Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges


Jerry Bridges walks the reader through the three bases for trusting God:  His sovereignty (6 chapters), His wisdom (1 chapter), and His love (2 chapters).  There are also brief discussions about contentment with self, growth in adversity, and the importance of thanksgiving in hardship.  The focus here is primarily on the sovereignty of God, which makes sense since the book was essentially a result of Bridges' own personal bible study on that subject.  His discussion of God's sovereignty is beyond thorough, while the sections on God's wisdom and God's love feel a bit like an afterthought.  The closing chapters feel a bit tacked on as well.

I think Bridges would have been better served to limit his book to the subject of God's sovereignty.  That is clearly the subject he spend the most time researching, and the area where he seems to have struggled most with trusting God.  However, for those of us who struggle more with trusting the love or wisdom of God, this extended treatment of God's sovereignty--over circumstances, people, nations, and nature--does not really address our issues.  And to those of us who believe that God is loving, wise, and sovereign, but who simply (and sinfully) do not want to endure His plans for us (they look so hard!), Bridges seems to have nothing to say.

As the subtitle suggests, the focus here is on trust in tribulation.  Bridges is speaking to those who are undergoing painful circumstances, those who need to be reminded to trust God despite the horrible situation in which they find themselves.  However, the need to trust God also extends to those times that cannot accurately be described as 'tribulation', but which nonetheless call into question our faith in God--most notably those times when we are waiting on the Lord to reveal His future plans for our lives.  After all, uncertainty, like suffering, can tempt us to doubt God.

So while Bridges is full of encouragement for those struggling to trust God in the face of cancer or unemployment or grief, he does not offer much guidance to those seeking to trust God as they await the outcome of a job application or an offer on a house. The flip side of trust is often worry, and worry runs rampant where hardship has not yet struck.  A mother grieving the loss of her child needs to trust God, but so too does the pregnant mother of a thus-far healthy baby, or the young single woman who hopes to be married one day with kids of her own, but who is not yet actively suffering in her singleness.  As someone whose life has been mercifully free of large-scale hardship, I would have appreciated the incorporation of less catastrophic opportunities for trust.

All of which concerns would, I think, have been alleviated by confining the scope of the book to God's sovereignty.  Indeed, Bridges later authored a book entitled Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy, which I suspect was the book he intended to write in the first place.

Bridges knows his stuff, and he gently but firmly points the reader to God's Word as the ultimate source of information about Him.  Bridges' tone is appropriately humble--he is well aware that others have suffered far more than he has--but his confidence rests not on his own experience as the basis for his conclusions, but on the Bible.  (Not that he lacks experience in suffering--his wife died of cancer while he was writing this very book.)

All in all, it's a solid book, particularly for those looking for a thorough meditation on the sovereignty of God over all circumstances.  The audiobook version is rather lackluster, so you're probably better off with a print copy.

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