Jan Winebrenner
JanWinebrenner.com

Books

The Grace of Catastrophe
The Grace of Catastrophe

Here's an excerpt...

Your company announces it is downsizing. Your job is threatened, and you wonder, God, who’s in control here?

A technician from the women’s health clinic calls to report a suspicious something on your mammogram. Stunned, you ask, Lord, do you love me?

Monday morning, already near a hundred degrees and your car breaks down ten blocks from the babysitter’s. Kids are crying in the back seat and your boss is fuming at the office. You’re sure the pastor who spoke yesterday about God’s goodness never read your life script.

It just keeps coming, it seems—the big and the little crises--roll after roll of catastrophe, intent on crushing your dreams, intent on making your life miserable.


There it is in a nutshell–the challenge that every Christian faces every moment of every day: How to live out what we believe about God, what the Bible teaches us is true of Him, when the circumstances of our lives seem to contradict it all?


If God is as good as He says He is, and as loving, and as powerful, and as all-knowing, then what does it say about Him that His kids’ lives have to be so chaotic and painful?

If you’re normal, thinking, and even minimally engaged in life, questions like these often haunt you. You can’t help it: You wonder if God is really all that you’ve been told to believe.

You wonder if God is all He claims to be.

And then, you wonder if it’s okay to wonder.

Charles Colson wrote, “Life isn’t like a book. Life isn’t logical or sensible or orderly. Life is a mess most of the time. And theology must be lived out in the midst of that mess.”1

There it is in a nutshell--the challenge that every Christian faces every moment of every day: How to live out what we believe about God, what the Bible teaches us is true of Him, when the circumstances of our lives seem to contradict it all?

How do we live out our theology when life is a mess? And it is, much of the time, isn’t it?

Those are the times Eugene Peterson had in mind when he wrote about the “grace of catastrophe”. 2 It sounds like an oxymoron, but when we learn to trust what God tells us about Himself, we discover that our catastrophes, both large and small, can be gifts. We learn lessons of character, lessons of eternal value, in the difficult times that we just don’t get when things are smooth and pleasant.

We learn that God wants to make Himself known to us in ways we never imagined, nor knew we could hope for. And we learn, with Paul, that God gives “glory-strength…that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy.” 3

That’s what makes our messes a gift: They cause us to examine what we say we believe about God; they give us opportunity to experience His tender care in intimate, unexpected ways. They deliver joy in unlikely containers.

And in the end, isn’t that a gift beyond all calculating?

Doesn’t that alone make our catastrophes a grace?


1Charles Colson, Loving God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 218
2Eugene Peterson, Living The Message (New York: HarperCollings, 1996), 181
3Colossians 1:11-12, The Message

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