When hardship strikes, life can hurt, right down to the soul. It can hurt to even hope things will get better when you’ve faced a spiritual crisis of doubt, disappointment, or a feeling of distance from God due to unanswered prayers and painful circumstances. What does he say to us when we have nothing left to say? How do we see him when pain has silenced our prayers and blinded our souls? It is in those times, we must reach out and encounter Christ.
In Reaching for Wonder, Marlo Schalesky explores fourteen of the New Testament’s one-time encounters with Christ to illuminate the surprising character of a God who transforms pain into wonder. In these New Testament stories readers will find guidance to a deeper understanding of God’s plan for them, a more vibrant faith, and a fuller trust in God. Schalesky also leads readers to find hope in knowing that while their lives may not be what they had envisioned them to be, God is doing a mighty work in each and every life.
“Following God’s call isn’t about a life of ease, of every-prayer-answered when we want, or easy faith. It isn’t even about healing,” explains Schalesky. “Instead, it’s about encountering him so deeply, so significantly, that he changes everything. Everything about our circumstances, about our lives, about us. He is never satisfied until we see him. Can we be satisfied with anything less?”
Each chapter of Reaching for Wonder looks and one specific encounter between Christ and a stranger he had never met. The author skillfully weaves a narrative of each character, delving into what circumstances may have brought him or her to their breaking point where the only hope was an encounter with the Savior. What might have been going on in the mind of one desperate to reach out to Christ for healing? Schalesky then examines the details that scriptures reveal, applying it to life in today’s world.
Schalesky knows the pain she writes about all too well. As she started to work through the idea of reaching for wonder when life is at its worst, her family was in the midst of some of the most difficult and painful times they had ever faced. It was in this dark valley that Schalesky started looking at how Jesus interacted with those who were facing things that were more than they could bear.
“I found the real Jesus is not a ‘just have faith and it will be okay’ type of God. He is a breath-taking, vivid God who meets us in the times of trouble and encounters us in ways I didn’t expect. In ways that shake me from my ‘just have faith’ mentality. He’s not after a shallow, Band-Aid faith. He’s after a life-changing, shock-my-soul relationship with the living God. And that matters.”
The lessons Schalesky found in these stories and share in the book changed the way she encountered Christ in her own pain. She gives the example of the Samaritan woman at the well, explaining, “Jesus confronts and completely transforms a woman’s deepest shame into the very thing she uses to get a whole town to come and see Jesus. I am the woman at the well. You are the woman at the well. God is waiting there to take the very things we most want to hide, the things that cause us the most pain and shame, making them into the things that bring him glory. That’s who God is. That’s what Reaching for Wonder is about – seeing God in our deepest pain, in ways that do more than heal, they urge us to reach out for the wonder of what God offers, especially when life hurts the most.”
Schalesky is the founder and executive director of Wonder Wood Ranch, a California charitable organization that brings hope through horses to at-risk, gang-impacted, homeless, and other disadvantaged kids in Monterey County.
Marlo lives with her husband, six children, and a menagerie of large and small animals in Salinas, California. When she’s not cleaning up after critters of all kinds, doing laundry, or writing books, Schalesky loves white mochas, reading the New Testament in Greek, and finding the wonder of God in everyday life, and in the places we least expect it.
Find out more at VividGod.com. She can also be found on Facebook (MarloSchalesky) and Twitter (@MarloSchalesky).