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Suffering Well

Suffering Well

Product Review (submitted on 14 June 2012):

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.


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