Ed Underwood served others for many years as a pastor to hurting people, helping them through their darkest hours. Little did this man of God realize how harshly his own faith would be tested.
As a man of faith, Underwood shares his story of suffering and how he gave up on God one night after fighting the effects of chronic leukemia. With his loving wife by his side, who told him he needed to be quiet in his pleadings that particular evening because of the presence of their young grandchildren in the house, Underwood told her flatly not to worry. He wasn't praying any longer, for surely God in all His mighty sovereignty (if He indeed loved him) could stop this infernal pain. So why didn't God do so?
So begins Underwood's spiritual journey of despair, which jump-started at one intolerable point of physical suffering. Even though he continues to fight against this deadly, debilitating and frequently disfiguring disease, Underwood has passed from doubt to trust again. His story, written from the real trenches of the likes of Job's suffering, will challenge, encourage and light the way for countless other Christians who ask their own set of "whys" amidst tragedy.
Using the biblical account of Mary and Martha awaiting the return of Jesus when their brother Lazarus was dying, Underwood closely examines the emotional components of this intimate relationship and how Jesus used His friend's death to glorify God and draw Mary and Martha closer to Him. He rightly expounds upon how these sisters sent a report to Jesus of Lazarus's deteriorating condition when they should have offered direct, faith-driven, bold requests.
So should we. Underwood offers readers a definitive challenge to come boldly to Christ in prayer, making requests and with expectation that He will answer. Lest believers misunderstand, Underwood tells fellow Christ followers never to presume to know God's will; the Bible explicitly tells believers to make their requests known to God. The result is always in God's hands, but Underwood believes it was the fervent prayer of one man who spared his own life as it hung in the balance.
While Underwood's story is compelling, it is his second section, titled "The Dark Road to Glory," that readers will likely find even more satisfying as he takes specific issues of suffering and addresses them chapter by chapter. Evangelicals will better relate to those individuals along their own path who suffer deeply and will be given tools to equip them to speak sensitively and with loving grace rather than spouting unhelpful Christianese that often wounds. Candidly, Underwood shares his own hard-earned wisdom on dealing with pain, misery, God's silence, suicidal thoughts and the heart's spiritual panting for God's comforting presence. Christians will be well-served to read Underwood's account, slowly and prayerfully, and then be prepared to meet their own seasons of suffering with abiding trust in God.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011
When God Breaks Your Heart: Choosing Hope in the Midst of Faith-Shattering Circumstances