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Scarred Faith

This is a story about how Honesty, Grief, a Cursing Toddler, Risk-Taking, AIDS, Hope, Brokenness, Doubts, and Memphis Ignited Adventurous Faith

Foreword by Ian Morgan Cron

About The Book

In an original and thought-provoking work, Pastor Josh Ross invites us to enter into the suffering around us—and to embrace our scars and God’s restoring work.

ARE YOU SCARRED? Tired of platitudes that don’t heal your brokenness? Have you wondered if you’re allowed to say things like, “God, this doesn’t make any sense. Where are you?” Are you looking for the balance between honesty and faithfulness? This book is for you.

Josh Ross lets you in on his own journey of grief as he discovers that faith is about experience, movement, and process. It is about adventure, adventure that demands honesty. God honors that. He is big enough and even willing enough to handle your questions, no matter how hard they are.

Suffering can be ignored, or suffering can force us to reimagine a world where we are participants in Jesus’ story of restoration. God is raising up people eager to run into the brokenness of the world to experience healing and new life. Are you willing to follow God into these places?

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Scarred Faith includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


God is present at all times. This does not mean that he will shield you from life’s painful experiences, but he will be with you through it all. The story of scripture depicts a scar-filled world, but it also hangs its existence on the hope that God is at work to repair our brokenness. It is up to us not just to observe it, but to participate in the greater story of restoration. It is this partnership that makes our doubts and pain allies of deep faith, as we open our hearts to allow God’s redeeming work in spite of and through the questions.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. When Jenny’s health was deteriorating Josh’s mom urged those who had gathered in the hospital not to get upset and, “serve any other gods.” (p. 30) Have you ever been tempted to serve another god during a challenging time? If so, how did you work through the struggle? If not, what kept you from going down that path?
2. Josh talks about asking God to intervene and save Jenny, but ultimately, she slips away. When have you prayed for something that you feel went unanswered? Did you ever find peace or see that God answered in a different way than expected?
3. On p. 41, Josh asks the question, “What does it mean to be a disciple when we don’t get our way?” Have you ever been tempted to “unfollow” Jesus, as some of his disciples did when they realized the journey would be different than they expected? What are some lessons you have learned along the way about surrender?
4. What do you think the Ross family’s use of CarePages (pp. 43–45) says about the connection between suffering and community?
5. How do you feel about the song that Josh’s family posted while they were grieving over Jenny’s death? Can you relate to the sentiments expressed in the lyrics?
6. Josh comments that “Maybe we force others into celebratory moods when many need to know that God can meet them where they are.” (p. 48) What was a time in your life when you needed the God who meets you where you are? How was this healing in its own way?
7. In one of Josh’s journal entries after Jenny’s death, he bares his anger and frustration with God. Have you ever felt anger like that toward God? Did you allow yourself to share your anger with Him?
8. Why do you think Josh felt he needed God to “cry with him?” (p. 61) How do you think this helped him during this difficult time?
9. Josh describes how his baptism makes him a “participant in the rhythm of creation” (p. 94) and how this no longer allows him to push aside the brokenness he sees around him. What does it mean to be a “participant,” and do you see yourself in this way?
10. How would you describe what it means to ra’ah (pp. 104–105)? Have you ever experienced a moment when you felt you’ve “seen” the world?
11. In Chapter 10, Josh talks about how stepping into the suffering of the world can result in persecution, but it also allows you to see God moving. Have you been hanging back or stepping into the suffering in your community? How have you seen a glimpse of God’s redemptive work?
12. Reflect on your own story. Can you see God’s presence in your life when you reflect upon your emotional, spiritual, or physical scars?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Josh uses the example of the song his friends wrote—“Some Explaining to Do”—to describe how he and his family felt after Jenny’s death. (pp. 45–46). The song is sometimes controversial and asks God for answers, but Josh writes that it helped him and his family deal with their suffering. Write and share a poem or song to express how you’ve felt in the middle of a difficult time.
2. Similar to what Josh had to do in seminary, come up with your own metaphor to describe your faith, and share and discuss with your book club members.
3. As the Rwandan pastor shared, “once you’ve been swallowed up in pain, you can’t help but want to see the pain and suffering of others alleviated.” (p. 132) As a group, commit to a number of community service or volunteer hours to accomplish over a year, and plan volunteer activities that can be accomplished together as a group.

About The Author

Photograph by Melissa Sweazy

Josh Ross is the Lead Minister for the Sycamore View Church in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition to speaking regularly around the country, he has been published in New Wineskins, At Home Tennessee, The Christian Chronicle, and other publications.

