Suffering Well – Paul Grimmond

Suffering Well – The Predictable Surprise of Christian Suffering. Paul Grimmond (Matthias Media, 2011)

I’m yet to be disappointed by a book produced by Matthias Media, and having heard Paul Grimmond speak and having read his books before, I had fairly high expectations of Suffering Well. I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Grimmond explains that he originally set out to write a series of bible studies on suffering and then discovered as he was preparing them that his preconceptions about suffering were not quite in line with the bible’s teaching on it. So he seeks to set out the biblical teaching on suffering, whilst identifying and removing the unhelpful lens that our society and culture uses to shape our understanding.

He begins by highlighting three examples of biblical responses to suffering – Job, Habakkuk and Paul. In some sense, the rest of the book is building up the foundation for why these three godly men respond the way they do, knowing who God is, what he is like, what he has promised, and where they are in God’s plan for salvation.

As the content headed into the New Testament and references to general suffering became less frequent, the overwhelming theme of suffering was that of particularly Christian suffering, that is, persecution for being a follower of Christ.When we think of persecution, our minds usually head overseas to those Christians who face imprisonment, beatings, torture, death. And we in the West partner with them in their struggle.

But there is more to Christian suffering than direct opposition, and Grimmond highlights several different types of suffering. We are not to underestimate the dangers we face – the subtle temptations to let go of Christ because our faith is not politically correct, the compromises and the chip-chip-chipping away of our faith-  the danger is that sometimes we don’t notice. Be alert. Not only this, but there was a type I had not thought of – the suffering we experience in seeing people continue to reject God, even the temporary stumbles of brothers and sisters who struggle with sin for certain periods of time.

Grimmond’s style of writing is so very easy to read, both in language and in tone. Someone once wrote that Grimmond’s style of writing is like a “big warm hug” – I agree. He comes across as very humble and friendly, with a deep understanding of his audience. He is unimposing and gentle, yet this does not stop him from necessary rebuke. He is faithful to God’s word and everything he writes flows out from it.

I struggled a little with the logic flow of the book; I wondered why, when aiming to let the bible speak about suffering, he would begin each chapter with an example from society, but I think now that it was necessary to break down the incorrect framework we have and replace it with the truth of the bible.

While he could have said much more on a topic this complex, he didn’t need to (there are other books that set out to be more thorough) and he covered a lot of ground in a short space. He covered biblical and pastoral issues and the main point of the book is still clear long after I finished reading it.

Throughout this book, I had in the back of my mind, “how can a surprise be predictable? What is this predictable surprise of Christian suffering?” But in the end, the application of the book is the same as every day of the Christian life – keep being a Christian. Suffering is a reality of being a Christian and we should not be surprised. We should also not lose sight of what God has done for us in Christ – he is the God who suffered and dealt with the cause of suffering because he loves us, and he has promised redemption and eternal life without suffering.

I would recommend this to anyone – young Christians, mature Christians, non-Christians, those who simply want to think about suffering, and even those going through suffering (though wisdom is needed in knowing when to read something like this if you’re grieving), particularly if being persecuted for the sake of the gospel. I was left feeling greatly comforted in seeing how God views suffering and the plan he has for those who trust in him until the end.

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” – 1 Peter 4:19

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