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Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
Why would God let someone, at the height of his ministry, suffer? Paul David Tripp, who has written over 30 books related to counseling, parenting, and marriage, is a well-known speaker and pastor. He was healthy. He often took ten mile bike rides. What was supposed to be a routine checkup for some pain he had ended up leading to numerous surgeries in regards to Tripps kidneys. Tripp doesn’t go into any specifics in his book as to what his issue was. To do so might lead some to say that because they don’t have that problem, they’re fine.
Mari and I streamed a recent marriage conference of his. He said he was task (or production) oriented. He knows what he needs to do, and he gets them done. No questions asked. The man didn’t need much sleep. took pride in his physical fitness and productivity. He had no problem writing a lot of books. But in the midst of lying on the hospital bed writhing in pain, Tripp wanted to die. He writes, “Suffering has the power to expose what you have been trusting all along” (21). His “faith” was actually just self-reliance.
He states that “each surgery resulted in lots of pain, profound weakness, and sleepless nights” (21).
We all either are suffering, have suffered, or will suffer, and we usually know someone who is suffering. Tripp writes to help us come alongside others while they endure their own suffering.
“This book is about how, in suffering, to identify and defend yourself against the dangers while you celebrate and seek the comforts of God’s grace” (56).
This suffering actually helped Tripp:
- It exposed Tripps’s idol of self
- It exposed his own unrealistic expectations. We will not always be strong and healthy; at any moment we could suffer or die.
“Weakness simply demonstrates what has been true all along: we are completely dependent on God for life and breath and everything else” (29). We don’t need to fear weakness, but our “delusional strength” (29). Tripp wasn’t being punished for his choices or his way of thinking. We live in a broken world, and in the brokenness he realized he relied more on himself than on God.
“In this world pain, sometimes chronic and sometimes acute, assaults us and makes life nearly unlivable. We live in a broken world where people die, food decays, wars rage, governments are corrupt, people take what isn’t theirs and inflict violence on one another, spouses act hatefully toward each another, children are abused instead of protected, people slowly die of starvation or die suddenly from disease, sexual and gender confusion lives, drugs addict and destroy, gossip destroys reputations, lust and greed control hearts, bitterness grows like a cancer, and the list could go on and on” (30)
He lists seven ideas we bring to our suffering
- Poor Theology
- Doubt of God
- Unrealistic Expectations of Life
- Unrealistic Expectations of Others
He notes that suffering is never only an attack on our body. It is also an attack on our minds and souls. When Our bodies are exhausted from working out, we have to be mentally focused to finish the work out. Suffering leads us to think about a way out. “What must I do to get away from this?” It can either drive you away from God (“What a waste of time. He isn’t doing anything for me”), or it can drive you to him (“The God of all life sent his Son to suffer for me. I don’t know what he is doing, but he is with me right now”).
Suffering is “never just an assault on our situation, but also an attack on our soul” (46). Suffering is spiritual warfare “you are not a machine” (46). Why is it important to bring our troubles to God? Because depending on how we think of our suffering, they can and will swallow us up.
Throughout his book Tripp directs your thoughts to God. Some of these may seem basic, but when you are discouraged, depressed, and suffering, these are the things you need brought to mind. Discouragement creeps in, and you think, “What does it matter if I do X? Why not just do Y?” Tripp encourages you to take the time to remember all the ways the Lord has come through for you.
Mari and I have no idea what the future holds. There are a few things up in the air when it comes to me getting a job in Norway, but nothing is definite. Neither of us have a permanent visa to the other person’s country, and when you throw a kid into the mix, the dam that holds back the anxiety weakens. What we have had to do is sit down and note the psalms where David, in the midst of his enemies, praises God. Then we remember that God has not let us down yet. He has been faithful, though in very strange ways. Will he not prove himself faithful again?
God’s people are not perfect by any stretch. God’s people are also wonderful. They care, and they want to help. Many are always ready to complicate their life to give you the help you need (195). Don’t suffer alone. Find someone or a few people you can trust, and talk to them humbly and honestly. They can see things that you don’t see, and the better they know you the better than can truly understand your situation.
It’s much easier to read a book on suffering from a guy who has suffered than from one who has not. someone could write a very theoretical book on suffering and have many true points. But for Tripp, the passion from his all-too-real experience comes out in different places in his book, and you are confident he can be trusted. He has suffered, and he is still battling with the issues. He brings the gospel to you to plant it into your life. A great book. Pair it with Keller’s book and Carson’s book.
Buy it on Amazon!
Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.