How do we respond when our plans not only fall through, but take a sharp left turn? In Laurie Short’s book Finding Faith in the Dark, she tackles one of the toughest questions of the Christian faith: how to keep your eyes on God when tragedy strikes. Short walks readers through personal stories and well-known tales from the Bible to illustrate her points, encouraging readers to look past their current situations. Finding Faith in the Dark walks a fine line in dealing with such a heavy topic, but does an excellent job of balancing the pain in her stories with the hope found only in expanding one’s lens to see God’s bigger picture.
Throughout the book, Short shows her readers impossible circumstances in which she and her friends have found themselves wondering "why me" or "why now?" A broken engagement. The death of a newborn. A terminal diagnoses. It’s not what they planned, and certainly not what they asked God for. Then how, she asks, are we to move forward when God presents us with this pain?
In one example, she discusses a prayer group for a friend with cancer, in which the leader declared that her friend would only be healed if everyone in the group truly believed with all their hearts that God would heal her. Short says this left her feeling conflicted, particularly when the friend died shortly after.
We do not serve a genie-God, she explains. “When we love someone for what they give us,” she writes, “our devotion is reduced to passion for the things we get. The Giver becomes trumped by the allure of the gifts.” She says that, much like a mother weaning her infant, God denies things from us in order for us to grow. With this in mind, she takes a wider view of painful situations. She explains that “God is not finished with our story until we leave this earth.” Often, our plans and God’s do not line up, but when we accept and trust that his plans are better than ours, we can find peace in the waiting.
Short takes the time to discuss these painful situations, but her book is not depressing. With each situation, she follows it through to show that God wasn’t finished with the story yet. Parents struggling to conceive open their hearts to adoption at the exact moment that a beautiful baby girl is ready to find a home. A failed marriage leads to a surprising and fruitful new career in ministry.
Even in Short’s own life, she includes multiple stories of waiting on a husband, while God instead lead her in other directions. While waiting for “Mr. Right,” she was able to connect with an inner city girl who needed a mentor, a Haitian pastor who needed support, and other situations that grew her faith and helped to lean further into Christ. The “conclusion” of Short’s story is built up so well that it had me cheering for her; at 49 years old, after faithfully trusting in the Lord, she finally meets the man of her dreams and gets married.
But after I stopped pumping my fists and the grin faded, I began to feel slightly let down by this part of the story. I worried that her message would be almost tainted by her long-awaited marriage. That at its conclusion, the book could be interpreted that if one waits long enough and is faithful enough, you’ll get what you want. But that’s not how Short ended her story.
After the “honeymoon phase,” she was suddenly faced with the prospect of being a new 49-year-old stepmother to a 6-year-old boy. She was faced with other challenges as well, but because of the ways God had been shaping her life up until that point, she was quick to turn back to him for help. Her faith walk wasn’t over when she got what she’d prayed and waited for. Until her last day on earth, Short makes it clear that God is still working in her life.
Short’s book was compelling and encouraging, yet also challenging. Everyone who picks it up immediately thinks of painful moments in their own lives, and it is encouraging to read about how God has used others’ suffering to bring about an even greater joy. Her statement that God isn’t finished with us until our time on earth ends has stuck with me long after putting the book down, and it is something I hope to remember the next time my own faith is challenged.
You can pick up your own copy of Finding Faith in the Dark here on Laurie Short's blog.
Photo credit: Kristina Tripkovic, Unsplash