Book Review: Broken Works Best

Broken Works Best Catherine Campbell

I’ve had this book on my ‘to read’ pile for a little while, but it took a recent profound experience of pain (which I may write about in the future) to pick this book up, which 10ofThose kindly provided for review a little while ago. This is an immensely practical, deeply bible-drenched book about a very present reality of the human condition: pain.

Most of us will not, I think, have to deal with the pain of losing a young child, let alone two, but Campbell’s book and experience, tempered by the Bible and her prayerful style, offer valuable and practical lessons for anyone pondering the place of pain in their life. The book is divided into five sections: ‘Be Prepared, Gaining Perspective’, ‘Does God Care?’, ‘Looking After Your Soul’, and ‘Reaping the Results’. Each of these is packed with practical and biblical wisdom – and Catherine’s painful but poignant story punctuates each chapter in a way that is not mawkish or overbearing, but instead a helpful foil to the themes of the book.

Obviously, one of the key questions for any Christian consideration of pain and suffering is the place of prayer. Why are our prayers not answered? Why does God allow bad things to happen, even in spite of our prayers? I think Catherine’s teaching on prayer and relationship with God in the storm is beautiful, particularly as she ties it so closely to her experience of suffering. Shortly after recounting the death of one of her daughters, held in prayer, she writes:

Why is it that some of us find prayer difficult? Why do we make this amazing privilege of conversing with the God who made us so complicated? Could it be that we are afraid that God isn’t going to give us the answer we want? Or is it that we doubt that God knows what is best for us? … We have a tendency to over-complicate prayer, instead of using it as a mode of communicating with the One who loves us more than any other. Prayer does not require fancy words, or structured grammar. There is no right or wrong way; no minimum or maximum time allocation; no suitable or unsuitable place to pray; and nothing about which you cannot speak with God.

Amen!

I think this is a superb book, by a brilliant bible teacher, on one of the perennial questions of discipleship. Obviously, the problem of pain is also a question that relates to evangelism and apologetics – and in one sense Catherine’s story of clinging to God in prayer is a powerful testimony – but Broken Works Best is not primarily about that. This book is primarily a beautiful guide to prepare for, live with, and hope/flourish through pain. Pain is real, but it is not the ultimate reality. I would warmly recommend this book to any Christian wrestling with pain and disappointment in their life.

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