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Suffering Well

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  1. Encouraging and Accurate Review / Tip by Liz P

    I found Suffering Well to be thoroughly biblical. There are no platitudes in the book, no criticism of those who suffer because they “lack faith”, no encouragement for us to flee suffering as though it was something that could be avoided. Suffering Well looks at what the Bible says about suffering – that it will happen, that God is in control of it all and that all the Bible teaches that suffering is part of our lives – as part of a fallen creation, in persecution for following Christ and in seeking the heart of God and grieving for the things that grieve God’s heart.

    A true understanding of what suffering is and why suffering is, is vital. This understanding is what allows us to praise God in every circumstance.

    I cannot profess to have learnt all there is to learn about suffering, and suffering well, but I can testify to my own faith and the faith of my family in our own time of grief and suffering. We don’t know why God chose to take my father home at the young age of 57 but we do know through and through that God was and is in control. We can testify of His graciousness to us in Dad’s final days and in the days since his death. I know that our faith in this difficult time has been encouraging to others.

    I hope and pray that I can transfer this attitude of praise in the most difficult circumstances to the less tragic but difficult and trying times in life – because they will come, it is just a question of when. (Posted on 8/12/2012)

  2. Whenever suffering comes along – of whatever kind – the right way to deal with it lies in staying true to Christ. (p112) Review / Tip by Dave McDonald

    I’ve got vague memories of reading this book back in January/February this year. This isn’t a slight on the book, because I’ve only got vague memories of doing anything in that period! The early cancer months are something of a blur. Last week I read Suffering Well: the predictable surprise of Christian suffering by Paul Grimmond (again?). It’s a topic I felt I understood pretty well. The suffering bit anyway. Not so sure about the well. It was natural that I’d gravitate towards a book like this, as I’ve felt the last couple of years have been shaped by suffering of many kinds. A life-threatening car accident, cancer, serious illness in hospital, having our dreams of ministry in Darwin dashed. So what is God doing? What am I to learn?

    The title sounds like an oxymoron – predictable surprise. And I think it is. It comes as a surprise only if we don’t grasp God’s word on this topic. If we soak ourselves in the Scriptures then there is something very predictable about suffering. God tells us to expect suffering. We live in a world subjected to futility and frustration. It’s been that way ever since the first man and woman decided to try and live without God.

    20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20-22)

    And there’s a specific suffering for those who are following Jesus. We’re warned to expect that we will suffer and be persecuted for our allegiance to Jesus.

    For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, (Philippians 1:29)

    In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12)

    Suffering Well begins by highlighting the prevailing views about suffering and God in Western society. This is the cultural environment in which we experience suffering and it’s the tape that plays in our heads as we grapple with understanding our experiences. It goes something like this:

    In our brave new world, suffering means that God is immoral and that Christians are immoral. Our only hope is a world freed from the Christian God, in which humanity invents its own understanding of right and wrong, guided by reason alone. (p28)

    Grimmond calls us to think from the Bible’s perspective about human suffering. He shows that the way to handle suffering well is to see through God’s eyes and to follow Jesus, whatever comes our way.

    This book isn’t a theodicy, but it does show us God’s character in the face of suffering. We’re reminded that God is God and doesn’t have to give an account to us. However, God is revealed as a God of justice and a God of mercy. He can be trusted even when we have no specific explanation for our difficult circumstances. God’s character is shown most clearly in his willingness to personally embrace the suffering of our world. God became one of us and experienced the problems of injustice, sickness, death, persecution and betrayal. Jesus took on human sinfulness and paid the ultimate price on the cross, that God might offer us free forgiveness. These famous words reveal a God who can be trusted, even with suffering:

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    This books focuses on showing that the New Testament has more to say about suffering for Jesus, than it does with discussing cancer, AIDs, warfare and famine. I found this confronting, as I often find myself focusing more on my sickness than on how I’m being treated as a follower of Jesus. Like many modern Christians, I’m tempted to say that I haven’t experienced much specific Christian suffering or persecution. But the big questions are, ‘What might keep me from persevering as a follower of Jesus?’ ‘Where are the threats to my faith?’ It’s worth contemplating carefully these words:

    The great danger for Christians living in the West, is not physical death at the hands of persecutors, but the slow, spiritual death of a thousand tiny compromises, crouched at our door waiting to devour us. (p97)

    Sickness, suffering and death are the realities of our world. Christians will continue to be reviled because they trust in a persecuted, suffering Saviour. The key to suffering well is to keep our eyes focused upon Jesus. He’s the one who died for our sin and who was raised to life to be the ruler of God’s new creation. In Jesus, there is genuine hope for the future – hope for our futures – a future free from all suffering. For those trusting in Jesus, nothing can separate us from sharing in the fulfilment of this hope.

