Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense — A Book Review

Note: I read this book quite some time ago and was incredibly blessed by it. With the recent events going on in our world, we at Hearts Refreshed thought it would be an appropriate book to recommend to you. – Angie


Suffering: Gospel Hope when Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp is an outstanding book that addresses many of the questions that pass through our minds as we walk through seasons of suffering: Why did God allow this to happen? How can God be good? What is the purpose for this suffering? Why me? Because Tripp himself has walked through a season of intense physical suffering, he is able to write with great empathy and compassion towards those who are suffering.

Although his personal experience with suffering does give an element of validity to the message of his book, Tripp does not allow it to be the primary focus of the book. Instead, while weaving in parts of how God has used suffering in his own life, Tripp seeks to give his ideal audience–those who have gone through or who are going through a season of suffering–what he calls a “street level” understanding of what Scripture has to say about suffering. He seeks to give his readers a practical understanding of Scriptural truths and the impact these truths have on how one deals with suffering.

In the first half of the book, Tripp uses these personal experiences to identify and discuss a number of traps that one tends to fall into, either while in the midst of suffering, or after having gone through it. As I read about the traps of awareness, fear, envy, doubt, denial, and discouragement, I repeatedly found myself thinking Yes! That is exactly how I felt as I was walking through the grief of our miscarriage! It was so comforting to know that the myriad of emotions that flooded my heart and mind were not unique to me.

However, Tripp does not leave his readers with simply a greater awareness of the various emotions they are experiencing. The second half of Suffering discusses specific aspects of the character of God and how each aspect gives unique comfort. With his down-to-earth and personal style, Tripp digs into Scripture to show how one can find comfort that is grounded in the unchanging truths of Scripture and God’s character.

Suffering seems to be specifically directed towards those whom God has called to walk through a form of suffering that just “doesn’t make sense,” as part the subtitle suggests. However, I believe anyone who reads this book will be incredibly encouraged by it, for we have all gone through one form of suffering or another.

As it acknowledges the reality of suffering and addresses many of the practical aspects of what one goes through during a period of suffering, the beauty of this book lies in how it points its readers towards finding lasting comfort through a growing understanding of the character and ways of God.

I highly recommend this book.

To Learn From A Child

Sometimes I wish I could be more like my two-and-a-half year old daughter.

She wakes up in the morning and snuggles up with me on the couch, happy to be sitting on my lap.

She doesn’t ever wonder about where her next meal is coming from.

She plays with her toys, taking joy in the moment.

She trails behind her Papa as he works outside, delighted just to be with him.

She lays her head down at night, closing her eyes and sleeping soundly until morning comes.

As a young child, she is a stranger to my tendency to lie awake at night, worrying about endless ‘what-ifs”, whether or not I cleaned the germs off the door knobs well enough, or the serious-toned conversation that happened at the dinner table.

The Bible calls adults to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven; their complete and simple trust in the Father for salvation reveals to us what it means to trust the Father. To take our need to become like children a step further, I would say that children often help us better understand to trust God in other areas as well.

My daughter begins and ends each day with such a carefree spirit because she trusts us, her parents, to take care of her. We’ve cared for her in the past, so why should she fear that we won’t continue to do so tomorrow, and the next day, and the next? As imperfect and fallible as we are, she still trusts us to take care of her.

My daughter has learned that if she needs something, all she needs to do is ask and we will take care of that need. If I, as a frail and limited human parent, desire to care for my daughter’s needs and delight in doing so, how much more should we trust our heavenly Father who is divinely capable of meeting our needs?

Why can we not be more like a child, especially when we have our heavenly Father caring for us?

With COVID-19 at the forefront of our lives these days, it is so easy to allow our fears to overwhelm our hearts and fill our minds with worry and anxiety. However, God has been faithful in the past and will continue to be faithful in the days to come, no matter what they may bring. Can we not trust Him?

Matthew 10:29-31 reminds us that He takes care of the common sparrow and keeps count of the hairs of our head. If He manages such small and insignificant details, how much more will He take care of us, the ones who are made in His image, the ones He gave His only Son for?

Oh to learn what it means to lean completely on the Father’s good and perfect care for His children.

