If you’ve been following my Ponderings for long you know I’m a lover of the Word of God. It is a treasure to me. I read it, savor it, and commend it to you. [See Bible Reading Plans on the side pullout menu for more info] I aim to make it a priority in my life by reading it first and most, before man-made substitutes, and by meditating on it in order to let it shape my ponderings.
But some days, some weeks, it seems flat and lifeless to my palate. I don’t want to read it. And when I do, it’s just words on a page that I’ve read before. Do you know what I mean?
This has happened to me just lately. It all started with a road trip and an audio book randomly selected to fill the hours…The road trip ended but the book wasn’t finished. Its ‘due date’ is looming. I must find out what’s going to happen; I must finish the book! So instead of filling my day’s lazy moments with the Word of God, I default to the audio book. It’s well-composed, seems to be based on thorough research and first-hand knowledge, and is a fascinating look into a culture completely foreign to me. But it is painfully sad, full of intense loneliness and hopelessness and of futile efforts to escape that pain. It is a graphic picture of man without God and without hope in the world (Eph.2:12). A remedy is suggested but because the author writes from a false worldview her remedy is nothing more than wishful thinking born of mindless meditation. She is talented and has written well but I feel as though I’ve been dragged back to the Garden and am being offered a taste of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as though it were the way to life.
In reality the story’s characters, representations of a whole culture, are without hope apart from a hearing of God’s Words. As a culture they have believed lies and are reaping the deadly consequences. No wonder the suicide rate in their country is among the highest in the world. Death seems the only reasonable escape from a life too painful to live.
I don’t often venture into the world of fiction. I find it too captivating, too time consuming for the value gained, and too distracting from real life. But the due date is tomorrow and the story is not quite resolved. Will the main characters commit suicide? Will hope arise from some unseen quarter? Will the author give convincing evidence that Zen Buddhism is the answer to the despair that consumes her characters?
In one sense this ‘read’ has been like an overdose of junk food, which spoils the appetite without nourishing the body. In its offering of novelty and the knowledge of evil it has been a distraction for me from the Words of Life I am committed to living by. But it is no substitute. It’s just the story of the Garden all over again. The author has a thinly masked agenda. Her storyline is her means of proposing a better way to live– Life is painful and confusing; God’s not noticing; try this– and she elaborates on the virtues and methods of Zen Buddhism ad nauseum throughout her story. It is a classic case of ‘the way which seems right to a man’ but only leads to death.
But I don’t intend a book review here. In fact despite its being a well written and researched book I won’t recommend it. But what it has done for me in the end is to send me running back to the Word for refreshment. Too much junk food is too much. There are no answers here, no hope, no joy. I’ve been struck by the contrast of worlds. I live known and loved and prone to taking this for granted. The story has reminded me that this is not a given. Whole cultures, whole countries of people whom God has created to know and love Him, are ignorant of this reality. They are in need of the hope that is only found in the God of the Bible. Though initially my reading of (or in this case, listening to) this book suppressed my appetite for the Ultimate Story. In the end it has sent me running back for the water of the Word. It washes off the sliming of human words and it refreshes me more deeply than human words can ever do.
Before I got out of bed this morning I sat and read life-giving Words because I didn’t want to start the day without them. Junk food doesn’t satisfy the appetite it provokes. Only real Food can do that.
I find in the Bible the ‘God of hope’ reaching out His hands to a people who ‘walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually…’. (Is.65). My mind flits back to the story I’ve been reading.
‘Here am I, here am I’ God calls.
I turn to Job where he confirms that there is no hope for the godless but that the fear of the Lord is the path of wisdom, and that turning away from evil is the essence of understanding. No amount of empty meditation will enlighten in this way. (Job 27,28)
In the pages of this Story, God Most High Possessor of heaven and earth, befriends man. He shows Himself to be the only justifiable cause for fear and at the same time allays man’s fear: “Fear not, I am your shield and very great reward” (Gen.15).
He rescues man from slavery and death and turns the curses against him into a blessing.(Deut.23,24)
He pens man’s name in the Lamb’s book of Life not based on anything he can do or has done, but based on faith. (Rev.20,21)
In these pages the ‘God of hope’ introduces Himself to mankind. He freely reveals the Truth by which those who believe are filled with peace and joy. Then He gives His own indwelling Spirit as an eternal fountain of hope. (Rom.15)
It doesn’t matter where in these pages I turn. There is always hope. Here is the Story that will outlive even the best of classics. Here are words of truth and life that make for the best summer eating!
So I commend to you this summer as you find time to relax and to read, let the Words of God be your constant companion and commentary on the words of man. Let the words of man remind you of the lostness and confusion of man without God. Let them fuel your prayers for the lost and for those who write and speak the Words of Life into all the lost cultures of our world. But may the words of man always drive you back to the everlasting solace of the true and living Words of God. Then they will not have been a waste of time.
“I have given them your Word and the world has hated them because they are not of the world…” –Jesus (John 17:14)
“…as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for here, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word… “ Eph.5:26
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly… Col.3:16
“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
If you should need a reading plan, check out the links at the bottom of my Bible Reading Plans page on the side pullout menu. –LS
2 thoughts on “The Best Summer Reading!”
You sound like me. I love fiction, and if it is written from a world view that contains truth, I honestly find it to be very nourishing in a way that non-fiction is not. HOWEVER, I have to be very careful what I give my mind to. You have said all this in a very life-giving manner, and it's good to know what you're thinking these days. By the way, I have found books on tape to be especially compelling as well . . . especially on long car trips!
I would love to hear your recommendations for titles you have most enjoyed!