Polishing God’s Monuments

We’ve been thinking and praying for Joe Keller continually the last few days. He is the brother of Brad Keller who is a member of our small group. He was in a severe car accident and as a result has suffered extensive head injuries. Joe had just recently lost a baby to trisomy 13 three days after birth. He, a youth pastor, and his wife had been a powerful testimony to all those who had been involved. Now, it appears as though life has changed forever for Joe and Jaime. Following Joe’s status with the updates we have been given it’s clear the family has tremendous confidence in the greatness of God and his sovereignty. Please continue to remember the whole family in prayer.

In this context Challies reviewed a book which I thought I’d post called Polishing God’s Monuments. This is a summary of the book:

Polishing God’s Monuments is the story of a young woman and her devoted husband who have faced a lifetime of mysterious, devastating illness. Written by Jim Andrews, the young woman’s father, the book intersperses narrative with teaching, experience with theology.

When she was young, just a senior at Wheaton Conservatory of Music, Juli Andrews contracted mononucleosis. Though mono is not usually a devastating or long-lasting illness, in Juli’s case it set in motion a bizarre series of events that culminated in her being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (now referred to as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) and eventually a horrifying accompanying disease known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. This is an affliction that causes some patients, and Juli among them, to become extremely sensitive to chemicals that do not bother most other people. Paul, Juli’s husband, contracted mononucleosis and then CFS at around the same time as his new wife. The young family was devastated.

Juli’s condition left her in terrible condition, unable to care for herself and often unable to do even the simplest things. Her chemical sensitivities rendered her unable to handle even the fainest smell of perfume or the chemicals used in inks and fabrics. Eventually she even developed extreme sensitivity to light, to the chlorine in water and even to the presence of electricity, leaving her lying day after day in the cold and the dark. Her disease left her unable to live even a semblance of a normal life for year after year. But through it all her husband tended to her, cared for her, and searched far and wide for something, anything, that might alleviate her condition.

This is the story Andrews tells in this book. A pastor for the last seventeen years and a seminary professor before that, the bulk of the narrative comes in the form of letters he wrote to his congregation to keep them updated on the drama of Juli’s life. But woven between these touching letters is straightforward theology—biblical reflections on the nature of suffering, the character of God, and the important discipline of looking to what God has done in the past to remind us of His faithfulness in the present and the future. That discipline, which Andrews refers to as “Polishing God’s Monuments,” gives title to the book.

This from Andrews:

So how do we keep the faith, sunny side up, in the face of this maddening mystery side of God? And how can we “recommend” a walk with God when, frankly, he seems to have abandoned us to wallow in our pain, to have shut his ears to our pleas, and to have heartlessly left the scene of the accident? What is an honest saint to do when God appears either indifferent or impotent?

This book confronts these issues head-on and offers believers in despair biblical perspective and practical direction that should reinvigorate the spirit of all who will regularly heed and apply them. It is about walking with God in times of trouble, about being tested to our socks, about what to do when extreme pressure threatens our very faith. And for illustrative purposes, it is about the multi-layered afflictions of a young woman, my younger daughter, and her devoted husband, who have faced it all (and then some) as a baffling, mind-boggling illness hijacked their youth and shattered their dreams.

Tim Challies says,

I simply can’t recommend Polishing God’s Monuments too highly. I wholeheartedly agree with Bruce Ware who writes, “To enter into this theological reflection on suffering is to accept the challenge to grow deeply in Christ, and to cherish the sure and certain promise of the gospel.” This book gripped my heart and helped me cherish the promises of the gospel like few books I’ve read recently. I commend it to you, trusting you will benefit from it as I have. Perhaps the greatest tribute I can render Polishing God’s Monuments is this: I read almost 300 pages about suffering and pain, yet closed the book with tears of joy in my eyes, rejoicing at the greatness of our sovereign and gracious God.

Polishing God’s Monuments is available at Westminster Books where you can also read the Introduction and first chapter. Amazon shoppers can find it here.

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