Lysa Terkeurst’s latest literary piece It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way is a raw and harrowing account of an especially difficult period in her life and the spiritual lessons that she learned from these experiences.

The theme of the book is living with disappointments and the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries has certainly had more than her fair share in the recent past. In the last few years she has had to come to terms with marital breakdown, serious illness, and treatment for breast cancer. Her book includes some moving accounts of nights of solitude when she has had to suffer alone at a time when she was estranged from her husband and her grown up children had all left home.

Setting forth her reasons for writing the book in a recent interview, Lysa explained that we have this feeling that things should be better than they are. People should be better than they are, circumstances should be better than they are…relationships should be better than they are”. In the real world, however, circumstances are rarely what we would like them to be, and we have to find our way through the challenges that arise when we are least expecting them.

Christian apologists have tried to justify the ways of God to humankind and answer the question of why a loving creator would allow pain and suffering in his world. The best-selling writer, however, is content to assert that this is a fallen world and that we are living between two gardens: the Garden of Eden before the fall and the restored creation of the new heaven and earth. 


It may seem over critical to point out that the New Testament does not portray the world to come as a restored garden, but as a city, the New Jerusalem, which will descend from heaven according to Revelation 21. Lysa is right, though, to stress the Christian hope for a better world and the final redemption of all things.

"Circumstances are rarely what we would like them to be, and we have to find our way through the challenges that arise"

Lysa recognises that many of her fellow Christians are suffering in a similar way but do not always feel able to talk about their experiences. She says: I think so many of us are especially disappointed, but we aren’t talking about it…we just don’t know how to process our disappointments, especially not at Bible study or Sunday church. Because everyone says be grateful and positive, and let your faith boss your feelings’. I think there’s a dangerous aspect to staying quiet and pretending that we don’t get exhausted by our disappointments.” 

Lysa cannot be accused of remaining quiet about her own difficulties. She recalls some of the hurtful and thoughtless things that Christians have said to her during her times of suffering, but she acknowledges the support and encouragement that she has received from other believers. She also records the therapeutic value of taking up a new interest – in her case, painting – during her most difficult times and recalls spiritual lessons learned from her experiments with paint and brush.

Lysa suggests that we do not need final answers to our difficult questions: we just need Jesus. She recognises that many of us have had our most cherished hopes and dreams crumble into dust, but points out that dust mixed with (living) water becomes clay. God is the master potter who can reshape the clay of our broken lives and prepare us for new possibilities that we could never have imagined.

Just as the biblical character Job was advised to curse God and die during his time of suffering, Christians in difficult circumstances may be tempted to fall into sin. Lysa includes a helpful chapter on exposing the enemy, in which she suggests that giving into temptation is often followed by the sense that we have failed as human beings and Christians, and no longer qualify for God’s forgiveness.

She argues “[Satan’s] favourite entry point is through our disappointments. The enemy comes in as a whisper, lingers like a gentle breeze, and builds like a storm you don’t even see coming. But eventually his insatiable appetite to destroy will unleash the tornado of destruction he planned all along.” God, however, is a loving Father and grace and mercy are always available to those who seek it.

Lysa provides many Bible verses to help her readers cope with adversity and prayers that may be helpful when times are difficult. The end of her book recalls the ending of the story of Job, whose fortunes were restored after his times of suffering. Lysa has been reconciled to her errant husband and has been declared cancer free after major surgery. She is aware, however, that her readers may not find a similar resolution to their problems and that life will always be less than perfect on this side of eternity.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way does not make comfortable reading but has much to offer Christians whose circumstances fall far short of the perfection that we would like to enjoy.

Graham Hedges is secretary of Christians in Library and Information Services and a trustee of the Christian Book Promotion Trust.

Photo by Jennifer Abercrombie.