Beautiful Battlefields [a review]

Photo courtesy of Twitter I would like to meet Bo Stern.

I have just finished reading her book, Beautiful Battlefields, and as I read it, I found myself drawn to this woman. Currently, she is in the midst of a battle. Her husband is facing ALS, and they are struggling against it. They do not know how their story will turn out.

This could have very easily been a book about what a difficult hand God has dealt her. It could have been a book in search of pity or Christian brownie points.

But it was not.

I found this book to be an honest, difficult, encouraging look at suffering. Consistently, she universalizes what she is learning, not thinking of her own battle as the peak of difficulty, but emphasizing the way that God gives us all battles in different shapes and sizes. She makes it clear that they are all hard, all relevant and all do the work of refining us further.

I've been reading a lot about suffering lately, and it is becoming clear that it is really necessary. I wish I had better news. The books and articles that I've read about suffering don't leave me thinking that it would be better if it didn't exist, they leave me thinking that I wouldn't be as wise, or close to God as if suffering hadn't entered my life.

This book is no exception. Bo says in her introduction: "God is for us. He is for our growth, our joy, our success, and our maturity, and He will use every struggle we face as the delivery agents for His most remarkable gifts. Our beautiful God has hidden beauty in the soil of our battlefield."

She writes about battle as she writes about God: with strength. Her use of the Bible is wonderful, drawing me in with examples from the Old and New Testaments. Each chapter gave me truths to cling to when I feel weak, tired, frustrated, spent. It is clear that in the midst of a situation she wishes that she could change, God is giving her what she needs to carry on, and more than that, He is using this dark place to encourage others.

What a God we serve.

The first half of the book is essentially a guide for recognizing beauty in the battle. Bo uses many examples from Scripture, her own life, and the lives of those she knows, to illustrate the ways God brings beauty out of things we can't imagine making it through.

The second half of the book is filled with practical examples for what to do when you find yourself with a fight on your hands. I have a feeling that I will be keeping this near my bed and flipping through it to these chapters often. Without a hint of a guilt trip or anything the least bit trite, Bo talks about how to stay connected to God, how to surround yourself with the right people, giving grace to yourself. There is so much transparency, reality and wisdom in these words. This is nothing like any Christian Living how-to that I've ever read before.

Over and over again, Bo reveals her own humanity. She shares herself with us, her readers, and I got to see how God has worked in her and challenged her and made her new. In spite of this hard, hard thing in her life that I can't imagine, she was quick to remind me over and over that everything that His children are going through is important to God. He does not rank battles. My battles are not the same as Bo's but both matter to Him immeasurably. He gives us all strength for what He has given us, and He never leaves us alone.

I plan to return to this book often.

Thank you to Faith Village for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

Check this book out, you will not regret it.

Beautiful Battlefields