    This book pushed me to refocus my thinking about suffering. It said it would – and it succeeded! There are a couple of issues I’d like to see explored further. The first is the link between general suffering in this world and the impact this can have on continuing to trust Jesus. My experience was that the weakness of my body, being confronted by my own mortality, and the feelings of grief and depression, all contributed to a personal crisis of faith in the early months of this year. The second issue is the question of links between specific sin and suffering. I confess to being unsatisfied with most explanations of James 5 and the links between sin, confession and healing, but these can be explored further on another occasion.

    Overall, I found this a helpful book. It is full of Scripture and it models the way we should seek to live – by listening to God’s word. It calls us to look to Jesus, to follow him come what may, and to trust God in life and in death.

    Whenever suffering comes along – of whatever kind – the right way to deal with it lies in staying true to Christ. (p112)

    http://macarisms.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/suffering-well/ (Posted on 25/11/2012)

  3. A great guide to the Bible's view on suffering for Christians Review / Tip by Sarah

    The first time I saw this title I thought, How can anyone 'suffer well'? Does that mean you need to be stoic while you suffer?

    The short answer is no. That's not what the book is advocating.

    This is a book on suffering that I feel is more aimed at Christians than non-Christians. It does look at the reasons why we suffer in this world, and the various explanations for suffering that exist in the world. But I feel it's more to encourage Christians to adopt a right view of suffering, rather than look at it as an apologetic question.

    When you think of suffering what comes to mind? My first thought is the impact of living in a fallen world - illness, poverty, inconvenient life circumstances like having no internet or your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere. This is suffering, but the author of this great little book, Paul Grimmond, encourages Christians to reflect on a different sort of suffering - that is, suffering for following Christ. That is not to say that the New Testament is not interested in the fact that we still suffer from living in a fallen world, but it is not its main focus. The NT mostly focuses on preparing Christians for the reality of suffering and be persecuted for following the Lord Jesus (there is no Job or Ecclesiastes in the NT). We also suffer because the Lord is disciplining us, shaping us to be more like His Son.

    My favourite chapter was Chapter 8: The Chapter That Doesn't Quite Belong - an odd title for a chapter that I thought fitted so perfectly. It explores the fact that Christians also suffer for Christ in a way that ISN'T persecution - it's the sorrow of seeing the world through God's eyes (page 121). I found this chapter particularly comforting and relevant as I have often grieved over friends and family who are living apart from Christ. I have felt despair over seeing people make poor choices because, as Christians, we know that true life is found in Christ. It saddens me when I see Christian brothers and sisters living sinfully. It's this longing for others' salvation and grief over sin that I was glad to see acknowledged as a form of suffering.

    One thing that the book taught me was that I am too surprised by suffering. I still get outraged at suffering from sickness at this day in age. I still get indignant when people are rude. In this period between the fall and the renewed creation, I shouldn't be surprised by suffering. Jesus made it clear that His followers would suffer as He did. The Bible never sugarcoats the Christian life. Suffering is horrible, but it is to be expected.

    So, back to my question about what it means to 'suffer well'. It means that we see suffering how God sees suffering. How does what we believe about suffering match up with what the Bible says? We need to interpret suffering in light of the Bible, and not the other way round. This is confronting and painful, but ultimately God's truth is much more comforting than anything else. This will equip us to 'suffer well' and be faithful to God by praising Him, doing good and waiting patiently while we suffer.

    In order to 'suffer well' we need to have a right view of who God is. The non-Christian view of suffering is that because suffering exists either God doesn't exist (or why doesn't He stop it?), that He is incapable of stopping it, or that He is not good. But as we read the Bible, we see that God is not a bully who pulls the wings off flies as Grimmond puts it, but a God who has experienced suffering Himself in the person of Jesus. He suffered at the hands of His creation who have hated and rebelled against Him. He can identify with our pain. He is holy and righteous and loves us dearly.

