COVID shutdown. A partial re-opening followed by a COVID surge. The prospect of death at any time for our loved ones or ourselves. Civil unrest. Violence in the streets. National disillusionment. Vicious politics. Dysfunctional government. National disunity. Economic collapse. Unemployment. Masks. Travel restrictions. Social distancing from friends, family, colleagues, and church. The accumulation of one bad thing after another!
Columnist Damon Linker thinks he might be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He finds that he is unable to expect good things, such as the prospect of a vaccine, and he can’t shake the premonition that something far worse is about to happen.
How can we get through all of these calamities? Christians have the consolation that their faith brings them, but that too can be hard to access. Contemporary American Christianity tends to be more oriented to the power of positive thinking and the prosperity gospel. Hard times pose a problem for those kinds of theologies.
The Lutheran tradition–which is pretty much the opposite of the power of positive thinking and the prosperity gospel–has much to say about suffering, failure, trials, and tribulations, and how to endure them through faith in the Cross of Jesus Christ. This isn’t so much a matter of theology as it is pastoral care. That means that you don’t have to be Lutheran to benefit from Lutheran counseling on these matters, which can be a Lutheran gift to the rest of Christendom.
And now you can access genuine help from a little book by my good friend Harold Senkbeil entitled Christ and Calamity: Grace and Gratitude in the Darkest Valley. The publisher, Lexham Press, is offering the book for free on Logos Software (go to the site for how to download that). Or you can get it on Amazon for Kindle for only 99 cents. Or as a paperback for $9.99. (That’s my choice, since this is a book to underline, go back through, re-read, and give to someone who needs it.)
The publisher asked me to endorse the book, so here is what I wrote:
As we face sickness, death, economic disaster, uncertainty, fear, and every other kind of suffering, we need consolation. In this little book, in just a few pages, Pastor Senkbeil gives us the consolation of Christ.
This is not just good advice or positive thinking or abstract theology that tries to explain why God allows suffering. Rather, this is the cure of souls. Pastor Senkbeil takes us into the depths of spiritual reality. Here, in the midst of our actual tribulations, we encounter God, not as a being far above us looking down, but with us, in His cross.
This is a book to read and to read again whenever we need it, a book to give away to people who are hurting. This book will be a classic.
That book, by the way, has gone on to win each of the three major awards in Christian publishing in the category of books on ministry: The Christianity Today Book Award, The Gospel Coalition Book of the Year on Ministry, and The ECPA [Evangelical Christian Publishers Association] Christian Book Award.
As I have been saying, if you are a pastor, buy that book. And if you are not a pastor, buy two, one for you to read and one to give to your pastor.
You will also want to throw in Christ and Calamity.