You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times
(©2013 Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
With over 70 books to his name, Max Lucado is by far one of the most prolific Christian writers of our time. With titles for children and adults alike, his books have helped many people to understand God better and to face life’s challenges with hope. Reading a book by Lucado is like receiving a warm hug along with a helping of encouragement, served up Southern-style. When I saw he had recently written a book on the topic of suffering in You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times, I was eager to read it and discover the reassurance that awaited me within its pages.
As a pastor for over thirty years, Lucado has heard many first-hand stories of suffering. Some of these stories are shared in his book, and while the details differ, Lucado has found that his response to each one can be summarized by these phrases: “You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help, you’ll get through this.” His basis for this universal prescription for suffering is the biblical story of Joseph and the parallels he draws between Joseph’s story and the circumstances of our modern lives.
While centuries separate us from the unlikely Hebrew-turned-Egyptian-official, Lucado sets out to prove that as with Joseph, God is right with us in the midst of difficulties, whether we see it or not. He warns of our tendency to self-destruct in the midst of tragedy, and encourages us to follow Joseph’s example by resisting temptation and not succumbing to pride, revenge, or despair. If we maintain the perspective that God is at work on a bigger plan, and remember His fundamental nature of goodness, we can re-frame our circumstances as God preparing us for what He wants to do through our lives. And if we wait patiently for the long-term, we will see God come through, whether in this life or the next.
My favorite part of the book is Lucado’s treatment of the story of Joseph. Joseph’s story is one of my favorite and most-read Old Testament stories, but Lucado helped me see it in a new way. For example, he points out how as a recently purchased slave, Joseph would have traveled by foot, tied up, for weeks-on-end to cover the 750 miles leading to the land of Egypt. Through Lucado’s skillful storytelling, we can almost feel the hot sand in our faces, the dampness of Pharaoh’s dungeon, and the pinches of Joseph’s flesh from prospective slave buyers. Lucado’s retelling in wonderfully descriptive language takes us deeper into Joseph’s experience than we would glean on our own.
I was disappointed, however, that Lucado stopped short of sharing his own personal struggles. Yes, he tells stories of his own loved ones’ suffering that are compelling. However, as a reader I was left to wonder – has he himself ever suffered to the point of doubting God’s goodness? Has he ever felt, like Joseph must have in the Egyptian prison, that God has forgotten him? Has he been mocked by having his life’s direction seemingly turn 180 degrees away from the dreams God has put in his heart? I imagine that he has, and having shared these inner struggles would have helped Lucado’s book have more weight with readers, rather than seeming like an observer’s guide to suffering.
Suffering is a deeply personal and complex journey that cannot be reduced to a formula. Trials that lasts days versus months or years, or that involve loss of property versus loss of health or loved ones, are vastly different and require a different response. In my experience, suffering people’s hearts can become so crushed by pain that they need to read first-hand survivor stories from those who have suffered as much if not more than they have. They need to hear from others who have personally emerged from suffering triumphantly or having made peace with their circumstances. In this sense, I felt Lucado’s book fell short of the mark.
If you are in a season of suffering, Lucado’s book will encourage you, though like me you may find you have to dig to extract the best nuggets of encouragement. You will undoubtedly finish the book with a greater appreciation for the story of Joseph, which alone is worth the read. However, don’t make this the only book you read on suffering, as there are others out there that treat the topic more thoroughly. And while this is not the best Max Lucado book I have personally read, don’t miss out on his many other great books (I recommend Fearless and Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot).