Strength in the River is written for Christians who are going through sorrow, pain, suffering and trials from any number of sources. Especially in focus, as the first chapter indicates, are those who have endured pain for a long time and think it is never going to stop. For such people, Steve Swartz turns their attention to the lives of 14 individuals found in Scripture who battled with similar situations. At least one major biblical principle is drawn from the lives of each individual, the majority of which are very helpful. For example, the life of Jeremiah focuses on the sovereignty of God, and James tells us that maturity in Christ, not solving the problem, should be our primary concern. Jesus gives the perfect example of submissiveness; Abraham points us to the integrity of God and Ruth demonstrates how godly character can shine through even in the worst of circumstances. Paul tells us how power can be found in weakness; David reveals how to plea to and praise the Lord during hard times, and how to use suffering for self-examination. Peter insists we can live lives of obedience in the midst of trials, and Elijah reminds us of God’s tender care when we are depressed. And of course Job shows the reader that God is the source of lasting comfort. The only chapter that disappoints is the one on Eve teaching us to forgive. Forgiveness, of course, is important, but there is not enough evidence from Scripture to use Eve as an example.
Overall, Strength in the River is an excellent resource for those who hurt. The best benefit would be derived by going through each chapter slowly and reading the Scriptures provided, perhaps with a friend. The book would also be an excellent tool for a small group Bible study and for biblical counselors.
Strength in the River Lessons in Hope from Suffering Saints of the Bible by Steve Swartz (The Woodlands, Texas: Kress Biblical Resources, 2016) 207pp, paper $14.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel