may be to drive him and his family to the cross on Christ on their knees. He states that God intends to allow his children to suffer to drive them closer to Him, to seek His comfort and peace. He tries to prove that God uses terrible trials to bend His people to His will.
The author doesn't really allow that the death of a loved one may not be for that purpose at all. I know from experience that my husband and I trusted God implicitly throughout John's illness and death in 2009. Every day we prayed together for His grace to get us through those days and comfort and lead us. I don't believe we were ever closer to God as in those life-altering months.
So I don't believe that God uses trials necessarily to drive people closer to Him. But I do believe that He teaches people that even though their lives are turned upside down, He will be there, succoring and giving peace. His will prevails, and throughout events in our lives He never sends us more than we can bear, even though sometimes it sure seems we cannot bear the pain.
I also don't believe as the author seems to, that God's will is cause and effect, i.e. if you need to learn humility, He will send a trial that teaches humility, or if you need to learn patience He will send a lesson that teaches patience. He will send lessons to everyone who loves Him, to teach them to trust Him with all their heart and soul. That is a lesson every Christian needs to learn. And perhaps some people will receive specific trials, but God does not think the way we do, in chastising us to correct specific sins. He sees the deeper issues (depravity) that need to be addressed, and desires that we learn at His knees, but not always with pain and suffering.
I believe firmly (and the author does acknowledge this as well) that Christians must, above all, learn to accept God's sovereignty over our lives, indeed, over all of life. We have not a shred of control over our lives or the events in it. And with that lesson does come peace and acceptance. Generally, I would highly recommend this little book. It is a stellar glimpse into one man's journey through pain and despair and how he used his grief to help others try to understand God's love.