I really like this short, easily readable devotional book from Crossway. Here’s a long excerpt from the Introduction that I thought was really good.
“The only way we will learn to trust God is by getting to know God. When our understanding of him is deficient, we are going to view him wrongly. We are going to have a low view of him. If God is low in our estimation, then the things of this world are going to rate too high, which will snow us under. If we believe that somehow it is up to us to take control of our lives and the lives of those we love, fear is inevitable, because we simply aren’t in control of anything. Many of us are quick to dismiss a link between our stress and our view of God. “I don’t hold God in low regard,” we object. “I live a Christian life and attend worship each Sunday, and I spend lots of time with other believers.” But if we suffer from chronic anxiety and fear, we are kidding ourselves. Our view of God isn’t as majestic as we think. A right view of God is the only thing that will dispel our illusion that we have to
control our lives and that everything depends on us.
…Some of us don’t realize that we are trying to pull the wrong yoke. We reach toward dreams and goals designed to further God’s kingdom and to bring blessing, and our prayer requests are for good things. But how do we react when things don’t go according to plan? If, when our plans don’t work out or our prayers aren’t answered in the way or time we think best, we get frustrated and impatient and worried and fearful, that’s a tip-off that something is off-kilter. All wrong views about God result in anxieties and fears about life. The health of our vertical relationship—our relationship with God—will always determine the health of our horizontal relationships—those we have with people, with life, and with ourselves. So the first thing to get straight is our view of God.
Since God overarches everything, we must view our lives and everything that happens to us through that lens. But we often don’t. Instead we allow our circumstances to shape our view of God. We experience something bad, and we allow it to throw our belief about a loving, compassionate Father right out the window. “Where is the God of all comfort in this heartache?” “How could a powerful God let my baby die?” “Why would a good God allow my marriage to fall apart?”
… Perhaps the most faith-shaking, fear-generating experiences are those in which God provides a blessing and then seems to pull the rug out from under us by taking away the blessing as soon as we get a taste of it. The single woman who has waited years for a godly husband meets Mr. Right. God has provided at last! She feels God’s smile as she prepares for her wedding and her new life as a married woman. And then two days before the wedding, Mr. Right changes his mind and calls the whole thing off. The grief-stricken bride wonders why God allowed her to get her hopes up, only to see them dashed to pieces. “Why would a loving God do that?” she asks, and her faith crumbles. God is not who she thought he was.
When we go through that sort of experience, our foundations can be shaken to the core. “I obviously cannot depend on God,” we think, “so somehow I have to fix everything. And if God could do this to me, what other painful thing might he do?” What we don’t see at such times and in the swirl of such thoughts is the fact that we were resting on the wrong foundation in the first place. Our view of God has actually been wrong all along. We thought we’d been relying on God, but the truth is, we’d actually been relying on our idea of God and on what we were hoping God would do for us to make our lives happier. What we don’t see is that disappointments and other difficulties that seem to threaten our faith are really blessings in disguise. They are designed by God to draw us closer to him, to enable us to see him as he really is, and to dispel our misconceptions about him and our wrong understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
When we first discover that God isn’t who we’d thought, when he doesn’t turn out to fit our image of him, our fall into doubt or unbelief can be extraordinary. “Who is God if he is not the one I can count on to rescue me from bad things?” we ask. “Is he a God I can be close to after all? I’ve always gone to him with everything large and small. Does he care? Or have I been kidding myself all this time?” When our view of a loving God is called into question, we don’t know where to turn.
We don’t realize during the throes of such an experience that he is, indeed, all those good things we’d believed before our fall into trouble. But how he works that goodness into our lives is often very different from what we expected—or wanted. Bad things happen to us because God is actually calling us into a deeper faith, one that trusts him and chooses to stay with him even when his love for us includes losses,the relinquishment of dreams and earthly hopes, and painful experiences for which there will be no remedy in this lifetime.
Disappointments do not come from the hand of a cruel God; they come to us from the God who longs to relate and is actually drawing us nearer. Times of intense disappointment and difficulty may well be indicators that God is drawing nearer to us, even though he may seem farther away.”
You can read more here.