Here is a book written for anyone who has, is, or will experience suffering. It is a true story written by Jim Andrews, pastor of Lake Bible Church. Andrews taught for a number of years at Western Bible College in Denver, Colorado and later at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He and his wife Olsie have been married for 50 years and have two married daughters. The book is a story of their family. It is an unbelievable story of their daughter Juli and her husband Paul ” who face it all (and then some) as a baffling, mind-boggling illness hijacks their youth and shatters their dreams. It blends straightforward theology with the account of this young couple’s afflictions.”
This is a story of how this young couple, along with Jim and Olsie, have traveled through some of the stormiest seas and fieriest trials imaginable. Rather than being driven away from God, they have experienced being drawn closer to Him, which has given them incredible strength to face each day. Can you imagine having to live in a home where due to illness you could not take a bath, paint a room, talk on the telephone, or see your mother? Can you imagine when you did see your dad, you had violent reactions due to the chemicals in his clothing? Can you imagine being an accomplished musician and not able to use your talents and gifts? The only thing that keeps them from totally lining up with Job is that they are still alive.
They have had to struggle with questions such as, “If God is all powerful and all wise, why isn’t He stopping this trouble?” Andrews writes, “Moments occur when our theology blushes or bristles at the realities of our experience. We don’t know how to reconcile the two.” But he continues, “The ways and works of God never deviate from his revealed character and promises. Never.”
“Monuments are a testimony of what God will do in the present, regardless of the difficult things that are happening… A monumental faith,” writes Andrews, “is able to look forward with confidence because it looks backward to the past.” What God has done in the past serves as a monument of what he will do in the future. “Monumental faith is a faith trained to look away from the confusion of the moment to find security and confidence in the past evidences of God’s character and faithfulness.”
Juli was able to write to her parents on one occasion, “Somehow just knowing Satan’s strategy strengthened my resolve to fight the good fight, but I still needed to know that God cared about what I was going through…He cares for you! At this point the Holy Spirit turned back on my spiritual light and gave me the extra measure of grace that has lasted me until now.” On another occasion she wrote to her mother,” Paul told me a verse you were hanging onto was, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ It is! But we also need to remember that, ‘My power is made manifest in weakness.’ It takes little perception to conclude that God wants our whole family, between my illness, Dad’s surgery, and your depression, to be in a perpetual state of weakness.” Juli also draws great comfort and hope from the Old Testament Hannah and her family’s experience.
All through the book you will find personal counsel from Andrews that will challenge you and remind you of the great blessings God has in store even for those who suffer. For example, “In the gap between God’s promise and God’s performance, always expect unforeseen difficulties and disappointments that will challenge your faith to the bone.” Or another, “As long as faith has that well-trained reflex that takes all its troubles and doubts back to the throne of grace, we will be safe.”
In order to live in God’s now, we need those monuments of faith and promise to keep us going. To suffer without those monuments of faith is sad and tragic. Andrews closes the book with the story of Admiral James Stockdale, the highest ranking American POW during the Vietnam War. It is quite a story in itself but Andrews uses Stockdale as a reminder and challenge to remember that along with building monuments of faith we also need to never lose faith in the end of the story. Whether God fixes our sufferings now or not, we know that down the road, one day, He will. Therefore, Andrews encourages us to never lose hope under the worst circumstances and never lose faith and hope in the end of the story.
As you read this book, be prepared not to put it down. It is heart and mind gripping. What a book to read personally or give to a friend experiencing suffering or hard times. Andrews writes in conclusion that he has shared this book, along with the flesh-and-blood example of the ongoing pain and testing in his family, with the hope that it will strengthen and inspire you. And I say, “Well it will.”