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.

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Oh Be Careful Little Tongue

For the past ten plus weeks, most of us have stuck pretty close to home, cooped up almost. Our intake of social media and the nightly news has been much more than normal, having a powerful impact on our hearts and minds. Our opinions about the Coronavirus situation are pretty solidified, whether it is anger, fear, sorrow, feelings of injustice or apathy. It’s hard not to let those opinions boil over into our conversations. We justify our position with those who are of the same opinion and maybe even avoid those who hold another. How easy it is to allow our conversations to overstep into gossip.

As our towns slowly open back up and we begin to interact with others on a face-to-face basis, we will need to keep ourselves in check.

An old child’s saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

How false that statement is.

Proverbs 18:21 says that words have the power of life and death.

Words are powerful.

The book of James talks about how a great ship being driven by fierce winds is turned about by a very small rudder. James contrasts how the tongue is a very small member of our body but it is full of iniquity and can set the world on fire. (See James 3:2-12)

Words hurt.

Some of the biggest scars in our lives are a result of words.

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Proverbs 18:8

Words are destructive.

Proverbs 16:28 says gossip separates close friends.

A virus is tiny, unseeable even, but can cause great sickness and spread quickly. Our little tongues can speak gossip that causes great hurt and spreads farther than ever intended.

These past months have resulted in a lot of destruction for many of us; financially, emotionally, physically. We all need encouragement and we can do so for others with our words.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

There are bound to be people in our churches, in our close circles of friends, or even in our family that have a different outlook on the past and present situation than we do.

While it is not wrong for us to have different opinions, we ought to have the attitude of Paul who said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

We have been separated physically for months and as we begin to gather together again, let’s be wise with our words and guard against creating a gulf of even greater separation.

Claim the prayer of the Psalmist who wrote, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3

As we are learning how to best love our brothers and sisters during this time, let us begin with our smallest member, the tongue.

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Overwhelmed? Run to Christ!

Normal 

Something we long for these days.

Our lives have been flipped upside-down.

Emotions are in a vortex.

Frustration

Fear

Discouragement

Anger

Helplessness 

We want things to stop changing.

How do we cope? 

In Christ, our hope!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13

In the midst of the storm, let’s calm our overwhelmed hearts in the unchanging One! 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” – Hebrews 13:8

In the time of restlessness, let’s claim the rest Jesus offers!

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” – Matthew 11:29-30

When uncertain days make us weary, let’s find our strength in God!

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

When we are lonely because we are distanced from our friends and family, let’s find comfort in our God! 

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” – John 14:16-18|KJV

When we are afraid, let us run to Christ and find peace!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

While it is natural for us to want comfort, security and normality in our circumstances, let us anchor our hearts and minds in the solid truths of Christ!

In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when striving cease

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ I stand

(In Christ Alone by Stuart Townsend)

*All verse taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise marked

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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.

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For All The Extroverts

What have you been up to lately? This extroverted girl has been learning just how hard it is to get along without her routine people around. And I think I’m pretty normal for struggling through this.

God has designed us to need community. If you were to look in scripture you would see over and over that He has not designed us to do life alone. He has created marriage, the family, the church; all different forms of community. And yet, because God has temporarily removed the broader community from my life, I am becoming increasingly convinced of an even deeper truth: He has designed us to need Him more than community. In fact, often the very point of community (marriage, the family and the church) is given to direct us and others back to Him. Any time these relationships take a higher priority than God Himself they are being taken out of context. 

I didn’t realize just how greatly I can depend on these relationships, looking to them for my source of fulfillment instead of God. Can you relate? Have you felt discouraged because you haven’t had a fellow sister to pour your heart out to in person? Have you felt depressed because you haven’t had anyone to do a game night with in order to take your mind off of a stressful life situation? Have you found yourself wishing desperately for a coffee date with your spouse just to get a break from the mundane tasks of daily life? Me too! 

Honestly, as an extrovert, I kind of found myself believing the lie that I can’t/won’t survive this quarantine well, because… I need my people! God has graciously shown me some good news though! People, while good gifts in and of themselves, aren’t my source of satisfaction in life; God is. 

Psalm 107 is just full of all the beautiful things God has done, but one thing in particular that we read is he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” (vrs.9)

What? You mean, it’s not my friends, a good book, projects, Facebook or Netflix? 

Nope. 

And there’s more… 

Let’s keep going.

Psalm 16:11 says “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” 

What good news for extroverts! Even in the absence of friends there is joy for us to find; in God’s presence!

Psalm 62:5-8 says “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.”

These truths do not change, my friends. So, let’s trust Him. When our souls feel empty and we are tempted to look around for something to fill it, let’s run to Him instead.

During this time of social isolation, let’s continue to pursue relationships with people to the best of our ability. Let’s send texts/emails of encouragement. Let’s create unique opportunities to interact with loved ones from afar. God has called us to love, support and serve others and it is a good, good gift. But…at the end of the day, let’s not forget that HE is the best gift of all. And He isn’t going anywhere “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, oh, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
Vile and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.

(“Jesus, Lover of My Soul” by Charles Wesley)

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