Advent resources

Into the Mess and Other Jesus Stories: Reflections on the Life of Christ

Katerra Adkins reviews Debie Thomas' new book.

Debie Thomas
Cascade Books, 220 pages | Published May 17, 2022

In Into the Mess and Other Jesus Stories, Debie Thomas encourages readers to step back from traditional approaches to biblical interpretation and instead ask the bigger questions, such as: “Why should I follow what is written here?” and “How does this apply to my modern-day life?” The Bible is often seen as “set in stone”; however, Thomas re-evaluates past indoctrination by breaking down her cultural values and boundaries set by the church to relate the Bible to the reality of our world.

Each chapter gets straight to the point, introducing a topic and a related psalm. Thomas writes as though having a casual conversation with her readers, sharing personal stories and advice on how to take and apply Jesus’ experiences. She structures each reflection in an easy-to-understand way, providing a clear path to connect personal emotional reactions to Jesus’ circumstances.

For those who feel disconnected from Jesus or the devotion of his followers, Thomas encourages us to focus on the humanity of their experiences. Mary was favored by God and chosen to be the mother of Jesus, yet she was still a human woman. Jesus was divine, but he was tested by Satan on his faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter was a sinner who had to be reconciled with Jesus before experiencing grace. We often see Jesus and God as unreachable powers, however, this collection of essays encourages us to connect with God through Jesus’ turmoil and the understanding he offered everyone, particularly his followers and friends.

For those who wonder, “What does this say to us about God’s power and role in our timeline when biblical situations are so far in the past?” Thomas responds by connecting our own trials with Jesus’ time in the desert. She writes, “(t)here are angels in the wilderness. They don’t always come with cures. They don’t hand us the control we crave. But they come as messengers of unfailing love. They come because the God who knows that we are dust, the God who drove Jesus into the wilderness so that for all of eternity our Messiah would understand human pain from the inside – keeps sending them.” Life is messy, but God sends angels in ways we may not realize. Our blessings can be a refreshing wind, a word of hope from a stranger or simply a cool drink on a hot day. God sends angels to give us strength to get through our struggles much like he did with Jesus in the desert.

Into the Mess can be read in its entirety or as standalone chapters exploring a single psalm or piece of wisdom. Rather than ask, “What would Jesus do?” Thomas invites us to wonder, “What would Jesus see?” and “How would Jesus, the human, feel?” Her invitations expanded my perspective and allowed me to better understand Jesus’ purpose. For all of us who need help to find the hand of God during the messiness of life, there is Into the Mess.

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