When God Interrupts, by M. Craig Barnes (InterVarsity Press, 1996)
“Finding new life through unwanted change.” The book’s subtitle promises hope, and the notion of God interrupting isn’t meant as blaming Him for the pain we experience. I think the idea is that God interrupts the pain and disappointment.
The introduction begins this way: “We just keep losing things: wives, husbands, friends, health, the dreams and security of the past.” (p. 9) When God Interrupts calls these losses abandonment, and challenges readers to accept them as “the opportunity to discover a new life.” (p. 10)
The premise is that if we’ll allow it, Jesus will fill the empty places and our end, while not what we had hoped or planned, will be richer. The author calls these choices conversion – the same word we use for our initial turning to Christ.
When God Interrupts draws examples from the Bible and from the author’s experiences as a pastor counselling his people. It looks at different forms of abandonment: death, disappointment, infertility, discovering our head-based religion isn’t enough, business failure, illness, divorce/family rejection, and even the sense of being abandoned by God.
In each case the message is to let go of our expectations, hopes, dreams… our perceived rights. And to ask God what He wants to do with the pieces.
This is one of those books filled with quotable lines. Here are a few of my favourites:
Nothing makes it harder to see God than our expectations of him. (p. 30)
The challenge to people of faith is to learn how to follow. Central to that task is giving up the expectation of knowing where we are going. (p. 53)
Walk as one who walks with a Saviour. (p. 90)
I’m not reviewing a lot of non-fiction books anymore, but this one bears sharing. It’s an encouraging book filled with examples of ordinary people who have chosen to grow closer to God when life falls apart. It’s one of those “keeper” books to read again throughout one’s life. A book to buy for a friend.
M. Craig Barnes is a pastor and author and was appointed President of Princeton Theological Seminary in 2013. You can find his “Faith Matters” columns at The Christian Century.
[Review copy from my personal library.]