I want to join Nicole in urging you to purchase Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor when it comes out in September. To increase your anticipation for this resource, and to encourage you in the midst of your trials, we will be quoting excerpts from the book each day for the remainder of the week.
Our first selection comes from one of our favorite authors and speakers, Joni Eareckson Tada (see Mom’s post “When I saw Joni Dance”), founder of Joni & Friends, author of When God Weeps, and herself a quadrapalegic. In Suffering and the Sovereignty of God she contributes a chapter entitled: “Hope…The Best of Things.” The following is a brief passage from the chapter. Also, I want to encourage you to listen to the message on which this chapter was based, given at the 2005 Desiring God National Conference. May Joni’s reliance upon God’s strength provoke us all to greater dependence upon Him.
Please know that I am no expert at this wheelchair thing. I’m no professional at being a quadriplegic. There are so many mornings when I wake up and I can hear my girlfriend come to the front door to help me get out of bed and get ready for the day. She goes to the kitchen, turns on the water, and starts brewing coffee. I know that in a few moments she’s going to come gliding into the bedroom, where she’ll greet me with a happy, “Good morning!” And I am lying there with my eyes closed, thinking, O God, I can’t do this. I am so tired. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. O God, I’m already thinking about how good it’s going to feel when I get back to bed tonight and put my head on this pillow.
I’m sure you have felt that way at some point. Maybe you feel that way every morning. But Psalm 10:17 says, “O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.” O God, I often pray in the morning, God, I cannot do this. I cannot do this thing called quadriplegia. I have no resources for this. I have no strength for this—but you do. You’ve got resources. You’ve got strength. I can’t do quadriplegia, but I can do all things through you as you strengthen me (Phil. 4:13). I have no smile for this woman who’s going to walk into my bedroom in a moment. She could be having coffee with another friend, but she’s chosen to come here to help me get up. O God, please may I borrow your smile?
As Mom observed yesterday, one of the kindest things we can do for those experiencing trials or suffering is to point them to books that reveal the comfort of our Savior. Or maybe we are the ones currently walking through “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” or sinking in the “Slough of Despond” or clawing our way up “The Hill of Difficulty.” So many of us have found the books Mom mentioned to be life preservers in trials both big and small.
Here at girltalk, we are pleased to announce that on September 7, 2006 we can add another invaluable resource to these “Selections for the Suffering.” Forthcoming from Crossway Books is a brand new title: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor.
You will be able to read about the “Grace of God and Suffering” by David Powlison, discover “Hope…The Best of Things” along with the ever-hopeful Joni Eareckson Tada, and see “The Hand of God in the Hurt Others Do To Us” with Mark Talbot. Of course, John Piper will set your sights high above your trials and on the glorious sovereignty of God. Each of these authors (and there are more!) write from a personal experience of suffering. But more importantly, they write from a personal experience of God in the midst of suffering.
As John Piper writes: “My prayer for this book is that God would stand forth…and show us his crucified and risen Son who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and waken in us the strongest faith in the supremacy of Christ, and the deepest comforts in suffering, and the sweetest fellowship with Jesus that we have ever known.”
So, mark your calendars for September 7 and be among the first to purchase this book. As for myself, I can’t wait to be instructed and comforted by these trial-tested, God-glorifying men and women.
I want to send a heart-felt “thank you” out to all of you who have prayed for me recently. I just returned from a weekend women’s conference in Charlotte, NC (I’ll fill you in on my time there in a couple of days) and tomorrow I am speaking at the first of three Titus 2 Tuesdays at Covenant Life Church. I continue to covet your prayers!
Among many memorable moments this past weekend, I spent time with a group of pastors’ wives at a luncheon. One of the questions these women asked was “how do we best help people walking through difficult and challenging circumstances?” It’s a question I receive often and one I never feel qualified to answer. What do you say to a person you are visiting in the hospital or do for a friend in a protracted family conflict? Just offering sympathy and quoting a verse can seem so inadequate.
There are many ways that we can and should extend care to individuals experiencing suffering. However, as I told these ladies, one simple way to serve them is by introducing them to wise, suffering-tested friends in the form of books.
Godly men and women who have spent time studying Scripture in depth on the topic of suffering, often experienced suffering themselves, and then written about it, are uniquely equipped to serve those in trial. They can walk with them, holding their hand if you will, through the questions, the struggles, and the pain—leading them ultimately to the Savior.
Several months back, following Hurricane Katrina, Nicole wrote a post recommending some resources on the topic of suffering. I’ve reposted it here by way of suggestion. To this list I would also add the book Janelle mentioned last week, Is God Really In Control? Trusting God in a World of Hurt? by Jerry Bridges.
Along with personal expressions of care and love, books such as these can truly be a great kindness to a suffering friend.
September 06, 2005
Preparing to Suffer
Whether or not we are suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina this week, author D.A. Carson points out that “The truth of the matter is that all we have to do is live long enough and we will suffer.” It’s not a question of “if” but merely of “when” we will suffer. Similarly, John Piper notes that: “We all will suffer; we all must suffer; and most American Christians are not prepared in mind or heart to believe or experience this.”
Just as the time to shore up the levies protecting the city of New Orleans was before the hurricane hit, so the ideal time for each of us to prepare for suffering is before its howling winds swirl around us.
So how do we prepare our minds and hearts to experience suffering? We must dig deep into God’s Word to shore up our spiritual foundations. And as an expression of His tender mercy, God has provided us with numerous helpful resources that expound His Word as it relates to suffering and applies these truths to our hearts. Here is our short list of the most excellent resources on this oft-neglected but desperately needed topic:
How Long O Lord: Reflections of Suffering and Evil
Besides my dad’s opinion that this is the best book on suffering available today, I’ll let a quote from this book by D.A. Carson serve as it’s endorsement “In the darkest night of the soul, Christians have something to hang onto that Job never knew. We know Christ crucified. Christians have learned that when there seems to be no other evidence of God’s love, they cannot escape the cross. ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Rom. 8:32).”
When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty
From a life of intense personal suffering as a parapalegic, Joni Eareckson Tada along with co-author Steve Estes take us to the foot of the cross to view our own sufferings in light of the ultimate sacrifice of our Savior.
The Journal of Biblical Counseling
From our good friends at “The Journal” come two articles: “Exalting Pain? Ignoring Pain? What do we do with Suffering?” by Edward T. Welch (Vol. 12, No. 3, Spring 1994) which you can order by calling 800-318-2186, and “Counseling with Suffering People” by John Piper (Vol. 21, No. 2, Winter 2003), available on their website.
Finally, my personal favorite…
Beside Still Waters
When I was in the hospital following complications from giving birth to Jack, my dad came and read me passages from this amazing book. I still read it often and try to give it to as many suffering people as I know. It’s a challenge to have to pick just one quote to share with you, but I want to close with this one. For although trials and suffering are inevitable, Charles Spurgeon has helped me to see that from a biblical perspective they are also a blessing, because—
“Trials greatly enlarge the soul. Thus I do not want, in my better mind, to escape great trials, since they involve great graces. If my strength shall be as my days (Deut. 33:25), then let my days be long and dark, for my strength will be mighty, God will be glorified, and I will be blessed. I earnestly urge every tested Christian to dwell on this truth, for it may be a great comfort. There is love, immortal and unchanging love, in heaven toward you, which will never grow cold. You will be helped. God will sooner cease to be than cease to be faithful. Be of good courage, for today He will strengthen your heart.”
Whether you are in the midst of suffering from Hurricane Katrina, or preparing to meet your own personal hurricane someday, may you be of good courage, and may God strengthen your heart!