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The title is one we are all too familiar with if we’ve been on this earth for any amount of time. It’s the subtitle that really catapults this book into the hands of those who are suffering or walking alongside someone who is. Paul David Tripp offers the hope of the gospel for when life just doesn’t make sense. He writes honestly and vulnerably about his own suffering when he went into acute renal failure in 2014. One of the key points that caught my attention was how it is not just the suffering itself, but what we bring to our suffering that can shape our experience of it. We all have thoughts, worldviews, experiences and opinions which we will use as a lens to make sense of suffering. It also shines a light on those parts of our lives that we falsely believe we have control over, when in reality, it could all be taken away in an instant. But it is not a story of utter despair with no end in sight. There is hope.
Hardship has the power to burst the bubble of our self-sovereignty.Paul David Tripp (pg. 160, Suffering)
Paul helpfully gives a voice to some of the understandably real thoughts and feelings a sufferer goes through, but warns gently and with compassion not to wallow there. He writes about fear, doubt, envy, denial and discouragement – all things that we encounter in life at different times and varying degrees. He gently leads the reader forward to the comfort found in Jesus with later chapters titled ‘The Comfort of God’s…’ Grace, Presence, Sovereignty, Purpose, People and Rest. It is an important transition from the experience of suffering to the very real promises found in God that can still be known through the darkest moments of our suffering.
He shares stories of the hardships that others have endured from his years of counselling experience. What is striking is that we often forget the breadth and depth of real experiences people are walking through and how varied each person’s struggle is. They are individuals walking through relationship breakdowns, the death of loved ones, addictions, illness… We already know that people go through difficult situations, but these glimpses into their lives show us a window into their heart that we would not otherwise see. These stories are woven throughout and he draws from his own pain which is multi-faceted; it is pain that touches the physical, the spiritual, the emotional, the psychological. Suffering is never just isolated to one part of us.
Suffering is the intersection where life’s deepest pains meet with the most wonderful blessings of grace. It’s the ground where mournful cries echo alongside heartfelt praise. It’s the place where God seems absent and his presence is most clearly seen. It’s the location of deep aloneness mixing with awareness of glorious love. It’s the place of raging spiritual war and miraculous peace. Suffering is where weakness intersects with wisdom, sorrow intersects with joy, and despair intersects with hope.Paul David Tripp (pg. 203, Suffering)
At the end of each chapter, there is time to reflect on what Paul has shared so far to encourage the reader to think through and apply what he is saying to their own lives. There is also a ‘Heart Reset’ section to finish which provides an opportunity to look at other verses in the Bible to meditate on. This is a great way to end the chapter as it keeps the focus on God’s truth going forward.
Suffering exposes weaknesses, not just in a physical body or in our relationships but also in our hearts. Difficulty exposes weak joy, weak love, and fickle worship. Suffering reminds us that we are not as righteous as we’ve thought and not as faithful as we’ve confessed to be. Suffering brings you and me to the end of ourselves.Paul David Tripp (pg. 155, Suffering)
I think it will be a comfort to anyone who is going through suffering because it offers powerful truths that convey hope. For the believer, it will be a comfort to know of God’s presence in it all. If someone without faith reads it, I pray they will be refreshed to know that there is a God of love and comfort, and that they may be encouraged to read about others who have been through enormous pain too. It could be read with someone else or a group as the questions allow for helpful discussion which could draw out valuable conversation on the topic of suffering. Yet, this book is a comfort to a reader who just wants to know they are not alone. Suffering can so often leave you in the dark emotionally and spiritually, but Paul is like a gentle companion who walks with you and helps you to look at it from different perspectives, but ultimately pointing to Jesus – our ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Suffering demonstrates that we’re not grace graduates, that there’s still sin inside us, and that we desperately need the Savior’s grace.Paul David Tripp (pg. 181, Suffering)
Dr. Paul David Tripp is a pastor, event speaker, and a best-selling and award-winning author. With more than 30 books and video series on Christian living, Paul’s driving passion is to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. He and his wife of 45+ years, Luella, live in Philadelphia; they have four grown children. For more information, visit PaulTripp.com or follow Paul on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.