If you’ve never read Paul David Tripp, let me assure you, he has a book for you. Wide ranging topics benefit from his wisdom, be it parenting, marriage, pastoral ministry, grief, devotional, or general spiritual growth. In his newest release the subject is one he is intimately acquainted with. Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense is a book that deals with a freshly personal topic for Tripp, with great insight for all of us.
The opening chapter, “The Day My Life Changed” details a sudden onset of a medical drama that has unexpectedly dominated his life for the last four years. Seemingly healthy except for a few troubling symptoms, a trip to the hospital for a check led to a ten day stay that culminates with a life changing diagnosis. On why he began the book with his story, he points out the Bible “never presents suffering as an idea or a concept but puts it before us in the blood-and-guts drama of real human experiences.” His experiences make up the first few chapters but are not the center of the book. As he shares his journey, he also shares what God was revealing in his own heart, things that didn’t change his theology but changed his understanding of his own faith.
What could have been a dry, theological unpacking of a topic in scripture becomes a revealing look at the truth of suffering in our lives-it is, according to Tripp, spiritual warfare. Since the fall, there has always been a concentrated effort to get those who trust God to lose sight of our hope and to keep those who don’t trust God from ever finding hope in Him. This perspective of suffering as warfare, one he returns to throughout the book, was a new thought for me, and a powerful insight. It is where we find the weapons to wage battle against the traps suffering can and does bring to our lives. The battle is for our hearts, and our response, Tripp says is, “more determined by what is inside you (your heart) than the things you are facing.”
How do we have a heart to triumph in the midst of suffering? By avoiding or escaping the traps to rob us of hope. The first part of the book deals with traps that can turn our hearts-The Awareness Trap, The Fear Trap, the Envy Trap, The Doubt Trap (brilliant, my favorite), The Denial Trap and Discouragement Trap. Each of these chapters examine the reality and the reason of the traps in a compassionate way, never making the reader who may have already succumbed to the trap feel condemned.
The second part of the book deals with the comfort we have in God-His Grace, Presence, Sovereignty, Purpose, People and a Heart at Rest. Throughout each chapter, Tripp poses gentle questions to help us evaluate where we might be in relation to either a trap or lacking the comfort of God. Every chapter ends with a section of questions to help you review and reflect, and a Heart Reset of several verses to hide in your heart.
Writing with clarity, Paul Tripp reveals why life, especially suffering, often doesn’t make sense to us. His acknowledgement of the doubt and confusion, discouragement and despair we experience in suffering is never just a head nod, and the way to experience God’s comfort is never a platitude but good, biblical instruction. This book is well worth the read for both one who is suffering, and one who wants to come alongside those who suffer, be it family member, friend or ministry calling. Understanding suffering, especially our own may never come the way we desire in this lifetime, but it is possible to grow in our understanding of God and His purposes through our suffering when we look to the gospel to help us.
Read well, friends.
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Crossway, September 30, 2018
***Thank you to Crossway Books for providing threeladiesoflit.com with a complimentary copy for review. ***This post contains affiliate links, which means purchase made from said links provides a tiny remuneration to the ladies.***