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Living in the Light



Book Review: A Heart Set Free

Jessalyn Hutto

Short Summary

As Christians, we look forward to a day when suffering will be wiped away, when sin will be no more, and when death will finally and forever be vanquished from existence. We look forward to the sin-crushing Savior's return and when he will make all things right again. But until that day comes, how are we to biblically respond to the very real, and very painful hardships we face in this life? How do we suffer in a way that shows our dependence on the Lord and brings honor to his name? How are we to handle the pulsing emotions that threaten to overwhelm us in our most desperate days?

Christina Fox's new book, A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament, seeks to answer these questions in a thoughtful, honest, and biblical manner. Fox invites her readers to find real hope in the Psalms of lament where Biblical authors have humbly chronicled their own emotions and struggles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In these laments, fellow sufferers can find solace in the knowledge that they are not alone in their experience of pain while simultaneously finding encouragement in the worshipful trust that the psalmists express in the Lord despite their circumstances.

A Heart Set Free is broken up into four different parts. The first part focuses on the role of emotions in our lives. Must we be held captive by them or can we let Christ reign over them? The second part gives readers an explanation of the nature of the Psalms, how Jesus related to them, and how we can benefit from understanding the structure of the Psalms of lament in particular (Fox breaks the structure of the laments into three helpful stages: crying out to God, asking for help, and responding in trust and worship). The third part of A Heart Set Free reveals other jewels of instruction sufferers can benefit from in the Psalms of lament such as the way the psalmists continually remind themselves of God's faithfulness in the past when they are faced with scary situations, how they preach the truths of God's unfailing character to themselves as they combat doubt, and how they humbly and honestly confessed their sins when it was relevant. The fourth section helps readers to see how they can implement what they've learned about the laments in their own prayer life.

My Impressions

One of the things I find myself continually doing is urging women to be honest about the pain they experience. We seem to have this idea in our heads that "strong" Christians can cope better with trials and hardship, and therefore we should seek to quickly move beyond our sorrows and perplexities. But the problem is, pain is real. It has a real affect on us. It costs something. You can't just gloss over your suffering and expect to heal from it. What's more, you will never experience the beautiful, sanctifying fruit of suffering if you don't allow yourself to be broken by it. We must give ourselves the opportunity to fall upon the mercy and goodness of God. We must come to the end of ourselves and allow God to be everything to us. It is then that we see the treasures that are to be had in our suffering. 

This process starts by being honest about our struggles, or pain, and our sorrow, which is why I have always loved Christina Fox's writings. Every blog post and article I've ever read from her is honest and realistic. She doesn't gloss over the pain of living in a sinful world, but always points to the One who is able to carry the weight of that pain. This book is no different.

By providing the Psalms of lament as a blueprint for biblical suffering, Fox encourages women to bring their suffering before the Lord, to cry out to him for help and healing and to bring glory to him in the process. I'm so glad that she has written A Heart Set Free. This book is going to show women that it is indeed possible to suffer well.

Who's It For?

This book is for anyone who is in the midst of a painful trial or who struggles to control their emotions. While this book assumes some familiarity with the Psalms, I don't think it would be a difficult read for new Christians or even unbelievers. In fact, what better way could there be to introduce someone to our loving and compassionate God, than to reveal to them the way he inspired the Bible to deal honestly with sorrow!

Buy, Borrow, or Burn?

Buy! I'd also encourage you to think about who in your life may benefit from this book. People are suffering all around us, and A Heart Set Free would be a gentle and powerful encouragement to them.