(Photo: Central Christian Church)
The sputtering economy has left many without jobs, houses or even a glimmer of hope. Some signs have pointed to economic recovery, but any improvement is slow and slight at best, economists say. Meanwhile, Christians are left wondering why this is happening and what to do from here.
Jud Wilhite, pastor of Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nev., recently wrote a book on this subject, titled Torn: Trusting God When Life Leaves You in Pieces. His megachurch is studying through the book during the month of October. Wilhite spoke to The Christian Post about the book, the economy and his own personal experience.
The following are excerpts from the interview.
“Torn came out of my own experience, and our experience as a church, when the economy took a dive. We were seeing so many people out of work, foreclosures … we were all personally affected,” he said, adding that he thinks the recession is far from being over, especially in Las Vegas.
“There were a lot of suicides because of the economy. There were some suicides in our church. Seeing people just hurting really inspired Torn.
“So many people – including me – were left wondering, ‘Why? Why is all this bad stuff happening to me?’ I turned to the Bible and was surprised when I realized how little it has to say about the question, ‘Why?’”
Wilhite noted that "Why?" is asked a lot in the Bible – Jesus asked it on the cross, Job asked it, David asked it.
“The Bible says that God is in control and God is good – but it never answers the question” of why, he said.
“So I learned, the quicker you move from ‘Why?’ to ‘Who’ you put your trust in, the quicker we heal.”
The key is knowing “who God is and how we can incorporate that into our own lives,” Wilhite stressed. “The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat pain and suffering, it gives you something to move past it.”
“Torn is about fighting for joy and serving others to live beyond yourself,” Wilhite said. “So many times, when we are suffering, we close the shades and draw inward. But we are instructed to do just the opposite.”
During struggles many often tend to feel abandoned by God, Wilhite said.
“We have all these assumptions about God, from our childhood or our experience. Many think that what’s happening to them is because of something they’ve done,” he said. He explained that the chapter “Checking Your Assumptions” is all about this topic. Wilhite shared the story of a woman who thought she was going blind because she had sinned, or her parents had sinned. The chapter begins with her story.
“When she realized that God was not getting back at her, tears just started streaming down her face,” he related. “It was then I realized she’s the one losing her sight. It was like the weight of the world was taken away from her. She was a totally different person after that.”
The book gives several examples of church members learning to move beyond the "Why?" by living outside themselves. The stories are from actual church members (names have been changed) who eagerly volunteered to work for the church, painting and doing various projects.
“People who weren’t working were just happy to get out of the house. They even brought their neighbors, who weren’t church members, Christians or had even stepped inside a church,” Wilhite said. “In Las Vegas in the last few years, there’s nothing out there as far as jobs. Our whole world got turned upside down. As a church, we were asking, ‘How do we meet these needs?’ And by giving them work, even voluntary and unpaid, we began to encourage people.”
In the process of the volunteer work, Central added a whole section of full-time volunteers who now serve on staff as ministry partners.
“People need to realize they are not alone, that there are other people struggling just like them. That’s what this did.”
Wilhite again stressed his message by saying the book is really about the subtitle, “Trusting God When Life Leaves You in Pieces.”
“Torn is hopeful,” he said. “It’s a book that meets you in your pain and shows you how to move forward with life and in your walk with God.”
The book is available on the church’s website, www.centralchristian.com.