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Five Book Recommendations for When You're Suffering

Can I make a confession? When I am suffering, the first thing I want to do is wallow in self pity. I cry. Get angry.  Question God's goodness. And you know what? God knows our frame - He can handle it.


In my self pity, He meets me with compassion. In my tears, He comforts. In my anger, He calms. In my questions, He reassures.


In my struggle over His goodness, He shows me time and time again that it's true:


God is good.


I've learned I cannot stay in those hard places, letting bitterness and unbelief take root. In times of intense heartache and struggle, I do little more than read the Psalms and pray. God's Word truly is the best place to start and meditate on His truth. Then when the fog is lifting and it seems you can't reconcile your circumstances with your faith, I've found turning to good books helps reset my faith on solid ground. I know there are tons of resources on suffering and faith, but these five book recommendations for the suffering Christian are a great start. These books helped me in the immediate years following my life-altering VEDS diagnosis. I know you'll be challenged and encouraged!





(Note: There is another book by this title by a well-known Christian author, but I haven't read that one yet; I can vouch that this one is great, helpful and truth-filled!) Anxiety can be paralyzing. It can stem from a variety of sources - health crises, financial stress, relationships, social situations, the unknown, and more. I've learned that if I take my focus off myself, and reflect on God and His eternal purposes for me and my circumstances, then I can handle the hardships of life much better.  This book also talks about praise as a prescription for anxiety.


MacArthur says praise involves two things: 1) reciting God's attributes and 2) reciting God's works. 


Friends, I'm not claiming that this book or the others are a cure-all (sometimes other helps like counseling and medications are necessary; trust me, I've been there) - but there is a reason God calls us to renew our minds and set our minds on things above. 


Nothing has changed my perspective more on my incurable diagnosis and the certainty of God's goodness than His Word and the resources that point me to it.  This book also features an appendix "Psalms for the Anxious" - awesome!  So if you don't know where to go in your Bible, start there!

"When you grow weary in the race, focus that much more on Jesus. Remember that His life of faith led to joy and triumph, and yours will, too."

"Some people assume worry is the result of too much thinking. Actually, it's the result of too little thinking in the right direction. If you know who God is and understand His purposes, promises, and plans, it will help you not to worry."  (A note from me: Even if we don't fully understand His purposes, promises, and plans, we can trust His Person!)


 


This book was recommended to me by my good friend Lisa, who survived cancer twice while in her 40s.  Lisa and I "get" each other, and while I've never had cancer, I trusted her recommendation fully.  I'm so glad I did!  I read this book when I was still struggling with my story.  I consider myself an adaptable person, but I certainly didn't "bounce back" when I learned of my condition that causes aneurysms and ruptured organs - these definitely are not in "Erica's version" of my life script! 


The author is a pastor, and he wrote this book during his cancer journey, so it offers a unique perspective on suffering, while not knowing how his story would end.  (I won't leave you hanging - Schmidt is still pastoring and still writing.) Pastor Schmidt highlights 10 decisions that can transform you life in times of trial - these are needful and practical. Hearing from someone who has also walked through pain, loss, and uncertainty offers a credible and compassionate lens. He also ends each chapter with an appropriate hymn - oh, how the truths in those songs can minister to you when you are hurting!  This book also gave me perspective on loving those close to me who faced cancer. I cannot find my journal from when I read this book, and I didn't mark in its pages (arghh, why?!?).  The cover is scribbled on, so I'm guessing a certain son of mine was probably around two years old. I reviewed the book again to find these gems:

"The Cross settles every doubt that could ever be aired about God's nature or character...When the enemy attacks God in your mind and starts demanding Divine explanations - when your heart starts wanting to throw out spiritual ultimatums, commanding God to prove Himself good or to 'get you out of the mess He's created' - look again to the Cross."


"Off script times, especially those that involve suffering, require endurance...God doesn't intend your trial to take you to the brink of sanity. He intends it to bring you into His presence, and thus His strength."


 

My theology suffered big-time when I faced months of hospitalization as a young woman. Anger, despair and discouragement settled in and I needed to reset my mind and heart. Surely the good God who saved me was still good in my pain?!


Books like this helped confront my wrong thinking with compassionate guidance and confronting truths to root out sin. Each chapter has reflection questions and Scripture to read.


"The crisis of faith that often accompanies suffering is the result of a collision between our will and God's will and our glory and his glory."


"Suffering slaughters all our subtle God replacements."


"Salvation isn't found in our ability to escape suffering but in the presence and grace of the One who meets us in it."

 

Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot


This book was published after Elisabeth Elliot's death, a transcript of six sessions she presented at a conference. Elliot was a no-nonsense Bible teacher and "Christian influencer" long before the phrase was popular - a missionary, a widow, and a complicated woman for sure.* But she didn't mince words as she pointed people to Christ, and she certainly understood suffering.


I didn't want to read this book, but its pages are marked up and I still quote it years later. We often need truth-tellers to reorient ourselves back to God, His character and His promises. This book does just that.


“We are not adrift in chaos. We're held in the everlasting arms."


"Whatever is in the cup that God is offering to me, whether it be pain and sorrow and suffering and grief along with the many more joys, I'm willing to take it because I trust Him."


*You can gain tons of insight into Elliot's life in the authorized biographies Becoming Elisabeth Elliot and Being Elisabeth Elliot - read reviews by clicking the links. I highly recommend both books!


 

A quadriplegic due to a diving accident at the age of 17, Joni is no stranger to pain. She has been a hero of mine since I first learned of her testimony and read one of her books during my own first lengthy illness at age 20. Her ministry is worldwide, and 50 years in a wheelchair hasn't been her only battle - she's overcome breast cancer (twice!) and suffered with horrible chronic pain in recent years. 


When it comes to suffering, she knows what she's talking about. I love how Joni's writing always points back to Scripture and the hope of Heaven. You could pick up any of her books and be encouraged.  As I looked at my journal notes from this book, I found "flowers" (aka weeds) from my then-four-year-old - how sweet is that?


"Will we allow the truth of God's promises to change the way we see life, with all its challenges and obstacles?  To ease our fears and calm our anxieties?  To give us hope and confidence when there doesn't seem to be any earthly reason for either?"


"God won't always change our circumstances, but if we ask Him, He will often step in to change our perspective! He will help us catch a glimpse of life through the eyes of faith, as He sees it. And that glimpse is worth everything."


 

This page includes Amazon affiliate links, which means that at no cost to you, if you purchase a book from the above links, I will receive a small stipend. The Oh His Goodness blog is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.  


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Maybe your faith is dangling by a thread. I get it. While living with an incurable genetic condition, I'm learning faith can be firm even while life is fragile. Join me as we journey to God's goodness on life's uncertain path...

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