Suffering is a reminder of the terrible effects of sin and its frequent insertion into our lives is a further reminder of just how pervasive that sin is. Many know Elisabeth Elliot because her suffering became very public when her first husband was murdered by an indigenous tribe as he and others attempted to make contact with them for the gospel. Fitting for many believers then, is the ability to read and learn from her perspective on suffering.
Posthumously published, Christians have access to Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot, which comes from a six-part teaching that she gave many years ago. Editors have carefully preserved the teaching, trying to only insert minimal edits when necessary so that readers can read the text as she originally shared it. The result is a six-chapter book full of heartfelt insights about suffering. The message is simple and at the heart of it is the relationship with God in the midst of suffering. The outline is very simple as chapter one simply sets the foundation by establishing what suffering is, while the following chapters emphasize a human perspective and response to suffering, including the need to trust God, accept suffering, give gratitude during suffering, and continual obedience to God during suffering. The last chapter leaves readers understanding the purpose being suffering, seeing it as a redemptive work.
While being very aware of Elisabeth Elliot, her life and her message, to be truthful I have had little interaction with any of her teachings. As I turned through the pages of this particular book, I was struck by how personal it was giving me both an insight and appreciation to how God has used Elisabeth Elliott through the years – and it is more than simply making a ministry from her husband’s death. She had experienced much more as a Christian woman, including the death of her second husband, widowhood, raising a child as a single parent, and more. Her experiences come through in this work and God uses that to capture readers and incline the heart towards him.
The author has a keen ability to add depth to concepts we take for granted. For example, Christians frequently say that suffering is a necessity for God to mold us, but Elliot adds depth by both describing a world without suffering and being explicit in how God utilizes that in the life of his people. Another great example of this ability is seen in her attention on obedience. More than simply obeying God during our suffering, she describes obedience as an antidote to suffering, not that it relieves the suffering, but rightly focuses a person so that they may enjoy God and his work during suffering. These points are accentuated by sharing quotes, stories, and most importantly Scripture.
Perhaps the major struggle I had with the book was simply her definition of suffering, which is simply explained as “suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” By the letter of the definition one could claim suffering for simply not getting his or her own way. A reading of the book indicates that the spirit of the definition is much different. While the simplicity of the definition is to be appreciated, clarity in this area would have been greatly appreciated.
While I appreciate Paul Tripp’s book Suffering more, Elisabeth Elliot’s book Suffering Is Never for Nothing deserves attention and I suspect many readers will relate to her and be able to follow the style. Therefore, it is a worthy book to be read by Christians.
To purchase a copy of the books mentioned in this review, click the following titles:
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 by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.