Popular books are easy to read, but they do not prepare readers for trusting God through tough trials.
Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with an insight into best-selling books.
Now, I don’t pretend to be a great writer or a great commentator on books, but I like to think my opinion counts for something. And I guess it does because, recently, World Magazine asked me to comment on a list of the top 100-selling best books for 2016. As I looked over the titles, I noticed, that for the most part, they had to do with developing your self-image, improving your finances; there were lots of adult coloring books, light, easy-reading devotional books, books by prosperity-preachers, and a few that I would even question theologically. And as I studied that list further, I saw there were virtually no books helping the reader to cling to God through tough trials. There were no books dealing with hardship and suffering. Those books were missing (with the exception of Ann Vos Kamp’s book, “Broken”, and one by Francis Chan). Yes, there was Rick Warren’s perennial bestseller, “The Purpose Driven Life," but that was about as deep as it got. I had to just sit back and shake my head. There was nothing in the top 100 best-selling Christian books of 2016 that really had anything to do with helping the reader trust God through tough trials.
And that is so sad, because the Christian walk is supposed to be, for the most part, a journey down the long, difficult, blood-stained path to Calvary. It is a daily dying-to-self, a daily letting go of personal preferences and pleasures. It is a daily picking up your cross and following Jesus, a losing of your life for his sake in order to find your life. But according to this bestseller list for last year, few Christians are adequately prepared to embark down the road of hardship with confidence in Christ and a contented heart.
For example, I would have loved to see Philip Ryken’s book, “When Trouble Comes” (that was a great book to make that list). It was released by Crossway last year, and it’s a great little book on trusting God through trials. Also, Randy Alcorn’s book “If God Is Good” or maybe Timothy Keller’s book “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” I mean, these are just a few great contemporary books that should be a ‘must read’ for followers of Jesus. Self-help books and coloring books and prosperity-themed ones do not prepare the reader to understand how and why God wired this life to be so difficult! Look, I like books that make us stronger to endure, books that put courage in our hearts, books that enable us to pass through sorrow victoriously. As JR Miller says, “That is the way Christ comforts. He does not merely sit down beside troubled people to enter into their experience. No, He sympathizes with us but it is sympathy that makes us stronger to endure."
Friend, I don’t know your reading habits, but I pray that the top title on your personal bestseller list is first the Bible. Because nothing will prepare you better for hard times than a thorough study of suffering and the goodness of God. Whether it’s First Peter, or the book of James, or II Corinthians, or Romans chapters 5 through 9, all these books have references on how to welcome trials as friends, how to be content in hardship, and how to follow Christ down the long, difficult path. And I’ve put together a great pamphlet on these Scriptures and many more; a pamphlet that will prepare you to embrace God when the storms of adversity hit hard. It’s called “Making Sense of Suffering,” and it’s yours free for the asking by going to joniandfriends.org/radio. Again, that’s my radio page at joniandfriends.org.
© Joni and Friends
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