Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Shattered Dreams, by Dr Larry Crabb

It took me a long time to read "Shattered Dreams" by Dr Larry Crabb.

Not because it is boring or difficult to read. But because it is worthy of being read slowly, with time for reflection. The eight-week workbook in the back of the book can aid this process. The workbook actually tries to cover about three chapters in each "week" and this is a LOT of material.

"Shattered Dreams" deals with the purpose of heartache and suffering. Dr. Crabb uses the story of Naomi (the book of Ruth) to illustrate his points. I thought it seemed a little forced or artificial at times, but still vaguely plausible. I think he actually made his points quite well without the need to attach everything to Naomi.

Crabb's main point is that pain and suffering are used by God to show us how to truly encounter Him rather than try to escape pain with lesser blessings like wealth and prosperity. He shows that people who have a good life with few difficulties rarely search for God... why would they?

Crabb also shows how the church in America is straying into a type of religion that can not help people encounter God.

"In our day of feel-good Christianity, we have come up with a wrong view of our spiritual journey. We think of suffering as something abnormal, as evidence that we lack faith. We work so hard to escape suffering that we fail to realize what good things might be happening in us as we suffer. But that's wrong. That's more Buddhist than Christian."
"For Buddha, the answer to suffering is to deaden desire, to extinguish passion and to achieve the complete isolation of union with nothingness. ... For Jesus, the answer to suffering is to suffer instensely,... to walk through that pain through prayer, the Word, spiritual disciplines, and community - toward the center of your soul where above all else you desire God."

I have reacted this way myself... when hurt by people, I react by isolating myself and spending a lot of energy deadening the desire for friends. I say to myself, "If I don't want friends so badly, I can't be disappointed by them."

"The good news of the gospel is not that God will provide a way to make life easier. The good news of the gospel, for this life, is that He will make our lives better. We will be empowered to draw clsoe to God and to love others well and to do both for one central purpose, to glorify God, to make Him look good to any who watch us live."

Why do we feel so alone when we are hurting?

"When God seems most absent from us, He is doing His most important work in us."

"It isn't always good to be blessed with the good things of life. Bad times provide an opportunity to know God that blessings can never provide."

"The journey to God will always, at some point, take us through darkness where life makes no sense. Life isn't easy; it's hard, sometimes very hard."

"The felt absence of God is a gift to gratefully receive. During those seasons of darkness He is doing His deepest work in us."

"Feeling good is not the goal. When we feel bad, we have the opportunity to do
battle against the enemy within that keeps us from entering the Presence of God
with no greater passion than to glorify Him."

How does pain help us?

"The pain created by trouble carries us into the depths of our being where everything revolves around us, where there's no love for anyone else, where we feel only pity for ourselves and sullen disappointment in others. It's a place where we actually believe God has failed us, that He has given us a raw deal. We think we have an airtight case against Him that requrires true justice to be our advocate. The pain of shattered dreams helps us admit what we really think, that our demand for a better friend than Jesus (or for Him to be a better friend) is legitimate."

"... Our deepest desire is for a kind of life only mercy makes possible, a life only grace provides. It is for life from God, life with God, life for God. And we have it. We've had it since the day we trusted Christ to forgive our sins. But it took shattered dreams to put us more deeply in touch with what we already have. The pain carried us into depths of our heart that are still ugly, but the Spirit took us deeper, into the very core of our being, where Christ lives, where we are alive."

"We will encounter Christ as our best friend when shattered dreams help us become aware of...
...the strength of our desire to know Him.
...how unworthy we are to receive even the smallest expression of kindness from Him.
...the intensity of His longing to draw us into satisfying, soul-thrilling intimacy with Him and His Father (which, in His mind, is the greatest blessing He can give and worth whatever it takes for Him to give it and for us to receive it).
...the unparalleled value of intimacy with Him."

Today's church has turned away from the fact that God is Holy. Holy cannot stand sin. Holy has only perfection as its measure, and we can never ever achieve perfect.

"Who is God?
He is... the Holy God of Passionate Wrath.

But we've weakened this view of Him by introducing grace too soon.

God has now become..

a Fatherly God of Strict Standards.

But we've dismissed His standards in our misguided campaign against legalism.

So we've reduced God further to...

a Helpful God of Useful Principles.

And now we spend our religious energy seeking to know the principles a helpful God provides for handling our lives, principels that will make our lives better.
The result is that we never encounter God."

"Who are we?
We are... Arrogant people who deserve eternal mistery, whose awareness of that arrogance is weakened by our talking too soon and too much about our longings, until we become merely...
Scoldably selfish people who really ought to do better, a view of ourselves we then dismiss as insensitve to our deep hurt, so we come to see ourselves as...
understandable strugglers who deserve to be understood and helped."
"Shattered Dreams" is well worth reading by anyone who is in pain. There are no bandaids or bumperstickers here. Not even therapy to help you help yourself feel better. Instead, you'll find that your pain can be productive and that you should not simply try to escape the pain... work with the pain instead, and see how God wants to use the pain to do something good inside of you.

This book was provided for review by Multnomah.

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