We will suffer. Jesus said, “In this life you will have trouble.” Elsewhere the scriptures admonish us not to be surprised when various trials come upon us. Rather, we ought to be prepared. A Steadfast Heart: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Life’s Storms by Elyse Fitzpatrick is for all women, whether in the midst of a trial or not. Fitzpatrick is a biblical counselor and popular speaker at women’s conferences. Though they did not keep her immune to pain, her years of Bible study and counseling did help prepare her for her most difficult days. Mrs. Fitzpatrick shares how God ministered to her through His word during years of suffering and how women can ready their hearts for their own trials and afflictions.
Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Fitzpatricks found themselves in the middle of a financial struggle that left Elyse feeling uncertain of her family’s well-being, helpless, and, at times, angry. She shares that for the first time in her life she began to question God and His character. Though Mrs. Fitzpatrick does not go into specifics regarding their situation, she does share how she was feeling. Being that I’m a woman, I like to know the details of any situation; however, Fitzpatrick only shares enough to let the reader understand that she was indeed suffering. She explains the wisdom of this approach:
In writing about our suffering, I want to make clear one reality: I know that what we’ve gone through is nothing in comparison with what others endure on a daily basis. Our trial was fashioned for us by a wise God who knew exactly what kind of suffering we needed. The trials we endure are meant to get at the idolatry, self-love, and independent unbelief that God desires to purge from our life. They’re also meant to cause us to love Jesus Christ more and more, and sometimes they’re not discipline at all, but rather part of God’s mysterious plan to glorify himself. So, please, as you read through this book, don’t compare my suffering with yours or wonder how you could endure what I’ve gone through or vice versa. Just recognize that God brings to each of us what will best glorify Himself.
Using Psalm 57 (because that is the psalm God used to comfort her), Fitzpatrick explains that we can cry out to God for mercy, just as David did; we can look to God’s suffering Son and find hope in the knowledge that because Jesus was forsaken, God will never forsake His children; and we can rest in the knowledge that our suffering will not last forever. Indeed, there are sufferings we will never experience because of Christ’s sufferings. Fitzpatrick also holds forth Job, the faithful of Hebrews 11, and a few more recent suffering saints whom we would do well to emulate, namely Lady Jane Kenmure, Amy Carmichael, and Richard Wurmbrand. It is helpful to examine the lives of saints who have gone before in order to see how to suffer well. Unlike those men and women Fitzpatrick profiles in this book, many women feel as though they are supposed to ignore their emotions. One of the most encouraging aspects of this book, however, is that Fitzpatrick never once advises women to ignore or to downplay their feelings when going through a time of suffering. She writes,
A woman with a steadfast heart is a woman who is alive–alive to all the emotions she’s been given by the Lord. She’s aware of the sinful possibilities that emotions may enflame, but she’s not stoical or afraid to laugh or to cry. She doesn’t let her emotions lead her, but she doesn’t ignore them either…A steadfast heart isn’t a dead heart; it’s a heart that is pulsating with a vibrant, dynamic faith, God-centered thought, and redeemed emotions that bring life and color to every experience.
The whole book is rich with wisdom and encouragement, but the last three chapters are my favorites. In them, Fitzpatrick helps the reader to see the excellencies of God. She examines suffering in light of the wonders of God’s character, His steadfastness, and His glory. When our minds consider what the scriptures teach us about God, we can sing in the midst of suffering for we can know that God is at work in our hearts to cleanse and sanctify us. The tasks most beneficial to our hearts during trials are to look at our suffering Savior, to keep our minds focused on what we know is true regarding our Heavenly Father’s heart and character, and to trust that God has in mind our ultimate good and His glory.
A Steadfast Heart is different from similar books for women in that Fitzpatrick affirms her belief in God’s sovereignty over all things. She explains that trials can come our way for many different reasons, but all are allowed and/or fashioned by God for a specific purpose. She is honest about the pain and suffering we will experience in this world. She does not claim that “it will get better” or that God will alleviate our plights in this life. In fact, she says our circumstances may get worse. She does promise, however, that God works to conform us to Christ and that knowing we belong to Christ IS our only sure source of comfort.
The book comes with a CD consisting of psalms, poetry, prayers from Valley of Vision, and quotes read by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and moving songs by Steve and Vicki Cook. Elyse’s voice has a calm, soothing quality to it. The songs are beautifully set to soft instrumentation. The lyrics, based on scriptures highlighting God’s power, grace and love, are quite moving. I think the CD is a nice addition to the book, especially if you are in need of hope and biblical encouragement, but do not feel like reading a book.
This book is for every woman, whether she seems to be sailing smoothly through life or she feels like she is being tossed to and fro on a violent sea.