The effect of suffering in a person’s life can be one that draws the individual into the depths of despair or develops the character of the godly. The outcome is often determined by whether one’s response is to embrace God or flee from Him. When it comes to life issues, I have personally appreciated the ministry of Paul Tripp and am thankful for God’s use of him for God’s own glory and a ministry of reconciliation to God. Therefore, it was with both trepidation and prayer that I watched Tripp’s personal health crisis unfold over the course of several years. The turmoil that took place not only forced Tripp to examine his own relationship but uniquely qualified him to write his most recent book Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.
Suffering is more than a book about the intense anguishes one may face; it is a book about the Christian life. While Tripp writes to give a theology of suffering in the context of the story of redemption, his personal experience allows him to convey something deeply personal. As a result, he accomplishes an additional goal of writing to “those who are suffering so they will feel loved, prepared, and thankful, not for the pain, but for the One who is with them during their pain.” True to his normal form, Paul Tripp fills his book with truths and citations from Scripture and then applies them in a deeply intimate way for believers, making the Scriptures real and relevant. Suffering also follows his typical style of writing with many real life examples that readers will relate to. His inclusion of reflection questions and follow-up verses for readers means that readers cannot casually read the book, but must be involved with it.
After two chapters of introduction, one of his own personal story and another about suffering in general, the author follows up with six chapters describing the deceptions of suffering (these deceptions include awareness, fear, envy, doubt, denial, and discouragement). He explains how each can take root during the midst of suffering, causing more anguish and pulling one away from God. In place of those enticements, he offers up six alternative aspects to consider, such as God’s grace, presence, sovereignty, purpose, and people. In each of these, Tripp offers a perspective that fixates on God and offers hope to those who are suffering.
Paul Tripp captures the emotions, thoughts, and will that occur during suffering. I found myself often reflecting on past sufferings in my own life and acknowledging how accurate his description was of what I was going through and my rebellion against God in that time. Because he has such a grasp on that aspect of suffering, the antidotes that he offers are very useful. Readers will also find that this allows him to offer up genuine perspectives about the subject that are beneficial. I found myself appreciating his ability to capture a panoramic view of varying aspects of suffering, for example as he explains doubt he rightly explains both the negatives (when doubt causes us to judge) and the positives (when doubt causes us to wonder in amazement) that many people overlook. Additionally, he has the ability to utilize Scripture to reveal God’s character, not merely to say “This is who God is.” but in order to say “He is with you in your suffering and you should lean on Him.”
In the past, I have shared my personal affection towards Paul Tripp’s writings and teachings because I have found them to be correctly aligned with Scripture and intentionally applicable to the Christian life. Therefore, I come to his books with high expectations, and Suffering did not disappoint. I would not only recommend it, but would direct it not just to those who are suffering, but to anyone who wants a proper perspective of even the smallest of trials that may be present.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with this book and it is the direct result of my reading of it.