It is true. Life doesn’t always go your way. Bad things happen. People lose their jobs, get sick, die. Christians who decide to live their life for God and follow His ways, sometimes find themselves at odds with the wider culture. In the West this might lead to some social ridicule. In the majority world, taking a stand for Christ means overt persecution. And didn’t Jesus tell us it would be this way? “In this world you will have trouble . . .(John 16:33).”
In Suffering Well: The Predictable Surprise of Christian Suffering, Paul Grimmond does not propose a remedy to suffering. Instead he offers, more of an inoculation ‘to help us arm ourselves with the truth so that we’re equipped to suffer well when the time comes. (17)’ As a campus minister at the University of New South Wales (Sydney) he has walked alongside numerous students who have struggled physically, emotionally and spiritually for their declaration of faith. In this book, he offers a practical guide which helps readers latch onto what the Bible says about suffering, instead of what our culture says.
What the Bible has to say on this topic is the major theme of this book. Early in this book (chapter 2), Grimmond rehearses the competing narratives of our age, and how they shape our understanding of suffering. When we look to what the Bible says about suffering, it presents a whole different set of assumptions and answers to questions that our culture is not even asking. Like Job’s encounter with God, we can’t expect to find out the ‘why’ behind our suffering; yet like him ‘our answer’ will come in the form of a fresh encounter with God.
Grimmond reviews a number of Biblical texts on suffering and what we can expect. He even exhorts us to suffer more for our faith than we are (most of our suffering comes from our fallenness and the brokenness of our world rather than our courageous faith). Ultimately, he wants us to trust God through our suffering and to continue to serve and seek him as we suffer.
There is a lot of good stuff here and I think Grimmond makes some astute theological points in simple, accessible terms. Grimmond is a campus minister and I can see this sort of book used in that context, getting young adults to shore up their faith for life’s struggles. There is too much ‘easy faith’ peddled these days, and what Grimmond offers is different. On the other hand, what Grimmond addresses in this short book is the full catalogue of Christian suffering: disease, grief, sickness, death, chronic pain, natural disaster, persecution, etc. This book offers a good general overview of suffering (or struggles, striving, etc.), but this may not be the resource I commend for Christians facing particular struggles. But as an examination of the broad theme, this book has good things to say.
I would recommend this for youth and young adult Christians who are learning to deal with the ‘real world.’ Older Christians may also benefit from this book and be reminded of particular Biblical themes which speak to their situation. I give this book four stars: ★★★★☆