Monday, October 16, 2017

I Am Strong: Finding God's Peace and Strength in Life's Darkest Moments

By John S. Dickerson

A year ago a friend placed this book in my hands. We had just spent an hour together sharing our journeys through MS. She's been on this path longer than I, so I understood the wisdom of her words when she gave my hands a squeeze and encouraged me to read the book. I gladly took it knowing she was sharing encouragement that would travel with me.

This book has gone with me on airplanes where chapters covered the miles, the MRT back and forth to work where I absorbed a few pages, and in the safety of my own home where I've shed a few tears letting the truth and encouragement sink in. I've spilled my coffee on this book–not just once, but twice. My copy is worn around the edges, stained, wrinkled and bent. It's ok, because that's how my life is too. It sometimes feels battered and beaten and this is just the place where this book meets you. 

I remember sitting in the pew when I was young, my pastor greeting the congregation and preaching a sermon. Pastor Mark baptized me. I visited his wife, Anne, at their home after he passed away. I treasured the handful of times I spent visiting and learning from an older woman. Mark and Anne Dickerson were the author's grandparents. His father was my pastor though high school, sending me off to college and participating in my wedding. He greets me with a warm smile every time I return home. My most recent memories of Pastor Dan are sitting in the hospital waiting room as my dad went in for heart surgery. He was there for my parents and our family. Although I don't know the author, I was long gone by the time he came around, I know his family. I've watched them go through very difficult times and they've been there with our family as we've gone through difficulties. When I read the first few pages of the book, I knew that this wasn't just another pastor writing about how to handle difficult times in life. This book was based on experiencing those hard times. John has gone through extremely difficult circumstances and because of that, I knew I could trust his words. They were tried and true. The coffee had been spilled on them and they didn't fade away. 

We are going to face difficult times, there's no doubt about that. I think of the last time I read a few chapters. I was laying on the couch resting. The day before I had awakened with a sharp pain in my side. It didn't take me long to figure out that it was a kidney stone. The pain was so intense, I could think of little else. I knew I needed medical help. My mind only thought: pain, don't throw-up, taxi... Laying on the stretcher with a morphine drip in my arm, I could only think pain, pain, pain. There was no time to think, What passage should I read to encourage me right now? or Why is God doing this? or Where is God? We have to have those questions sorted before the traumas in life happen. During the trauma we go into automatic mode where what is tucked deep in our hearts is what's going to come out during the situation. The truths laid out in "I Am Strong" are the gentle reminders of the truths our lives need to be based on.

I'm honestly tired of reading Christian books or articles that are paragraphs of fluff with a sentence of purpose to wrap it all up. I like meat. I like the flat-out here is what the Bible says. John's stories and examples are the introduction to the solid, genuine Biblical teaching that I need. Every word is written with grace yet honest in truth. 

If you are in the midst of those difficult moments, or have walked through them but are still suffering the pain, I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it.

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