Playing Hurt by author Brian Goins (Kregel, 2011) is, hands down, the best book of its kind that I have read. It is thoroughly biblical, Gospel-centered, and written from such a manly perspective you can almost smell the sweaty socks laying in the corner and see the underwear laying in the floor that didn’t get picked up after the last shower (or maybe the one before last).
The book centers around Paul’s well-known admonition to husbands in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” As such, Goins shows that Christ is the ultimate example for Christian husbands to seek to emulate. Goins does not, however, simply encourage husbands to look at how far we are from Christ’s example, and then encourage us to try harder to do better. Instead, he shows that we cannot live in this way without Christ’s power and presence with us. As Goins says, “God’s not looking for willpower and good techniques. He wants men brave enough to depend on His strength more than their own.” (139)
The great irony the author points out is that the very one we have been called to love sacrificially, our wife, is the one who often “hurts” us, whether through unmet expectations, harsh criticism, or in some other way. It is at this point that many husbands go running for the bench, either by lashing out in retaliation, or by clamming up, going into silent mode. Goins shows how it is at these difficult moments that men must man-up, “playing hurt” rather than simply giving up and being content to sit on the bench.
Goins writes not from the perspective of one who has achieved the status of “model husband,” but as one who is a fellow traveler. He shares personal examples where he has gotten it right, as well as instances where he has blown it. All along the way, he continues to hold up the example of Christ, never allowing husbands to settle simply for “the best I can do.” And, like a good coach, he is constantly shouting encouragement from the sidelines.
While the book focuses on the man’s role as husband, Goins takes a spiritually holistic approach to the topic by demonstrating the necessity of elements such as discipleship, mentoring and accountability. He also reminds us about the reality of spiritual warfare, and the booby traps of lust, pornography, etc. And, he manages to write a spiritually-challenging book by incorporating a great balance of strong biblical truth, real-life examples, and a healthy dose of humor (including his use of the “Black Knight” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail!)
Men should buy this book and read it. They should encourage their friends to read it. Women should encourage their husbands to read it, and tell their girlfriends to encourage their husbands to read it as well. It will be required reading for any man for whom I provide pre-marital counseling, including my two sons. May God use this book for His glory as husbands answer the call to love their wives as Christ loved the church.
(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for writing this review.)