Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: Finding God in the Ruins

Finding God in the Ruins
By Matt Bays
David C. Cook, 2016


If God is love, why do we hurt so much?

When the reality of your pain doesn't line up with what you've been taught in church, then what? While many abandon their faith or embrace hopelessness, it is possible to discover the God who heals your heart in the midst of the pain.

Matt Bays has been where you are. His unforgettable stories of loss and healing will usher you into a life where gratitude overpowers anger, hope overcomes despair, and hunger for God replaces indifference to God. With a fresh and original writing style, Bays demonstrates that true redemption is far more powerful than the temporary fixes of sanitized Christianity.

My thoughts

Finding God in the Ruins is one of the most striking books on pain and suffering that I’ve ever read. The question of Why? has been problematic for God’s children since the beginning of time, for as Matt writes, “We prefer celebration to suffering, resurrection to crucifixion.” Having lived with and survived more than most of us will ever experience – abuse, incest, alcoholism, a sister with stage 4 cancer – Matt has shared from his heart in a book that is raw, honest, gritty, humorous at times - but above all, hope filled. I would describe it as part memoir, part Christian living with lots of wonderful application. It was hard to put down, and I read with a highlighter in my hand. Matt has an easily flowing, conversational writing style, and I was hooked from the very first paragraph of the Preface:

God, in real life, is nothing like the God we’ve been taught about in church. Anyone who has been through tragedy, pain, trauma, or devastating loss knows that in those moments, and in the terrible aftermath, hell often feels much more powerful than heaven.

When going through an unspeakably difficult time, how many of us have been truly transparent with God and others? I suspect that Matt has asked the difficult questions that many have secretly wanted to ask. Most Christians that I know would like to forget Jesus’ words, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But how difficult it is to mesh the realities of a compassionate God who enters our place of ruins with a God who allowed and keeps allowing that “trouble” to happen!

Although most of us won’t go through the depth of agonizing hurt that Matt has faced, life is messy at best, and we find ourselves questioning how a loving God can allow ____ (you fill in the blank). While attending a Bible college several years ago, my daughter in essence told me the same thing as Matt, that Christians are too quick to offer clich├ęs, pat answers, or a verse of Scripture in an effort to comfort or rationalize another’s pain. Everything happens for a reason. He’s healed now. God will use this for His glory. She’s better off now. It’s more than okay to admit that there will probably be no answers this side of heaven, and the simple ministry of presence is all that’s needed. These are words that we can take to heart:  “Standing alongside someone in silent compassion is powerful.”

Finding God in the Ruins is not a theological exploration of the subject, but rather one man’s story. Readers can always find statements to question, but for me, this book transcends any particular theology and it simply ministers. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think how explicitly honest David and Job were in their questioning, and draw comfort from knowing that God welcomes our honest thoughts.

I’ve been a worship musician for over 50 years, and I just have to share this quote from Chapter 10 that I’ve read over and over:  “His song is in a minor key. There are short-lived moments where he sings in C major, but most often he sings outside the lines, adagio, because of the great skill and lyricism it requires to place each syllable dissonantly within the minor chords.” What beautiful and realistic imagery!

Finding God in the Ruins is a perfect example of how God uses flawed, broken vessels to minister in a powerful way. Thank you, Matt, for sharing your personal story and insight.

Highly recommended.

Matt Bays is a writer, speaker, and musician with a passion to call people out of their hiding places. In ministry for twenty years, he and his wife, Heather, live in Indianapolis with their fun-loving and insightful teenage daughters.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse landing page:

1 comment: