Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

12 July 2012

Suffering Well by Paul Grimmond


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.

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