    A great book...and short (only 165 pages). But don't gobble it up in one sitting. Read it slowly and reflect. (Posted on 22/10/2012)

  4. We are all going to suffer so let's be prepared and suffer in a way that brings glory to God. Review / Tip by Meredith

    On page 153 of his book Suffering Well, Paul Grimmond says this:

    "About ten years ago I was involved in a pastor's training conference. In one session, as we talked about discipling young believers, we tried to come up with a list of key biblical truths we would want to teach every new Christian. People gave the usual responses (and that's not a bad thing!): we wanted to teach new Christians the importance of Jesus' death in our place; we wanted them to know about the Holy Spirit's work; we wanted them to understand sin; we wanted to teach them about the church. But then a woman who had been a missionary in Argentina for many years added her voice to the conversation. I will never forget her contribution: 'We need to teach them to suffer.'"

    So true. First world people are increasingly appalled and outraged by suffering. When something goes terribly wrong we almost can't believe it. "This shouldn't happen in this day and age." And then we look for someone to blame and after that we look for someone else to make sure it never happens again. What a burden we place on individuals and groups within society, insisting that they render our existence free of suffering.

    But the thing is, it will happen again. Wars will continue to be waged. There will be more natural disasters. People will die, sometimes in tragic circumstances. Things will break. The power will go off. We will be caught in more traffic jams and have to wait in more queues. Until Jesus comes again, suffering will continue.

    So what are we to do? One thing we can do is grab ourselves a copy of Suffering Well by Paul Grimmond and learn how to suffer well. In his book Paul Grimmond walks the reader through...

    * how it is that we came to believe that it's our right NOT to suffer - and then blows that myth (because it is a myth) right out of the water.

    * lots of examples - corporate and individual - of suffering in the Old and New Testaments, giving a thorough survey of what the Bible has to say on this subject of suffering.

    * the main ways in which we suffer...
    - because we live in a fallen world.
    - because we follow Christ and so can expect to be persecuted.
    - because God disciplines us.
    - because we sorrow at seeing the world through God's eyes as we watch people wallow in their sin, long for the salvation of others and see Christians live sinfully and rebelliously.

    * ways to learn how to suffer well by...
    - praising God with integrity, because He is good.
    - doing good, by God's grace.
    - not thinking that suffering well means being stoic.
    - waiting patiently for His justice and His time.

    * ways to prepare for suffering by...
    - reading all of the Bible and moreover, reading it in the way God intended.
    - living out what we learn in the Bible.

    All of this unfolds across a strong foundation of God's sovereignty. God is completely in control. Our suffering and the situations that give rise to our suffering do not take God by surprise and His purposes are always good and right. If for no other reason, read this book to be thoroughly convinced that suffering is under God's good and loving control.

    The bad news is that there is no "suffering well" quick fix. This is a life's work. But the good new is that it IS possible to suffer well - to suffer in ways that encourage others to see God at work and that bring glory and honour to God.

    Suffering Well has been published as a part of a series called "Guidebooks for Life." It isn't a book to be read in the midst of suffering - although for one well thought out on this subject, its words would certainly been affirming and encouraging. This is a book to be read in the good and ordinary times. At a time when there is opportunity to think over the ideas, read the Bible passages and pray in the guidance provided in order to prepare for the time when suffering comes upon us. And times of suffering will come. How good to be prepared for these times so that even in our trials we can seek to bring to God all glory and honour. We need to learn how to suffer. How to suffer well.

    This is a great book.

    You can get yourself a copy of Suffering Well from Matthias Media. Available in paperback or as an eBook. (Posted on 12/07/2012)

  5. Much encouragement for Christians in this good little book! Review / Tip by Rozzy B

    BOOK REVIEW: “Suffering Well: The predictable surprise of Christian Suffering” by Paul Grimmond (2011), Matthias Media.

    It was John Wesley who famously said of Christians in his era “our people die well”. Presumably they died strong in the faith, with an understanding that this life is not all there is, or all that matters, and with hope in the glorious future that awaits in Christ beyond the grave.

