Book Review: Transformed by Tough Times


“In college, I was a kicker and punter at Oklahoma State University under a demanding head coach, Jimmy Johnson. (Football fans might recognize him as the coach for two college national championships in the 80’s and a couple of Super Bowls in the 90’s for the Dallas Cowboys). Just playing for Coach Johnson was tough enough, but my sophomore year, I got my knee bent backwards in a Junior Varsity game in Lincoln, Nebraska. When surgery and rehab efforts didn’t get me back to playing football, I eventually had to hang up the cleats. Looking back now, that experience made me more aware of how other people dealt with adversity and caused me to pay more attention to how I could respond when faced with tough times.” – Steve Reed

Transformed by Tough Times by Steve Reed focuses on the benefits of suffering in a very thorough way, exploring scripture, and taking us step-by-step in 209 pages how and why we suffer.

While it’s not quite as exhaustive as Randy Alcorn’s If God is Good, Steve Reed quite satisfactorily in a warm and friendly voice encourages us to look at suffering in a different light. He uses scripture to help us understand in layman’s terms that pain is a benefit.

He begins the book with a lengthy football story from his past which I felt went on a bit too long. I would have rather seen it get right into the meat of his purpose. Examples people can relate to and touching missionary stories that Reed personally experienced pepper the chapters. Reed also makes the Biblical figures more understandable by paraphrasing a lot of what we read in the Bible. I didn’t have time to check the accuracy of it, but much of it was familiar and I have no reason to doubt its accuracy.

On page 16, Reed jumps from a paraphrased biblical story of Paul in jail to a personal story. This caused me to break from being immersed in the book. He did separate it with dotted lines to show a scene break, but it felt rough all the same. Otherwise, the book has zero apparent errors and is well-organized. Reed uses a style of writing similar to what I assume would be his preaching style. A lot of his writing feels as if he is standing in front of me behind a pulpit—it’s warm, caring, and sounds like a speech not a book. The writing style is casual with humor interspersed in it and stomach-groaning puns.

On page 61, Reed acknowledges that 80% of his suffering was probably his own fault,“Admitting my own sin and stupidity is not particularly noble; it’s just a matter of dealing with life responsibly.” 80% is a good number for the rest of us, too. He encourages us to persevere through tough times whether we caused it or someone else’s sin caused it in our lives. Reed identifies how people think of God and suffering. Reed also gets into physical suffering and debunks the health and wealth gospel. His style of writing is a teaching style with great transitions between chapters. Good teaching styles make learning something easier on the reader. The most touching part of the book were his stories of his mom’s fight with Lyme Disease.

“Mom told me how some of her toughest times came through many dark and lonely nights when the pain kept her from sleeping. When she felt that she didn’t even have the mental energy to pray, she turned on her inspirational music or homemade tape recordings. Often she’d pray, ‘Lord, I can’t even think straight to pray, so let this tape express my prayer to You.’” (Page 125).

Reed uses his mom’s struggle to show how our pain is not wasted. His mom hated going to therapy because of the rude people in her group, but she had no choice. Instead, she prayed for God to help her love them. One tough guy might have become saved because she took the time to look past her own irritation to love another. That scene made me tear up.

Overall, Reed’s style of writing and encouragement made this book worth four stars. It’s one I would urge someone to read who is new to the faith, suffering, and needing to find the path to walk through the pain. It’s a simple explanation that suffering is a benefit, not a detriment. It doesn’t seek to resolve a person’s pain, but to comfort them and help them see the joy in their suffering through the eyes of various biblical characters.

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