In 2014, Paul David Tripp experienced acute kidney failure. In a matter of hours, he went from being “normal” physically to being in excruciating pain. Surgeries, more pain, and many months of recovery lay ahead. For the committed Christian, suffering can compose a significant roadblock. Speaking from first hand experience, Tripp has written this book, Suffering, not to answer the theological underpinnings of suffering, but rather “the gorgeous, honest, and hopeful theology of suffering, which is a core theme of the redemptive story, into the context of an actual sufferer’s story” (260, Kindle Edition). A secondary theme is to help the individual Christian “with the war beneath the battle, to alert you to places where you have to fight for your own heart and to help you to see the amazing ways your Savior meets you in your battle” (527, Kindle Edition).
To these ends, Tripp begins with several different “traps” that Christians can fall into regarding suffering. The awareness trap (481–661) orients the Christian to the reality of suffering and often challenges our assumptions about suffering and forces us to ask new questions. The fear trap (669–836) represents the uncertainty of suffering and the remedy (trusting God’s providence and sovereignty). The envy trap (884–1040) occurs when the sufferer looks to other situations and ultimately distorts their view of life and character of God. The doubt trap (1052–1247) represents a pessimistic outlook that cripples the sufferer which can only be remedied with understanding the goodness of God, busying ourselves with productivity, and encouraging others. The denial trap (1262–1424) tells subtle lies to the sufferer that minimize reality and the truth of God in exchange for a lie, which should be exchanged for the truth in order to begin to heal. Finally, the discouragement trap (1431–1603) takes a natural feeling to its extreme in expressing a complaint to God and paralyzes the sufferer.
These “traps” are then juxtaposed with encouragement in the second section of the book, each of which are prefaced with the title, “The Comfort of…” The comfort of God’s grace is the first (1616–1780) and examines how God lavishes His good gifts upon the sufferer in a multitude of ways. The comfort of God’s presence (1791–1964) reminds the sufferer that God has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us and that, as an extension of His grace, He remains with us even through our suffering. The comfort of God’s sovereignty (1974–2151) announces to the sufferer the truth of God’s total control over our suffering and ultimately lay in the glorious comfort that comes with such knowledge. The comfort of God’s purpose (2161–2345) converts the “why me?” attitude to God’s reasons for suffering, which include God using our suffering for His, and sometimes ours or others’, good pleasure. The comfort of God’s people (2347–2532) holds that suffering aids the community in which the sufferer is part of and encourages and strengthens them. Finally, the comfort of a heart at rest (2543–2638) sees the “intersection” of the hearts deepest anguish and God’s deepest grace.
Tripp’s book represents a powerful and equal treatment of suffering from a number of different aspects. It challenges negative attitudes and transforms them into purposeful statements of comfort. The book also has a number of features that make it suitable for a multipurpose use. Of course, one may use this for encouragement as a fellow sufferer, but it is also flexible enough to be read in preparation for suffering or alongside someone else who is suffering. Additionally, each chapter contains a brief devotional in the form of questions to ponder individually or as a group. In this way, this book is a marvelous resource for churches, small groups, or a biblical counselor.
I was given a free copy of this book by Crossway to provide an honest review.