    Could the same be said of Christians in the 21st century? How do we cope with suffering in general, let alone death? Do we suffer and die ‘well’?

    In the first chapter of his challenging book ‘Suffering Well’ author Paul Grimmond states his case: when it comes to suffering we are prisoners of our age who have “lost touch with biblical truth because of the constant hum of worldly thinking that swirls around in our heads” (p.18). As a result we don’t know how to view suffering, to suffer well, or how to encourage one another in suffering for Christ.

    I read this book during a month of suffering; it was not the sufferings of physical attack or public persecution, simply that the flu had descended, making an ordeal of every simple daily task. As I suffered and coughed, Grimmond’s book helped resolve some of the dilemmas about suffering which I had wrestled with before. Here are just two main points (of many great ones which the book raises) which will stay with me:

    1. Don’t come to the Bible with the world’s view of suffering – start with Bible’s view and look at suffering in our world through those eyes. In the world’s view suffering, or at least the avoidance of suffering, is the new moral standard. According to Grimmond it is the only determinant of what is right: a disabled child will suffer, and so will the parents, so it is apparently “right” to terminate their existence before birth; the same goes for an injured dog and an old person with terminal cancer. Suffering is seen as the only evil, which must be avoided at all costs. “Suffering is a major part of the argument against God’s existence. The very presence of suffering . . . is a key piece of evidence. If we really have an all-good and all-powerful God then how can there possibly be suffering?” (p.25) More than that our world believes religion is one great cause of human suffering. “In our brave new world, suffering means that God is immoral and Christians are immoral” (p.28) since we believe in a God who would allow suffering to exist!

    If we come to the Bible with this worldly view in our heads, no wonder we don’t know what to do with suffering, or how to speak up for the God who allows it. Grimmond takes us back to the Bible to see that God is in control, that God is God and I am not! He is the potter, we are His clay. God is in complete control over creation, which means that “the suffering of God’s creation occurs by his hands . . .Scripture never suggests suffering and difficulty come because God is out of control; rather . . . they come because he is IN control.” (p.46-7). This may seem a big and bitter pill to swallow, but it is the teaching of the Bible through and through. This God is not a god we have created, one the world would approve of, a benevolent grandfatherly figure who simply indulges us moment by moment. God wills, He purposes, He acts, He works all things together for good, including suffering. “The world is suffering because it stands under the heavy hand of God’s judgement . . . Our world, marked by suffering and death , is a world that has been bent out of shape BY GOD. . . God has visited upon us the results of our sin” (p48-49).
    Yet this God has involved Himself in the suffering of His creation; suffering is at the heart of His plan to create a perfect world and glorify himself. Jesus faced the suffering that should be ours. “While suffering may be painful and awful, it comes from the hand of a sovereign God who will use it for good, and who guarantees that good by the gift of his Son” (p64).

    2. Don’t downplay the real suffering for Christ that Western Christians experience – being scorned, reviled and mocked! In Chapter 6, entitled “Where’s all the persecution gone?” the discussion moves from the general suffering of our fallen world to specific suffering for being a Christian. Grimmond wants us to see that in taking up the cross of as Christ’s disciple, the imminent danger is not usually physical hardship, but the danger of being ashamed of Christ. “When we think of suffering for Christ “persecution” is the word we naturally use. But in the bible the language is much more diverse. It talks of being reviled and spoken against and maligned . . . The Bible’s big question for us is will you obey Jesus and speak for Him, or will you be ashamed of his words?” (p.96). Grimmond sees the great danger for Western Christians is “the slow, spiritual death of a thousand tiny compromises crouched at the door, waiting to devour our hearts. . . at the moment we need it most we have let go of a robust theology of belonging to Christ and suffering for him”(p.97). Though we live in a culture where words are cheap and people can say what they want and be rude to each other all the time, we don’t have to see it as weakness if those words really sting us. Grimmond suggests that we do not serve or encourage one another well when we say we don’t suffer, because it reinforces the view that suffering for Christ is only physical. “As a result we fail to teach each other to live without shame in the face of the more subtle pressures in our culture” (p.98). So, this IS persecution and we discourage each other when we downplay it! We should also rebuke ourselves when we fear it or shy away from it. This is the shame we are NOT to be ashamed of! With regards to the promise of suffering for and with Christ, Grimmond insists we teach it to people from the moment of conversion. “We must share this truth with our children so they grow up rejoicing that they’re counted as Christ’s when they suffer for him”(p.103).

