Tuesday, December 7, 2010

‘Stronger: Trading Brokenness for Unbreakable Strength’ by Jim Daly with James Lund – Book Review

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Often, the Lord will cause problems for us in order to make us stronger. That is the premise of the latest book by Jim Daly (with James Lund), ‘Stronger: Trading Brokenness for Unbreakable Strength.’

Here is the synopsis of this book:

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, doesn’t claim to know the “whys,” and he doesn’t even promise that you will either. But he’s had his own share of harrowing experiences, and through the pain, he’s accepted a transformational truth: God uses struggles to strengthen your faith.
With warmth and candor, Daly shares anecdotes from his childhood, adult life, and international travels for Focus on the Family. He tells engaging, real-life stories that, although seemingly tragic, demonstrate the constancy of God’s grace in the midst of disillusionment. Without describing a step-by-step program, he imparts practical biblical principles that demonstrate how we draw on the only source of enduring, powerful strength.
Stronger shows us that we can find strength in our weakness and that we can always continue to grow in character and maturity. Through Christ, our brokenness is redeemed. Through Christ, we become stronger.

Here is the biography of Mr. Daly:

Jim Daly assumed the presidency of Focus on the Family in 2005 after sixteen years with the ministry. In 2007, he wrote his autobiography, Finding Home, a deeply personal look at his journey from orphan to head of an international Christian organization. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Jean, and their two young sons.

Here is the book trailer for this powerful work:

In the Introduction, Mr. Daly explains what his book is about:

In the pages ahead, we will take a look at real strength – what it is, what it isn’t, and what God says about it. I think you’ll be encouraged. The Lord does not waste our frustrations and our tears. I believe that when we let Him, He uses our pain and failures and weaknesses for incredible good – for ourselves and for His glory. (p. 15)

Mr. Daly makes the point that U.S. citizens are really accustomed to their comfort. It translates into our spiritual lives as well:

For many believers, this is a typical story: They struggle in life. The struggle leads them to an answer to their pain – a personal relationship with Christ. They move to a level of joy, peace, and fulfillment they’ve never experienced before. But over time – when life continues to throw them one curve after another – the sense of joy and satisfaction diminishes. They began to doubt their faith, asking questions such as “Lord, where are You? Why are You allowing troubles to bombard me one after another? Surely this isn’t the wonderful plan You have for my life?” They continue to go through the motions of attending church, but their hearts are no longer in it. Or they give up their faith altogether. (p. 36)

Even the apostle Paul tried to avoid pain; he eventually realized it was a gift from God:

Like most of us when we first encounter a trial, Paul didn’t recognize that gift right away. As you or I would probably do, he asked for it to be removed – three times. Yet the Lord responded that His grace was all Paul needed. That was huge. In this trial or any other, God was enough. From this “single” thorn, Paul learned to renew and deepen his dependence on God. That’s also a good thing.
Paul also discovered that the Lord’s power is perfected in our weakness. This means that in some mysterious way, God’s power is even more potent when we are at our weakest. I think it has to do with us getting out of His way. We don’t try to manipulate the Lord’s strength once we feel His presence. We are so undone that we allow Him complete control, which naturally (yet often to our surprise) works to our greatest advantage.  (p. 45)

Paul learned to delight in his weaknesses:

….Paul was able to delight in his weakness and trials. Delight implies a deep joy, as well as peace and fulfillment. It’s not just a passing sense of pleasure, the kind of good feeling, that comes from chewing on a chocolate bar, but something far more meaningful and lasting. Isn’t that what we all want more than anything – to be fully immersed in the permanent state of meaningful delight that comes from relationships with Jesus?
This is what I mean when I say, “God turns everything on its head.” As strange as it sounds, Paul discovered this deep delight “in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties” (2 Cor. 12:10).
These are the gifts that made him strong (p. 45)

Mr. Daly makes the strong point that we need to make a choice between beaten, bitter, or broken. Bitterness is not a good choice:

Bitterness is easy to justify and difficult to recognize in ourselves. Maybe that’s because it grows and develops over time. It starts when something bad happens, usually something we believe is unjust and undeserved. We feel wounded and hurt. We search for a way to deal with the pain. Sometimes, that leads to a defeating attitude of self-pity.
If we rest in self-pity long enough, it transforms into anger. Our blood pressure rises. We continually replay the incident that caused our pain in the first place. We want to take out our rage on the offender. Often, though, our anger seeps into our relationships with everyone else.
Eventually, our anger descends into the most harmful state of all: bitterness. We feel continually distracted by our rage and desire for revenge. We may become discouraged and disillusioned. We find ourselves poisoning our relationships, always blaming others for our problems. We lose our energy, our joy, and our strength. Worst of all, the bitterness we feel blocks us from enjoying a close and vital relationship with the Lord. (p. 62)

Our hope for healing comes from Jesus:

I can’t emphasize enough that no matter how devastating your circumstances, Jesus understands where you’ve been and where you are. He is ready to help. If you can turn everything in your life over to Him, you will find the hope and peace you seek. I’m not saying it will happen in an instant. It may not happen today, tomorrow, or next week. For a time, you may not sense His presence or any change at all. Yet He is there, nudging you toward the choice that makes the difference. (p. 70)

Mr. Daly includes examples from real life. I loved the one that told the story of Hiroo Onoda, who, as a Japanese soldier in World War II (which officially ended in 1945), did not surrender until 1974!:

Only after Taniguchi [his former commanding officer] read an official order declaring “individuals under the command of the Special Squadron to cease military activities and operations immediately” did Onoda realize he’d been fighting an unnecessary war for almost thirty years.
Onoda later wrote, “Suddenly everything went black…I felt like a fool for having been so tense and cautious on the way here. Worse than that, what had I been doing for all these years?”
In those life-transforming moments, Hiroo Onoda realized the truth and that he’d wasted years pressing a battle that had already ended.  Yet aren’t we all a lot like Second Lieutenant Onoda sometimes? We cling to our pride and our instincts and distance ourselves from the truth. We fight a lonely war against God’s desires and purposes for our lives, and in the process, we miss out on the joy and peace that He offers. Our actions, whether they involve lying, stealing, greed, adultery, or any manner of sin, show that we’re in open rebellion. Some of us, meanwhile, try to hide our resistance. We may talk the lingo and go to church every Sunday, but inside we’re still battling to hang on to what we feel are “our” lives.
Our war is hard, but we fight on, week after week, year after year. The alternative – unconditional surrender to the Lord – is too frightening to contemplate. Surrender, after all, might change everything. (p. 78)

Mr. Daly goes on to detail how we gain strength through perseverance, character, and hope. He closes out the book this way:

Wherever you are in your faith and in the struggles of life, I urge you to call out daily to our heavenly Father. I can guarantee that He will hear your words. I can also say with complete confidence that he can turn your tears of sorrow into tears of anticipation.
No matter what you face today, the Lord understands what you’re going through. He may not remove the pain, but He knows how to use it for His good purposes. He is standing by to walk through it with you.
He is always ready to offer you His strength and love. (p. 228)

This reminds me of how, when you break a bone, it is always stronger after it heals.

I really loved this book! I love Mr. Daly’s wonderful attitude; he has made some great choices in life. The Lord has helped him overcome a difficult childhood, and has brought him a long way in this life. I appreciate how Mr. Daly shares personal examples, and many examples of other people who made good choices. This book is perfect for all readers, and anyone will be able to glean important information on how to make good and God-honoring choices.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook Publishers and provided by The B and B Media Group for review purposes. 

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