Jesus told his disciples they would have trouble (John 16:33). That's true for us too. Trouble will come. Ryken looks at the lives of several people in the Bible and clarifies what they did when trouble came. He gleans lessons for us today from their examples.
From Isaiah we learn our part of confessing our sins and God's part of atoning for that sin. From Elijah we learn about spiritual depression, its causes and cures. From Ruth we see that some blame God for their troubles while others, like Ruth, continue to go with God. From David we learn about sexual sin and from Jeremiah, about the dark night of the soul. Mary is an example of being devoted to God. Ryken reminds us that Jesus understands our troubles. Jesus did not try to get out of his troubles but embraced his calling. He gives us our highest motivation, a commitment to God's glory. Lastly, Paul yields encouragement for being persecuted because of faith.
Ryken's final words are based on those of Jesus too. “Take heart.” If Christ has overcome the world, then we can overcome the world, resist temptation, persevere through persecution, live and die for Christ and his kingdom.
There is a great deal of encouragement in this book. “So do not take the easy way out, make the hard choice instead. When the situation is desperate and even God seems to be going against you, do not give up, but trust his good plan.” And, “Don't give up and don't give in. Keep offering your life for the plans and purposes of God.”
What the book lacks is practical suggestions for doing what Ryken encourages. I thought perhaps the Discussion Guide would have some. Unfortunately, it does not. One of the questions is, “What activities or disciplines might renew your spirit and help you experience God's grace in times of trouble?” Apparently readers must come up with their own ideas as to not giving up, persevering, etc.
The best part of the book, I thought, was Ryken sharing what helped him when he was experiencing trouble. Knowing that his trouble was a normal part of life, trying to live the ordinary routines of life, friends, and God's Word were what sustained him.
From the way the book is written and structured, I suggest it be read and discussed within a group of trusted friends. People can share with others what worked for them when trouble came. This is a short book so it would not be intimidating for new Christians.
Food for thought: “Jesus did not get out of trouble, but went through it, and everything he went through brought glory to God.”
You can watch a video of Ryken on this topic here.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Philip Graham Ryken is the eighth president of Wheaton College. He formerly served as senior minister of Philadelphia's historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. He has written or edited more than 40 books. He has lectured and preached at universities and seminaries worldwide.
Crossway, 176 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.