Product Details

Raves and Reviews

“Josh Ross does not write about suffering as an expert, a theologian, or a pastor—though, in some sense, he is all three. Scarred Faith is an honest and raw description of life with God in the dark moments of pain and loss. This is not a book for those who want a Disney Jesus. This is a book for the rest of us, who, day by day, are learning to allow God to draw close to us in the midst of—not in spite of—our doubts, questions, and anxiety. Josh is a witness to the truth that God allows us to take on the strength of that which we overcome. So, read. And be strong in God.” —Josh Graves, author of Heaven on Earth and The Feast

– Josh Graves, author of Heaven on Earth and The Feast

“If you prefer a domesticated and sanitized faith, DON'T READ THIS BOOK! Josh asks hard questions, deep questions, the kind that people only ask who care as deeply as they hurt. But if you have been wounded and if the pain of the world breaks your heart, READ THIS BOOK! You will find hope and courage, not to remove your scars, but to redeem them.” —Rick Atchley, Senior Minister of The Hills Church in Fort Worth, Texas

– Rick Atchley, Senior Minister of The Hills Church in Fort Worth, Texas

“This book clung to me for days after I read the first draft. Here Josh Ross walks us into places where God makes no sense to us—and where, on the face of things, He appears to be anything but a good God. The writing style is fresh and creative, but the real genius lies in the way Josh draws the reader up close to raw and inexplicable pain and loss—yet also reveals a way to embrace our pain, rather than to run from it. Ross calls us to be ‘scarred with God’ because God is willing to redirect overwhelming grief into enormous positive energy. A really helpful read for those of us who suffer—and for those who care.” —Lynn Anderson, Hope Network Ministries

– Lynn Anderson, Hope Network Ministries

“Reading Scarred Faith reminds us that even when death and painful suffering knock us off the busy sidewalks of life into a dark alley of hopelessness, even when we stop believing that a doorway of beauty will open up for us, God arrives. Josh writes beautifully, and with brutal honesty, about the loss of his sister Jenny and brings us closer to the understanding that God dwells in the allies of grief and loss, and it is here that we can find a peace beyond all understanding. This book will challenge you to really dig deep and ask yourself: what is it again that I truly believe?” —Pam Cope, Touch A Life Foundation

– Pam Cope, Touch A Life Foundation

“Scarred Faith is a must read for anyone who wants to go deep with God. Josh Ross has captured the true essence of what it means to walk a life with Christ. Sometimes we celebrate answered prayers and sometimes we don’t understand, but in the end Jesus wins. Adventure, heartache, childhood to adulthood, Scarred Faith covers the meaning of growing closer to Christ through everything that we endure and enjoy in life. You will not be able to put this book down.” —Tommy Maddox, Super Bowl Champion and Former NFL Quarterback

– Tommy Maddox, Super Bowl Champion and Former NFL Quarterback

“If faith always works the way it should for you, if your prayers are always answered, if you're always living in the delight of a spiritual summer, this book may just puzzle you. But if you have battled doubt, if you have agonized over God's apparent silence, if you've felt gusts of winter chilling your spiritual journey—well, this is your book. Ross writes with raw honesty about life's disappointments but also with bold hope about God's future. I look forward to putting it in the hands of many people who are struggling to believe among life's disappointments.” —Mike Cope, Director of Ministry Outreach, Pepperdine University, and author of Megan's Secrets

– Mike Cope, Director of Ministry Outreach, Pepperdine University, and author of Megan's Secrets

“Every few years, a book comes along that inspires you to reexamine your life and your purpose according to what Christ truly has asked us to do as believers. Scarred Faith is such a book. Joshua Ross writes with beautiful honesty and even humor as he fearlessly dives into a world marred by the ugliness of sin, suffering, grief, and tragedy. Joshua seeks not to answer the question 'Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?' But he instead shows us—from firsthand experience—God’s intention that good people use the bad things that have happened to redeem the world around them with the love of Christ. If you were only to read a few books this year besides the Bible, Scarred Faith should be one of them.” —Dudley Rutherford, author of God Has an App for That!

– Dudley Rutherford, author of God Has an App for That!

“Although Joshua Ross is not a native Memphian, his book Scarred Faith demonstrates that he reflects some of the most precious values for which our city is known, namely, resilience and faith in God. He has embraced ministry in our city with the type of zeal and deep affection that one would possibly only expect from those with longstanding familial and social connections here. It just shows that Joshua Ross is truly one of us—by geography and by spirit.” —A.C. Wharton, Jr., Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee

– A.C. Wharton, Jr., Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee

"Sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected places. Joshua Ross has written a book that speaks to the human experience and provides a compassionate answer for all of those who havelost a loved one and, with it, their faith. Weaving together the story of losing his beloved sister with lessons of how that loss challenged his faith as an ordained Christian minister, Ross bravely shares with us his own anger and doubt caused by the failure of his prayers and petitions to save his sister. He then leads us to a deeper exploration of the true Christian journey by recognizing that our emotional scars carry with them the opportunity for grace. Ross was inspired to move his young family to one of the poorest neighborhoods in Memphis, Tennessee, in order to heal himself and to live out the true social gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. As a mother who lost her own son just four years ago, Scarred Faith assures me that my pain can be used to humbly serve others and, in the process, heal myself. It is a book of simplicity, subtlety, and beauty that needs to be shared with the world." —Gayle S. Rose, Chief Executive Officer, Electronic Vaulting Services

– Gayle S. Rose, Chief Executive Officer, Electronic Vaulting Services

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