When I talked with Mark Tabb about his book, Out of the Whirlwind, I confess I had not yet finished reading it. As our conversation progressed, however, I sensed his pastor’s heart and compassion; I knew that the issues he dealt with in the book he had first truly dealt with in his heart and mind from the Scriptures.
Tabb pastored a church for sixteen years before leaving in April, 2002. The book is a result of an “idea file” he has maintained over the years, along with several beginning paragraphs written in 2000. Several heartbreaking incidents during this time also helped to refine his thinking. He told me that he completely rewrote chapter three, “Flying Without a Net”, seven times. He did not want this to be a compilation of clichés, nor is it a book for those dealing with the minor annoyances of life. This is a book to hold out hope for those going through “earth-shaking crises.”
I asked him about specific strategies when going through trials. At what point do we say, “I need to take action” rather than “I need to accept this situation.” This is the question Tabb deals with in chapter three, “This Isn’t What I Signed Up For.” During our conversation he said, “There’s no formula for getting through. The one constant is, trials always last longer than we expect. If this were a trouble-free world we’d mistake it for Home.” I was encouraged by that.
My next question dealt with how to comfort others who are going through trials without being like one of Job’s friends. We’ve all had people in our lives that have meant well, but still managed to say something insensitive and inappropriate. Tabb admitted that we all fell the need to “say something to make it better [but] we can’t. Don’t be afraid of silence.” Let people know that you care, that you’re praying, but don’t limit it by time. “Remember, life will not be normal for a long time. Most of the time, shut up!”
I wondered how well seminaries were preparing pastors for this aspect of ministry, and he had a wonderful illustration. Mark Tabb has served as a firefighter and fire department chaplain. After graduating from the academy, he was told by his fire chief, “You’ve graduated, but now I’m going to take you into fires to really teach you what you need to know.” Out of the Whirlwind is for those going through the fire, but also for those wanting to help someone go through it. He reminded me that Christ didn’t come to take away our suffering, but to share it.
My final question was, “How can a Christian discern when trials are a direct result of sin and it is specifically God’s chastisement?” This is the question answered in chapter eight, “What I Always Feared.” Trials naturally force us to examine ourselves and ask questions, but the real question is, “What now?” The temptation is to draw inward and not go forward. But as Mark Tabb told me at the end of our time together, “Go forward – don’t park! If we park we miss out.” -- Pam Glass, Christian Book Previews