Here’s the little blurb I wrote after reading Josh Ross’s excellent new book called Scarred Faith:
“If faith always works the way it should for you, if your prayers are always answered, if you’re always living in the delight of a spiritual summer, this book may just puzzle you. But if you have battled doubt, if you have agonized over God’s apparent silence, if you’ve felt gusts of winter chilling your spiritual journey—well, this is your book. Ross writes with raw honesty about life’s disappointments but also with bold hope about God’s future. I look forward to putting it in the hands of many people who are struggling to believe among life’s disappointments.”
Here are a few questions for Josh as the book is released:
Josh, because of my own life experiences with pain and grief, I identify with images and metaphors such as limping through life, wrestling with God, and living with scars. How did you settle on “scars” as the driving image of your book?
This book began as a commitment to journal for forty days because I needed healing. I had hit a wall in my faith journey a few years ago. I wasn’t at the point I was thinking about giving up on God, but I was definitely considering going through life (and ministry) with low expectations of what God can do in the here and now. At least if I lived with low expectations, I could save myself from ever feeling like God let me down.
As I began to write, it became clear that I was both wounded and scarred. A scar is a healed wound, and I had a number of them. But I also had open wounds that weren’t even close to becoming scars yet. The original title of the book was Scarred with God, because I was given assurance as I began writing that God dips into our pain to walk along with us, and at the time, I didn’t so much need a God who could deliver me from the pit, but a God who would get down in the pit with me.
You tap into something Philip Yancey, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Anne Lamott have taught many of us, which is suffering can be stewarded. How has this played itself out in your life?
You had this line in your book Megan’s Secrets about grief being a gift, because it’s part of the healing process. Having witnessed you grieve and hang onto faith through your own pain taught me that suffering can be redeemed. Grief is never forgotten, but it can be embedded in the story of the resurrection.
Ian Morgan Cron was gracious to write the foreword, and it’s probably the best part of the book. He wrote this, “Joshua compassionately but firmly challenges us to move beyond asking “Why am I suffering?” and live into the question “What does my pain make possible?” I like that. A lot.
When Jenny got sick, we had just made a decision to relocate into the heart of Memphis. After she died, many people thought we would back out of our decision to move into a blighted community because of grief. However, in a way that’s hard to explain, Jenny’s death gave us even more energy to engage Memphis with intentionality. It still does. One day, Jenny might just be dancing in the redeemed streets of Memphis with many of the children who have lost their lives here because of malnutrition and abuse. I want to partner with God to usher in that day.
You conclude your book with three chapters that challenge the local church to embrace scarred-stories as if our lives depended on it. Why did you feel compelled to end your book this way?
I feel like the church hasn’t followed the life of Jesus when it comes to giving voice to brokenness and pain. At times, we’ve told people to keep quiet about their grief and suffering instead of learning to tell a more redeeming story of how Jesus can enter into grief and suffering. Maybe it’s the pastor in me, but I felt like I wanted to conclude this book with a charge to the church to embrace scarred-stories, to celebrate the beauty of confession, and to live as if we really believe the resurrection is the best news for the world.
As your mentor, is it true that I will receive 15% of the proceeds of this book?
Remember, I’m Josh Ross; not Max Lucado. I’ll be glad to buy tableside guacamole next time we’re at a Mexican food restaurant. Deal?
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My life has been enriched by living in the book of Revelation this year. I’ve read through it quickly and slowly; I’ve studied and dreamed; I’ve prayed inch by inch.
And I’ve been blessed by conversation partners, including these:
Richard Hays, etc., Revelation and the Politics of Apocalyptic Interpretation
Bruce Longnecker, The Lost Letters of Pergamum
Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination
Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation
N. T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone)
Also, I can’t wait to get ahold of my former professor Rick Oster’s Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible: A Commentary on Revelation 1-3
Please feel free to add in the comments section other books which have been helpful to you in studying Revelation.
Last Sunday I preached in Tulsa. By definition, it was spring. The vernal equinox had just passed. As certain as the whole solar system, it was (and is) spring.
However, it didn’t feel like spring. It was cold, dark, snowing, and breezy with a wind that cut to the raw bone.
It’s always disorienting when it is spring by definition but yet still feels like winter.
For believers, it is spring: Christ is risen! Yet for many of us, it still feels like winter. We identify with those powerful words Paul uses to describe our experience: groaning, longing, waiting, hoping. Those are not words of despair but of deep trust. They proclaim: “I believe spring has started even though it feels wintery.”
Even though it was cold, dark, and wet, I could see small signs of spring starting to peek out. And this I knew:Before long, the redbuds will brighten the earth, the irises and petunias will burst forth in stunning color.
And for us—Easter believers!—we eagerly await the day when dark losses and despairing griefs blossom into joy, joy, inexpressible joy.
To learn more about Dave Clayton and the Ethos Church, check out this site. Dave will be speaking on Wednesday night on Revelation 5.
Chris Doran talks about the track on “Faith and Sustainability” that he’ll be leading at the 2013 Pepperdine Bible Lectures:
Just recently I watched “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” the powerful (true) story of a woman stoned in Iran under the strict interpretations of Sharia law. Just after that I saw this piece shot by Matt Maxwell for last Sunday’s assembly at Golf Course Road.