MacDonald was a successful pastor in the Chicago suburbs when it started crashing down. Their oldest son broke his neck in a car accident. The church building project for the 10,000 attendees went bad. Bankruptcy loomed. Staff left. And then he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
MacDonald went to southern California for treatment, physical for his cancer and biblical for his spirit. He agreed to preach at Greg Laurie's church in Riverside. Those six messages became this book.
Tribulation comes into every life. It is not what we're going through that makes the difference. “The great divider is how we handle the times when life is hard.” (15)
MacDonald looks at key biblical passages dealing with hard times. There are things God wants us to know and do when life is hard.
“When life is hard, it is for a reason.” (24) MacDonald says, “A trial is a painful circumstance allowed by God to change my conduct and my character.” (26) God spanks His children. We are in training and experience God's discipline. God is getting us to a better place. God never disciplines out of anger. (MacDonald notes that a trial is not a consequence of sin. 33) We are disciplined for our good and to share His holiness.
MacDonald has suggestions on how to make the best of a trial. He helps the reader have insight as to why God has allowed the trial to happen, what God is seeking to accomplish, how to have the joy James commands, how to recognize the benefits of a trial, and how to ask the right “why.” He has a great section on what to do during trials based on 1 Peter 4. He also speaks to the issue of not responding the right way to trials. He helps us understand the “thorn,” the trial that never ends and gives helpful suggestions to successfully endure them.
“Following Jesus means suffering is the norm, not the exception!” (76) “God is far more interested in your holiness than in your temporary happiness.” (97) “This trial could be the best thing that has ever happened to you.” (197)
To help the reader internalize the message MacDonald has included at the end of each chapter a prayer, appropriate Scripture passages, and questions for reflection. The last chapter reviews the sixteens lessons discovered through this book. Those lessons are great!
Visit www.whenlifeishard.com to download a discussion guide for the book as well as other resources.
I highly recommend this book. It may be the best I have read on trials. It would make an excellent small group study.
Moody Press, 200 pages.