How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin is not the easiest book to review. Some books you can’t put down. Some books you force yourself to turn the next page. Martin’s book fits neither category. It lies somewhere in the middle.
The crux of How to Survive a Shipwreck is Martin’s personal journey from Pentecostal pastor to hitting life’s rock bottom. He finds that God is present in the midst of chaos. But more so, it is here he rebuilds, restores and recreates. The narrative creates hope and light as the author invites us on the journey into the murky depths of his shipwreck, and encourages us to peer into our own depths.
The shipwreck metaphor serves the book well yet at times it feels overused. As a result reading is somewhat labored at times. This is most evident is the first chapters of the book. However the book becomes easier to read as Martin begins to include the examples from Job, the letters of John and Revelation. They add depth to the metaphor and Martin’s memoir.
How to Survive a shipwreck contains a beautiful picture of the empathy required for suffering. Martin writes:
This idea is key to the book. It doesn’t attempt to give answers our shipwrecks. There are no platitudes about pain. And the author does not even give the details of how he found himself shipwrecked. Instead he leads the reader to see the God who is at home is the chaos. The God who ‘has bottled up the tears of the saints, and collected all our collective heartbreak, storing them for the day they are mingled with the river of life.’
How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin is a book for anyone who has suffered, or on the verge of suffering. It will help negotiate the depths of the soul and shine light on the God who is already there.
‘Any religion that fails to take into account the reality of sea monsters should never be taken seriously’ (p. 70).
‘God is at home in the chaos – it is the place from which he started the universe’ (p. 88).
‘Here Job is, the portrait of a man undone, and all he wants now is the consolation and empathy of his friends. But Job’s friends are precisely the kind of friends we often are if we have not suffered – they are more interested in explaining Job’s plight to him than sitting with him in it. They are incapable of the compassion that would demand them to suffer with Job, to suffer alongside him’ (p. 85).
‘The ultimate sin in that first Johannine letter is to “claim to be without sin.” Walking in holiness is not to walk in perfection but to walk in authenticity, to walk in truth. That does not mean we will not have any broken pieces. That does not mean everything within us will yet become well and whole. But the first and largest step toward wholeness is always to invite the light of God into our depths, and invite a few friends who we can trust to hold the light for us when needed’ (p. 90).
‘Sin does not keep God away from us – we cannot outrun his everlasting love’ (p. 101).
‘God is at work not in the world as it should be but in the world as it actually is’ (p. 110).
‘This God, according to Revelation, has bottled up the tears of the saints, held and collected all of our collective heartbreak, storing them for the day they are mingled with the river of life’ (p. 144).
Disclaimer: I have received a free epub copy of the book in return for this review.
Jonathan Martin can be found at jonathanmartinwords.com/