I just finished re-reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way.” When I started reading this book with my women’s Bible study, I found myself grabbing my pencil and highlighting so many gems. I could hear TerKeurst’s voice long before seeing the DVD of breakout sessions. It wasn’t long before I thought she was my long-lost twin sister or friend from childhood. (It was cool to find out that we’re the same age!)
TerKeurst kept her sights on her audience throughout. She imagined someone like herself who would benefit from the God-given wisdom she gleaned while walking through disappointments in her life. Sometimes she addressed the reader directly. Many of her insights and wisdom came out of much pain and heartache and I cried with her. But then sometimes she made me laugh out loud. I had to share some of her stories with my family because they were just too good not to tell. And this is one book that I can’t wait to give to friends or family so they can be blessed like I was.
I appreciated how this book was written. I could imagine her going over every sentence, every word, maybe even reading backwards. Her writing is so fine-tuned it sings. She added in poetry. Every alliteration, assonance, simile, and metaphor helped me remember the important points she conveyed. At the end of each chapter, she included a section called “Going to the Well” that provided a summary of the material as well as a concordance of the scripture references she discussed. She really wanted to make sure her words with God’s words impacted my heart and sank deep so I wouldn’t be unprepared the next time I face disappointment.
TerKeurst began with a look at two gardens in scripture: the first Eden in Genesis and the second Eden restored in Revelations. She said we are living “life between two gardens.” Each person is in “a temporary middle space” in their story. “Not the place where we are meant to wallow and dwell. Rather the place through which we will have to learn to wrestle well” (9). She said she wanted readers “to open the gift of disappointment and release the atmosphere of hope contained within” (11). (Isn’t that a beautiful image?) She “broke secrecy” about some of her deepest wounds from personal relationships to health crises. I felt like I was walking alongside her as she showed me the work God did in her life.
When I considered some of what I’ll take away from this study, I thought of “dust,” “grog,” and the image of God as the Potter. TerKeurst showed how dust in our lives is necessary and important to our growth and how it becomes part of our testimony as a child of God. She told a story she heard from a reader, Jessica, whose mother was a professional potter. Potters call dust from previously broken pieces “grog.” These pieces aren’t too fine or they won’t give structure to the clay, nor are they too coarse where they’d injure the potter’s hands.
“But when shattered just right, the grog dust added to the new clay will enable the potter to form the clay into a larger and stronger vessel than ever before. And it can go through fires much hotter as well. Plus, when glazed, these pieces end up having a much more beautiful, artistic look to them than they would have otherwise” (115).
God wastes nothing. The things I hate about myself, the decisions or choices I wish I hadn’t made, and the things I shouldn’t have said or left unsaid are evidence of serious shattering that I can’t do anything about. But in God’s hands they provide structure for making me new. “God longs to help us through the process of being made into the image of Christ,” TerKeurst said. “He is our ultimate example of wrestling well between divine faith and human feelings, so the more we become like Him, the more we learn to trust God, no matter what our human eyes can see,” (42).
I think of where God has taken me, a transplant from North Canton, Ohio. I live in Dayton now because I moved here for work. It wasn’t on my radar, but I thought I saw the plan in it until I had to retire from that job. I did question why. I thought of the various health problems I still live with that are infuriating to treat and a mystery to doctors. I have a lot of “I don’t know” times and I crave answers.
But TerKeurst helped me see that this is good. I’m wrestling well. She talked of Jesus’ marked moments, those where He went away to pray and seek out His Father. “He would face something and need a marked moment with His Father to trade His human desire for God’s will” (44). And each season in the valley of my disappointments showed a “marked moment of trust” when I cried out to God. I remember one marked moment during a time when I was held captive by depression and anxiety. I called the church and drove there to meet with lady who prayed with me. She talked to me about the women’s Bible study I now attend. I broke secrecy. Because of that moment, I met some amazing ladies who’ve become like sisters. They’re family.
I tend to discard the dust covers to books while reading. I find myself fighting with them. But the dust cover ended up becoming a great conversation-starter at doctor’s appointments. What people see is an upside-down photo of a woman walking in front of two garage doors, one blue, one white. The pointed peak of the house creates an arrow.
TerKeurst does provide an allegory at the end to give insight about the cover art. But before I read that I thought the arrow pointed “this way” for instructions on how to “consider it pure joy” when we face times of suffering and pain. “This way” to learn why staying moldable during life’s disappointments, like clay in the Potter’s hands, is for our good and God’s glory.
For more about the author, go to https://lysaterkeurst.com.