    Grimmond says we also suffer as Christians because of our compassion. When we see the suffering, the sin, the lost people of this world through God’s eyes, it brings deep sorrow. And as for the ‘predictable surprise’ of the title . . . I might leave that for you to read about in chapter 5! If you want to get a better handle on the question of suffering, and find hope in the midst of it, grab a copy of Grimmond’s book, which successfully turns our eyes back to our Sovereign God, who is in control of all our suffering.

    “What are we Christians called to do in the face of suffering? We are called to wait well, to praise our God in every moment, and to ask for God’s strength to do good – even to our enemies” (p.139). (Posted on 12/07/2012)

  6. Strongly recommended Review / Tip by JohnHarbison

    Grounding his study in the sovereignty of God, Paul Grimmonds presents a case for a biblical view of suffering. He begins by laying a scriptural foundation for considering the issue of suffering and then expands that foundation to consider a variety of topics related to suffering such as it being a mark of the reality of our sonship before God and its ability to be redemptive. Those who are suffering or who are interested in a biblical view of suffering will find understanding, help and comfort in the words of this book.

    It is often the case that Christians, even Bible-believing Evangelicals, “go soft” when it comes to the issue of God’s sovereignty. This view of limiting God’s sovereignty usually is driven by one of two motives. The first is to protect God from being responsible for evil. The idea is that if he is sovereign, he must be responsible. The second is to protect us from being insignificant. The idea here is that if God is sovereign, the world functions in an ultimately deterministic way which renders human choice and responsibility irrelevant or non-existent. Those who hold views which limit God’s sovereignty fail to recognize that it is God’s sovereignty which enables him to accomplish his purposes and fulfill his promises.

    The one thing I appreciated most about Suffering Well is that the author, Paul Grimmond, does not sidestep the issue of God’s sovereignty but gives a fully biblical presentation of it and it becomes one of the foundation stones of the book which turns up again and again.

    The book is written in a popular style which makes it easy to read. The purpose of the book is to present “a biblical exploration of what God wants us to know about him and our world when it comes to suffering” (page 17). He opens the book with two stories of suffering and he uses those stories to raise the question of priorities. In chapters 1-4 he presents both a cultural analysis and some biblical foundations for considering the topic of suffering. In chapters 5-10 he expands on this biblical foundation considering issues such as suffering being a promise to the Christian, the difference between suffering for Christ (persecution) and suffering which comes to all people by living in a fallen world, our response to suffering, and our hope in God based on his promises for the future.

    All of these chapters contain helpful and encouraging thoughts which will bring both understanding and comfort to readers. For me, chapter 7 and Mr. Grimmond’s discussion of suffering as a mark of being a child of God, focusing on Hebrews 12, was especially good. He also mentions the idea of suffering being redemptive (though he does not use this expression).

    I think the book could be improved by the addition of a chapter on the initial reactions of people to their suffering. People often respond initially with questions, anger, confusion, and a host of other responses and emotions. These are very human kinds of reactions and are numerous in the Psalms. They are, in their own way, an affirmation of belief in God and are part of our relationship with him. They guard us against descending into pietistic platitudes. It may take some time for people to get to the point of practicing the praise, doing good, and waiting patiently stage of trust that are encouraged in chapter 9.

    However, what could have been said does not detract from what has been said. I would strongly recommend this book and commend Mr. Grimmond for tackling a complex and often challenging subject.
    (Posted on 15/06/2012)

  7. 5/5 Thought this was brilliant Review / Tip by Jenna Mayne

    I have just finished reading this book and I was extremely impressed with the issues the author presents in this book about Christian suffering. I walked away feeling very satisfied with the answers the authors offers his readers. I found his book to be theologically sound as he used a lot of scripture to illustrate his points and I would recommend this to any Christian, especially those going through trials at any given time. It's a real gem.

    See my full review at: http://voice-of-jenna.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/book-review-suffering-well-author-paul.html (Posted on 3/04/2012)

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