Many of you know I’m a counselor by trade and perhaps that background and my own season of hard is why I’m not one to shy away from the tender topics in life like suffering and even death.  Tim Keller said of suffering, “There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” But if you find yourself in a place where that’s not where you’re mentally ready to go today, then maybe this post isn’t for you and that is okay too.

Those walking hard roads of grief and suffering always tug at my heartstrings something fierce.  So I want to share with you my favorite books to pour over when crisis hits close to home. My absolute best book recommendation to open first in hard times (or any time) is the Bible – but I’m also going to share several books that have helped me through some of the darkest days of my life.

10 Good Books to Read in Hard Times

The One Year Book of Hope (One Year Books) – This book is for anyone who has been hurt in life and would benefit from a hope-filled daily companion. The author offers insightful daily reflections based on the Word of God to comfort, encourage, and uplift those who are feeling the aches of life—whether it’s because of everyday disappointments or deep losses. Through a year’s worth of thoughtful entries, the reader will learn how much God longs to lift us up, carry us through in times of difficulty and uncertainty, and give us true, lasting joy. My favorite part of this was book was  the author’s transparency in sharing her own personal story of suffering – it really helped put things in perspective for me when I read this book!

When God & Grief Meet: True Stories of Comfort and Courage – This book has a powerful message for mourners. Each chapter contains inspiring real-life stories of grievers from all walks of life who have faced difficult losses. The focus of the stories is not the circumstances of how the loved ones died, but how those left behind are finding the strength to continue living without them. Written in a heartfelt, hopeful style, this book contains warm insights and true stories illustrating that God is close to the brokenhearted and can comfort and encourage those whose minds are filled with doubts and whose hearts are filled with grief.

In the Eye of the Storm – If you’ve ever wondered if God in heaven can relate to you on earth, then read and re-read this pressure-packed day in the life of Christ. It is the only day, aside from the crucifixion, that all four gospels recorded. Max Lucado has interwoven their accounts in such a way that you will be assured that God knows how you feel.  And you will be assured that within every torrent there is a calm center — a place you can stand when your world gets windy.

Steadfast Heart: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Life’s Storms – Although never our personal choice, it is frequently God’s plan that His children walk through storms and difficulties. Using the picture presented in Psalm 57, Elyse Fitzpatrick the secret of experiencing God’s presence and comfort in trial and will grow in their appreciation of his purposes in their lives. I have loved every one of her books that I have ever read – highly recommend this author!

When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer: Insights to Keep You Praying with Greater Faith and Deeper Hope – Many of us have experienced amazing answers to prayer. But what about when our deepest prayers go unanswered? When disaster strikes, when a loved one dies—what then? When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer explores the mysteries and paradoxes of unanswered prayer.

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss – I first found Jerry Sittser’s story through a series of podcasts he appeared on that fascinated me as I listened to his perspective on suffering. Loss came suddenly for Jerry Sittser. In an instant, a tragic car accident claimed three generations of his family: his mother, his wife, and his young daughter. While most of us will not experience such a catastrophic loss in our lifetime, all of us will taste it. And we can, if we choose, know as well the grace that transforms it.  This book plumbs the depths of sorrow, whether due to illness, divorce, or the loss of someone we love. The circumstances are not important; what we do with those circumstances is. In coming to the end of ourselves, we can come to the beginning of a new life—one marked by spiritual depth, joy, compassion, and a deeper appreciation of simple blessings.

A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life – While A Grace Disguised explored how the soul grows through loss, A Grace Revealed brings the story of Sittser’s family full circle, revealing God’s redeeming work in the midst of circumstances that could easily have destroyed them. As Sittser reminds us, our lives tell a good story after all. A Grace Revealed will helps us understand and trust that God is writing a beautiful story in our own lives.

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard –  I wrote about how much I loved this book and why, right here.  This one is a game changer!  In The Hardest Peace, Kara doesn’t offer answers for when living is hard, but she asks us to join her in moving away from fear and control and toward peace and grace. This book has changed the lives of thousands of people, with many more to come in the future!

Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together  –  In Just Show Up, Kara and her close friend, Jill Lynn Buteyn, write about what friendship looks like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry, and even cancer. Whether you are eager to be present to someone going through a difficult time or simply want inspiration for pursuing friends in a new way, this eloquent and practical book explores the gift of silence, the art of receiving, and what it means to just show up.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering  –  This is the definitive Christian book on why bad things happen and how we should respond to them. The question of why there is pain and suffering in the world has confounded every generation; yet there has not been a major book from a Christian perspective exploring why they exist for many years.

10 Good Books to Read in Hard Times

If you’d like to read more about what to do when suffering shows up in the lives of those you care about and how to love them through it, check out this post on 8 actionable, practical tips to help others in crisis.