25 January 2010
When life takes us through difficult times, we should escape the loneliness of self-help and draw on the assurance of God’s love and strength – that’s the theme of A Way Through the Wilderness, the latest study course from renowned theologian Dr Paula Gooder.
Ideal for church groups meeting through Lent – when the Church draws inspiration from Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness prior to his public ministry – A Way Through the Wilderness explores God’s promise to comfort his people as they negotiate their way through life’s good times and bad times.
In the introduction, Paula recognises that many find self-help books are invaluable, but writes: “I have always felt, however, that self-help is somewhat bleak and lonely: a little like battling up a cliff face on your own.”
The five-week course comes highly commended by Graham Tomlin, Dean of St Mellitus College, London: “Paula Gooder is a first-rate teacher of the Bible. This creative, thoughtful and sensitive course will be a rich resource for groups and individuals wanting to explore God’s purpose in difficult times.”
Five 90-minute sessions teach on an aspect of God’s comfort, based on a short passage from Isaiah chapter 40. “Embracing Comfort” explores what comfort is and what kind of comfort God seeks to offer to those who are in need; “Stepping Out” looks at the theme of wilderness as a place not only of unhappiness but also of comfort; “Becoming Messengers” reflects on the possibility that God wants us to become his messengers of comfort; “Encountering God” helps groups discuss the message of God that simply encountering God can give us; and “Receiving Fresh Strength” reflects on what having God’s strength in our lives might feel like.
All five sessions include guidelines for leaders, a lively introduction, a passage from Isaiah freshly translated by Dr Gooder, along with prompts and questions to aid group discussion. There are, in addition, ideas for using music in the group, both hymns and modern worship music, and resources to support individual prayer and worship as a group.
The course can be used by groups all year round, not just during lent, nor will it only be helpful for people who are going though difficult times.
A short prayer opens each session:
“God of all comfort,
where we are stuck, release us
where we have given up hope, inspire us
where we focus only on ourselves,
help us to see the needs of others;
transform us by your Spirit to be the people
you have called us to be.”
A Way Through the Wilderness, priced £5.99 (ISBN 978-0-7151-4188-5), is available from Christian bookshops or by mail order via the website www.chpublishing.co.uk.