I Am a Church Member — A Book Review

Not too long ago, I read two fantastic books on church membership: I am a Church Member by Thom Rainer and What is a Healthy Church Member by Tabiti Anyabwile. Until reading these books, I really hadn’t thought too deeply about the implications of church membership except that I knew it was important and that “it is imperative that I be involved and serve where I am able to.” However, after reading these books, I am more convinced than ever of a few things:

Church is a big deal.
Going to church is a big deal.
Being a church member is a big deal.

If these things aren’t a big deal to you, they should be, for Scripture has a lot to say about the function of believers within the context of the local church.

With only 79 pages, I am a Church Member is an easy read and provides a concise and practical discussion of what it means to be a member of the local church and not just a member of the Body of Christ.

But why church membership? Is it just a technicality that really committed Christians do? Is it an admissions ticket to special privileges? Does it bring us greater favor with God? Is this an issue of earning our salvation? Is it just for the sake of the church leaders to be able to report a growth in numbers? In fact, isn’t membership just an old-fashioned idea that people did in generations past?

I would say no, no, no, and NO!! Being a church member isn’t about any of these things!

So then, if it isn’t about any of those things, what is it all about? What are the Scriptural reasons for why a believer should become a member of the local church they attend?

Answering this question is the purpose of I am a Church Member. In this little book, Rainer endeavors to help us gain a better grasp of the importance of membership by discussing what it means to be a member and what it does not mean. In doing so, he outlines six key attitudes every believer should have concerning his responsibilities as a church member.

While clearly this is not an exhaustive list, here are six key attitudes Rainer argues that every church member should have:

1. I will be a functioning church member

2. I will be a unifying church member

3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires

4. I will pray for my church leaders

5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members

6. I will treasure church membership as a gift

Key to this entire discussion of being a church member is the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 where Paul lays out how the physical body has different members and then compares this to the spiritual Body of Christ also having different members. Each of these bodies desperately needs every member within the body to do its part so that it can function properly.

While in the broader sense this passage does apply to the universal Church–the collective group of believers all around the world that makes up the Body of Christ–the specific application of this passage seems to be for the local church, for Paul makes mention of specific roles that are set within the local church. While one could argue that “we are all working together, around the world, using our different gifts to further the cause of the Gospel” it truly is in the context of the local church that we see most clearly the various giftings of each believer: Susie loves teaching the children’s Sunday School class; John brings encouragement to the the sick and elderly; Amanda serves in the area of hospitality; Joe is particularly gifted in the area of preaching; Jennifer finds joy in keeping the church bathrooms and foyer spotless.

Yes, God has given each individual believer something to contribute towards the edifying and building up of the body and this happens as we interact on a more personal level.

So wherever you are in your journey, I believe I Am a Church Member will grow your understanding of why the local church is so unique and why every believer should be making it an intentional priority!

(A version of this post was originally posted on Angie’s personal blog)

Taking God at His Word — A Book Review

Have you ever wondered why it is important that we read the Bible?

Or why we spend so much time at church studying the Bible?

Or why we believe that the Bible is superior to any other book that has ever been written?

Or does the Bible really address all the needs and questions that we may encounter in life?

If you’ve found yourself asking these kinds of questions or have had someone ask you these kinds of questions, Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung would be a great book to read. Having a total of 124 pages, this little book is a powerful reminder of the importance of Scripture in the believer’s life.

To lay the groundwork for the rest of the book, DeYoung starts the first chapter by pointing us to Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is filled with statement after statement about what God’s Word does in the life of the one who reads and treasures it. DeYoung then directs us toward specific attitudes a person should have towards God’s Word: we should delight in it, desire it, and depend on it.

To summarize the objective of Taking God at His Word, DeYoung says that “the goal of this book is to get us believing what we should about the Bible, feeling what we should about the Bible, and to get us doing what we ought to do with the Bible” (pg. 22).

It is with these points in mind then–what we should believe, feel, and do about the Bible–that DeYoung proceeds to walk us through what could be described as a layman’s study of Bibliology. The majority of the book then discusses why the Bible is enough, why it is clear, why it is final, and why it is necessary for life. Or, if you want the more theological terms, DeYoung discusses the sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity of Scripture.

While the style of this book lends itself to being an easy read, DeYoung does not shy away from digging into passages and explaining words from the original Biblical languages in order to show from Scripture why the Bible is so vital for the believer’s life! For this reason, I would suggest reading this book slowly and devotionally, for ultimately, Taking God at His Word is more about learning to love and treasure God’s Word than turning the last page and having a bunch of facts to rattle off about the Bible.

After my husband finished reading this book, he made the comment that “it would be hypocritical to say ‘that was a good book’ and not proceed to then immerse oneself in the Bible.” And it is true: This little book elevates the sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity of the Bible to such an extent that we cannot miss the point that the Bible is the Word of God and as such, we would do well to make reading it and studying it an intentional priority in our lives!

As each of us go about life in whatever role God has called us to, may we remember that the Bible is a divine book that God has given for us to love, treasure, and study so that might grow in our walk with the Lord. God’s Word is indeed clear, final, necessary and enough, for our every-day life!

Learning to Number Our Days

A few weeks ago, we took down the 2019 calendar and hung up the 2020 calendar. We began a new year and a new decade.

Shortly after the New Year, I began to do what many of us often do at the beginning of a new year: my mind’s eye saw a brand new calendar, open for new goals and opportunities. However, my heart was simultaneously weighed down with question marks about what these new goals and opportunities should look like. The uncertainties of the upcoming months caused me to feel like I was literally carrying around a physical burden on my shoulders.

Perhaps some of you can identify with such emotions as you look at 2020, and you, like me, have wondered how to deal with them. Do we just try harder to “make our goals happen”? Do we give up before even trying because it is just too overwhelming?

Soon after the New Year, as I was pondering these things and feeling overwhelmed with uncertainty, I read Psalm 90. As my eyes read the divinely-inspired words of Scripture, my heart was encouraged by the chapter’s reminders of how we should approach our day-to-day life; consequently, these reminders also serve as timely instruction for how we should view our goals for this year.

God is everlasting
Verses 1-2 depicts God as everlasting: from being our “dwelling place in all generations” (90:1), to being God “before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world” (90:2), God always has been and always will be. He is everlasting.

Man is but dust
Verses 3-11 then remind us of who we are: we are but dust. God is in control of man and has power to return man to dust (90:3); thousands of years are but a short while in God’s eyes (90:4). In comparison, our years are limited–seventy, or maybe eighty–and filled with toil and trouble (90:9-10). Compared to God, we are but a vapor, an early-morning mist that vanishes when the sun’s warmth wraps around it.

But that’s not the end of the story…
It is easy to follow the tension in the Psalmist’s line of reason. The first part of the chapter outlines who God is. He is great and powerful, outside of creation for He is Creator, from everlasting to everlasting, He is God. In contrast then, the Psalmist portrays who man is: man is a vapor, subject to God’s wrath and anger; our iniquities are exposed to the light of His presence. A fearful thing indeed.

After reading these verses then, one could easily succumb to a fatalistic mentality: “Well then, what’s the point in life? What are we even doing here on earth? Our lives are just a blip on the radar of time, only to be soon forgotten. What does God even care about what we do from day to day?”

The Psalmist seems to anticipate such a response, for the final section of Psalm 90 gives us the answer to these very questions. In response to who God is and who man is, the Psalmist makes several requests of the Lord:

“So teach us to number our days” (90:12).

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love” (90:14).

“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us” (90:15).

“Let your work be shown to your servants and your glorious power to their children” (90:16).

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us” (90:17a).

“Establish the word of our hands upon us” (90:17b).

While each of these requests remind us of the reality that God is eternal and man is dust, they also point towards the reality that man has a purpose here on earth!

As I read these verses, my heart that had been weighed down with question marks about this coming year was encouraged by this reminder to live life purposefully and intentionally for God’s glory. No, I may not have all the details figured out, but I can have my heart focused on glorifying God’s with each new day, come what may.

So as we head into 2020, may we keep these verses in mind as we go throughout the year.

As we begin each day, may we number our days and be mindful that our time here on earth is, indeed, short.

When life feels like it is filled with toil and trouble, may our hearts turn to His love for our satisfaction. May we then rejoice and be glad in Him, praising Him even in the midst of affliction.

As we go about each day, may our lives reflect His works and His power so that all may see.

When we consider the responsibilities that lie ahead of us and our dreams and goals for the year, may we desire that the work of our hands be established by Him.