The “Why?” question is a biggie.
We all probably know of someone or some situation that challenges what we believe about God: the godly couple who remains barren after years of prayer and faithfulness, the child who dies of a mysterious illness, the young man with all the spiritual gifts in the world who falls into sin and ruins his bright future.
When we think about what happened or to whom it happened we’re tempted to ask God “Why?” However, there is usually a lot of tone in our “why?” question- it is not the innocent “why?” of a three-year-old trying to gain more information, it is an accusatory, “God, what is wrong with You?! Why did you let this happen?!” type of question.
Jim Andrews has written Polishing God’s Monuments: Pillars of Hope for Punishing Times to help us wrestle with this biggie. However, the book he has written is not a treatise coming down from the ivory tower of scholarship; it is the insight and wisdom of a godly pastor who has lived inside of this question- in that world that challenges what we know of God- for the better part of two decades. He has written not just to raise the question, but to help those who wake up each morning and will battle all day with this question.
This book is the work of a pastor’s heart- it is practical, rich, powerful, and filled with care and compassion. It doesn’t just bludgeon the “why?” crowd with theological answers, but it unpacks the truth of God with heart and wisdom and honesty (even pastors struggle with the way God’s plans work out? Imagine that!).
I came across this book as I was looking for something to give to my mother to encourage her. As many of you know, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last spring. She had a major surgery in August, and now, as she recovers from the surgery, she wrestles with the possible (and probability) of the cancer returning.
I had read some good reviews of this book, so I picked up a copy to give to her. However, I figured I should read through it first, since I hadn’t read anything else by the author. Several nights during the week I read this book, I was up way later than I should have been simply because I could not put the book down. It challenged me, captivated me, and really helped me work through some things I was personally wrestling with. I was delighted to give the book to my mom the next week, and she continues to tell me how much she is enjoying it and how it is ministering to her.
Polishing God’s Monuments is really two books in one. It is a pastoral and theological work explaining how, as believers, we endure suffering and trust God, and it is also the story of a family who walked through suffering like most of us will never face (or would never have imagined possible). Between each chapter that explores and offers counsel on how to deal with suffering, Pastor Andrews has inserted letters (which were originally written to his church) sharing the updates on his daughter and son-in-law’s battle with debilitating illness that robbed them of the opportunity, not only to serve God as foreign missionaries, but to have any kind of “normal” life. It is in these letters that you see the overwhelming burden this trial put upon the entire Andrews family, and you, as a reader, realize that the advice just offered in the previous chapter has been battle tested and proven faithful.
And this is why I believe this book is so powerful. It is not simply theorizing about how we might be able to endure suffering; it is the testimony and wisdom of a man who has been there and continues to walk in it, sharing with his fellow pilgrims that truth and wonder of learning to truly take God by the hand and venture on amidst (and in spite of) the often overwhelming “Why?” questions of life.
Pick up a copy of this book, read it, and pass it on. It truly is a blessing.