Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matthew Bays
About this book: (from the publisher) 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.
About the author: 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.
[Tweet “When reality of your pain doesn’t line up with what you’ve been taught in church, then what? @MattBaysWriter http://bit.ly/1SPH7wi @David_C_Cook @Litfuse”]
Genre: Non-fiction/Religion/Christian Life/General
Reminds me of: Faith and Other Flat Tires by Andrea Palpant Dilley; When We Were On Fire and Night Driving by Addie Zierman; Good God, Lousy World, & Me by Holly Burkhalter
[Tweet “Discover the God who can heal & redeem in midst of pain @mattbayswriter @David_C_Cook http://bit.ly/1SPH7wi @Litfuse”]
Reflection: You’re familiar with the adage about the first impression being the right one. In this case, I found that to be true. To explain: My first impression included a glimpse at the cover image, the title, the back cover copy, all of which led me to a positive conclusion and the desire to read the book. Then, my second impression: I started to read, and my initial impression faded. Not for poor quality, I hasten to say–the book is commendably well written–but for content. What I was reading was, quite honestly, a downer. The book begins with the author’s back story, and I felt he was relating to pain in a misery-loves-company kind of way. It struck me as a book written to those dwelling in the pit who despise it when people outside of the pit try to tell them it’s going to be okay.
What I thought he was saying was that people should not be so quick to offer comfort and encouragement when others are suffering. And I resisted this stance because when life is going sideways on me and my faith weakens at the knees, I want someone in a position of strength to reassure me. I want their hope to buoy me until I can grasp onto it myself.
At this point, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go on, but the author was compelling enough that I persevered–and now I’m so glad I did. Turns out, he wasn’t going there at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. Of course, it’s still true that people need to choose their moments and their methods for offering encouragement. You don’t tell someone in the depths that there’s sunshine at the top for them to see, if only they could shake off the chains of negativity. Instead, sometimes–most times, in fact– what is needed is an “I’ve been there” listening ear and an acceptance, a willingness to share the burden.
It was a few more pages in that I really caught the author’s vision:
“The older I’ve gotten, the greater my doubts have become, which is not something I feel the need to cure. The frustration we feel with God is fair, and I worry more about those who resist an honest doubt or two. As I’ve heard it said, unexpressed doubt can be toxic.
Opening my hands and allowing the spiritual clichés and wrongly applied Scripture verses to slip through my fingers was the beginning of my liberation from the simplistic and defective answers to life’s most powerful and haunting questions.” (p. 39)
Ah. Okay, now I’m listening.
Later on, there was this little gem as well:
“Sometimes if feels as if God has invited himself into my pain, when I had hoped to be invited into his healing. We want a God who heals our wounds, but we have a God who heals our hearts.”(p. 133)
Yes. But where it really clicked was when he started talking about the importance of telling our stories as a part of our healing. He quoted Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Amen. I’ve seen this and know it to be true. We need to tell our stories–for our own sakes, and for others’.
He quotes again, this time Brennan Manning: “‘In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.'”
And then Bays goes on to say this:
“Wounds need air. If something is kept in a bandage too long, it doesn’t get better; it gets infected, and that infection can become toxic. The wounds on our souls also need air. Vulnerability, saying what happened, means ripping the bandage off so our stories can breathe.” (p. 169)
Oh, there’s so much truth to this, and Bays explores it all in beautifully nuanced detail.
Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and David C. Cook for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
See what other Litfuse reviewers are saying here.