In Overcoming Adversity: Life Lessons from the Book of James, Dr. Carl Garrigus demonstrates how the Book of James can be employed to aid people in rising above life’s challenges. For Garrigus, who holds doctoral degrees in History and Theology, defeating adversity requires a stronger relationship with Christ and an increasingly maturing faith in Him. A false relationship with Jesus will leave one powerless to combating the trials life presents, and a person may struggle with these trials for many years, years without joy and peace. Garrigus teaches the reader how to establish and maintain an authentic and effective relationship with Christ, one that leads to pure gratitude for such a relationship.
Garrigus emphasizes the significance of responding to God’s call to perform good works, which strengthens their ability to experience victory over the adversities they face. Instead of viewing trying circumstances through a negative lens, the scholar exhorts readers to use these circumstances as opportunities to perfect one’s faith.
As a believer, one has to recognize he or she is not seeking victory; he or she is operating from victory. This is a biblical reality for believers I wish the author would have explicitly stated. To experience such victory, one does not need to “reengage” with God as Garrigus posits; he or she simply needs to believe what God said: Christ leads us to triumph in all phenomena we encounter. “Reengage” seems to communicate that believers need to do something, perform some work, some work of the flesh, to earn their victory. This couldn’t be further from the truth: Jesus has already made our victory available to us through the finished work of the Cross.
To his credit, though, the scholar does explain that believers have God available to aid them in developing a constantly maturing and effective faith. Dr. Garrigus provides a powerful word of wisdom: “When a trial comes, don’t turn away from God but toward Him” (p. 13).This statement would be even stronger by instructing readers to remain focused on God and never “turn away from” Him. If he would’ve made this point, then there wouldn’t be a need to advocate for his readers to “reengage.”
Overall, this is a worthwhile read that can help many believers, especially those struggling with their faith, to rely on God for their strength to conquer adversities. I very much appreciate how Dr. Garrigus articulates such confidence in the efficacy of a true and engaging relationship with God. Each chapter of this short book (fifty-five pages total) ends with “Five Questions for Exploration,” affording readers opportunities to plumb nuances of ideas communicated.
Book Crash provided a copy of this book to assist with this review.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison