Jane Roach has written a strong, deeply moving study of Christ Jesus and the cross that I hope becomes the talk of many congregations. Joy Beyond Agony: Embracing the Cross of Christ, new this year from P&R Publishing, takes twelve lessons to dig into the immeasurable wealth of Christ Jesus’ character and his work on the cross.
For readers who don’t skip the introduction, Roach encourages us to set goals for our Bible study in order to clarify our intentions and pray that the Lord will help us meet them. “Lurking behind our goals and best efforts are our past failures in keeping up with them,” she explains. Part of that failure may be simply leaving our goals undefined and consequently unfulfilled. “We find ourselves captive to empty pursuits that gobble up precious time,” she says. If we identify those pursuits or the time slots they fill, we will be better able to replace them, and then we’ll see the spiritual growth we’ve been hoping to see.
In the study itself, she leads readers through a full 360 review of the cross and its implications for us. In one lesson: “How can God’s gracious promises come true for guilty people? How can the Holy One of Israel bless sinful people?” In another lesson, she walks through Jesus’ seven “I am” statements, such as “I am the bread of life,” to reveal the character of one who hung on that cross.
With prayers, faith stories, insightful questions, and personal instruction, Roach has written a beautiful study on the joy that was set before our Lord.
In one story, a woman with cancer describes how her church communities poured out their love for her. “The more kindness I was shown, the more frustrated I became, and the more frustrated I grew with myself for being so ungrateful. When I finally put words to my frustration, I realized I was angry that I was utterly undeserving. . . . I must–there is no other way–I must abandon my pride and self-reliance and cling to his cross and his mercy.”
I hope Joy Beyond Agony will be able to drive home that one glorious idea to thousands of American Evangelical families this year and next, so that we will know the joy of Christ far more intimately than anything in this world.