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A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering Kindle Edition

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About the Author

Michael Horton is the author of over 20 books and host of the White Horse Inn, a nationally syndicated radio programHe is the professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California and the editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.  A popular blogger and sought-after lecturer, he resides in Escondido, California with his wife and children.

 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I felt as if I were a willful teenager again, with my father shaking me by the shoulders to bring me to my senses. Only now, he could not grab me. He could not even speak to me, although he desperately mumbled strange sounds. All that was left of the man were his eyes, pounding against my heart with their steely gray intensity. As everyone who knew him even casually could attest, my father had eyes that laughed before the rest of his face could catch up. Some of us, especially his children, knew that, on those rare occasions when his temper flared, it happened first in his eyes. With a mere glance, he could nip horseplay in the bud at the dinner table. Now those eyes were almost always reporting an emotion we had never seen in our dad. The one for whom the glass was always half full, who always landed on his feet in every circumstance, was more terrified of waking than of dying. Have you ever seen someone wail without actually being able to articulate a cry, his heaving chest and terrified visage giving the secret away? Larger than life since my childhood, this great man was now as helpless as an infant and more pitiful than any life I had ever known, his gaunt flesh wasting and yellowing with every passing week. At the age of seventy-eight, James Horton had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that required immediate surgery. At first, a shunt released some of the fluid on his brain, but a further surgery was necessary to excise the rapidly growing lump before it interrupted vital brain functions. This surgery failed, and before long we realized that my father would not recover. He lived for nearly a year, however, almost paralyzed from head to toe. Since even his face had lost muscular control, his eyelids drooped, exposing their red interior. It was as if his whole face had melted like wax, and we could hardly recognize him --- except for the eyes, which were always filled with emotion, usually unspeakable pain. But occasionally, and more frequently toward the end, they evidenced hope and a confidence that came from another place. We prayed for weeks that the Lord would take him home. We would place our son, just a few months old, in his namesake's listless arms and watch my dad's heaving chest signal his delight. Even then, it was always a bittersweet visit for my father, and for us. The Gibraltar of the family, my mother, fussed over his bedside, nervously fluffing his pillows at fifteen-minute intervals, ensuring that the intravenous fluids were properly calculated, and organizing edifying visits from friends and children from church. In between, she read quietly in her chair while holding Dad's hand. For years, I had witnessed the remarkable care that these two people provided in our home, first to their own parents and then to fifteen elderly folks in our residential care home as I was growing up. But now she was caring for her best friend, and there was almost nothing she could do for him but fluff his pillows --- and try to hide her own daily grief. Although my mom always looked ten years younger than her actual age, these months acted like time-lapse photography, working my father's pain into her own face and wearing her body down. A Second Blow Then, just two months before my father's death, Mom suffered a massive stroke while I was driving her from her sister's funeral, where she had delivered a moving eulogy. This strong and compassionate woman who had given her life to disadvantaged city kids and abandoned seniors was now herself dependent on others. I recalled a couple of times in the past when my parents had mentioned their worst fears about old age. For my dad, a debilitating disease would be the most horrible way of death, he said; for my mom, it was being a burden --- and from their caregiving experience they knew both well. In my darker moments, I wondered why God would allow them to experience their worst scenarios in the last act of their play, especially when they had done so much for so many others. They had moved close to Lisa and me in our first year of marriage to be of help when they learned of our first pregnancy. Always running to the side of those who needed a strong arm, my mom was now partially paralyzed and disabled, while my dad was succumbing to an agonizing death. I told God that it all seemed too calculated, that he seemed all too real, too involved, too present in our lives, especially my parents', as if he had cruelly dished out the very end that each most feared. Shouldn't people whose lives were all about giving to others, especially to the elderly, have a break when it comes to how they leave this life? It seemed to challenge the whole 'reap what you sow' principle: does this apply only when people deserve bad and not when they deserve good? My wife, recovering from several especially difficult miscarriages, found that her visits to my dad's bedside only aggravated her questions about God's goodness. It was strange to see her go through this. After all, Lisa was a Bible study teacher who devoured pretty deep theology books. Now it was all being put to the test of real life. I had experienced death up close in our home growing up, not only with my grandparents but also with the adopted 'grandparents' in our home for the elderly. Still, Lisa and I both struggled with the usual doubts. People suffer and even die from natural causes every day, we tried to tell ourselves. Furthermore, old people eventually die. We all die. This doesn't mitigate the tragedy, but its inevitability and universality at least prepare us for the fact. But why do some people suffer so much in their death? Why is it often so slow and painful? Is death itself not horrible enough that we also have to fear dying --- a wasting and withering that threatens our cherished expectations of a good and orderly providence? Just to look at my father over the course of those ghastly months, those long and torturous weeks, was to face the most serious, existential, concrete challenges to our deeply held Christian convictions.

Product Details

  • File Size: 374 KB
  • Print Length: 209 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0310327407
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Reprint edition (July 27, 2010)
  • Publication Date: August 24, 2010
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003TFE5V8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,790 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Michael Horton is the founder of the White Horse Inn, a multi-media catalyst for Reformation. He is editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine (www.modernreformation.org) and co-host of the nationally syndicated White Horse Inn radio broadcast (www.whitehorseinn.org). Michael Horton is also the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California.

Before coming to WSC, Michael Horton completed a Research Fellowship at Yale University Divinity School. He is a member of various societies, including the American Academy of Religion and the Evangelical Theological Society, and author of thirty books, including a series of studies in Reformed dogmatics published by Westminster John Knox, whose final volume (People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology) was published in 2008 and won the 2008 Christianity Today Book of the Year award in Theology.

His most recent book is Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World. He has written articles for Modern Reformation, Pro Ecclesia, Christianity Today, The International Journal of Systematic Theology, Touchstone, and Books and Culture.

Michael Horton is a minister in the United Reformed Churches of North America, and lives in Escondido, with his wife, Lisa, and four children.

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Greco on February 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
This past weekend, I read through Michael Horton's A Place for Weakness (previously released as Too Good to Be True). On the surface, this book is about how a Christian ought to face suffering and hardship, but on a deeper level, this book is a celebration of the gospel. What I mean is this: Too often we approach the subject of suffering as if its secondary to the Christian life. We don't deny that people suffer, but we don't expect it to happen to us. We believe that if it does happen, we'll find strength from God to deal with it, so after all it won't be that bad. This allows us to push suffering and hardship to the periphery and let's us embrace a theology that sees God as merely the purveyor of good times. We don't want to see suffering in our lives as having come through God's permissive hand.

Horton beautifully weaves his own stories of hardship and uncertainty with sound teaching about God's sovereignty and with biblical stories of those who have suffered under God's providence. Never does he come up with easy or pat answers to the common questions related to suffering and evil. He writes:

"We cannot know what God has decided in his deep and mysterious hiddenness, and we can only know what God condescends to reveal to us as he cloaks his unapproachable light in humility and weakness. We cannot climb up to God, but he can descend to us. This is the gospel in a nutshell and it sustains us in suffering" (83).

We have no guarantee that we'll be able to understand, this side of eternity, why God has allowed certain difficulties into our lives. Like Job, we must affirm that both good and bad things come from the hand of God (Job 2:10). But we must also take the lesson from Job's story: God is God and we are not.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Qadosh2him on July 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book differs quite radically from all the other books "out there" on the topic of suffering. Michael Horton approaches the topic initially by describing some of the suffering he and his family have been through...and later in the book reveals more. But rather than dealing with the "why" of suffering as most books do and then ending up somewhere in the area of God's sovereignty and goodness; Horton discusses the theology of suffering...how it relates to the cross...and how the cross relates to us in the midst of our pain. It was a good book and absorbing despite treading through some deep ideological waters.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Czerwinski on February 26, 2013
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This is one of the best and most completely thought out books I have read on suffering. I think that it does an excellent job of pointing us to God and His purposes in suffering. I highly recommend this book for everyone, as we will all face suffering in our lifetime.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DocTheology on May 10, 2013
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A great book that deals with the issue of God, suffering, and His sovereignty. I was talking to a person in church the other day that could accept only the good things and profitable ($$) from God, anything like suffering, death, and illness could never flow from the hand of God. We, in America, seem to think that we are immune to suffering, but it part of the human condition since the Fall of Adam and we must understand that all suffering is not bad. At times, it keeps us still and waiting upon the Lord for our strength. Excellent book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Weaver on July 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book gives a perspective of scripture that goes deep in knowing God as well as taking an honest look at ourselves and the depth of our sinfulness. I usually can gauge how good a book is to me when I start writing sections of it in my journal so I can go back to it again and again. Here is one of them: When Moses asked to see God's face, he was warned, "No one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20). In fact, as the people of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the law, God told Moses to place limits around the mountain, "lest (the people) break through to gaze at the Lord" (Exodus 19:21) Thus throughout biblical history (and history in general) there is this flight from the I Am, the God of power and glory. Our consciences testify to this God, but in our wickedness we try to suppress this awareness. We create a chasm and either plead ignorance (skepticism) or substitute projections of our own imagination or felt needs (idolatry). We build suitable projections of gods who will not threaten us, gods who are too far away to cause any harm, or, if they are friendly and useful enough, gods who do not judge. Indeed, they are projections of ourselves (See Romans 1 and 2). Religion, especially in its upbeat mode, assumes that everything is fine between God and us (this was Israel's original assumption until he actually spoke). We're basically good people, and God is only capable of love anyway. We have God on our side. But revelation upsets this nice picture. God's presence is a danger as well as a blessing. It is very much worth the read!
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By W. Williams on June 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is none of us who does not experience a sorrow of some sort, whether it be pain from a loss if a loved one, loss of a friendship, loneliness, despair, rejection, inadequacy, and the list continues to grow throughout our lives until we die. Michael Horton has provided the reader an opening to where we all can reach with confidence to understand our sorrows and that there is reasurance for us all.
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