I recently finished reading Tullian Tchividjian’s new book Glorious Ruin. It was a fantastic read. In this book he talks about how our understanding of the gospel changes how we view suffering.
On page 17 Tullian says this.
For the life of the believer, on thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be himself for you.
In other words, our ruin may not ultimately spell our undoing. It may in fact spell the beginning of faith. And in the end, that is enough. Gloriously so.
For me one of the things that lead me to the understanding of the gospel was a series of painful events that, even though I had been saved my entire life I had no answers to. lt reveled to me on the idols that I had been holding on to was my family. In the course of the past 5 years I have come realization of the power that pain plays in the life of a believer. How we view pain, what causes pain and where we turn when we experience pain all are very tell as to what we ultimately put our trust in.
There’s nothing like suffering to remind us how not in control we actually are, how little power we ultimately have, and how much we ultimately need God. In other words suffering reveals to us the things that ultimately matter, which also happens to be the warp and woof of Christianity. Who we are and who God is.
Tullian does an excellent job. Discussing the problem of pain from the context of his own pain. I loved how Tullian continued to bring everything back to the message of the cross and the power of Christ.
A theology of the cross…..understands the cross be ultimate statement of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven. A theology of the cross accepts the difficult thing rather than immediately trying to change it or instrumentalize it. It looks directly into pain, and “calls a thing what it is” instead of calling evil good and good evil. It identifies God as “hidden in the suffering.”
We have a savior that suffered in our place. He understands suffering and it is in our suffering that we can preach a message of the grace of God to a world that so often see Christians react to pain in such unhealthy ways. I love how John Piper puts it. “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him” God is after his own glory more than our comfort. So appreciated Tullian’s take on pain, suffering and the gospel. Definitely a beneficial read.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes.
“In the beginning God created man in his own image, and ever since, man has been trying to repay the favor.” Reinhold Niebuhr
At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics, every action is met by an equal and opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff….I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know what I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Shiny, happy Christians are insufferable.
(On his perspective of accountability groups) such groups start with the narcissistic presupposition mentioned earlier – that Christianity is all about cleaning up and doing your part. They focus primarily (in my experience almost exclusively) on our sin, and not on our Savior.
The tragic irony in all of this is that when we focus so strongly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become even more neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our gilt (instead of God’s grace) makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking in 2012 found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence.
Job’s unraveling isn’t seen as wrong or sinful, in fact, it’s emotionally realistic.
“We were promised sufferings, not the absences of suffering. We were promised suffering. They were always a part of God’s program. We were even told blessed are they that mourn.” C. S. lewis
Rather than face the underlying reasons for our distress (or look outside of ourselves for some relief), we attempt to leverage our pain for reward. Suffering becomes another way to justify ourselves, another form of works righteousness – a competition just as grueling as the obedience one.
Through the fall, self-reliance has become our default mode of operation.
Martin Luther on sin “Mankind turned inward”
The truth is suffering does not rob us of joy, idolatry does.
The Gospel is not a message reserved for those Sundays when you’re encouraged to bring your unbelieving friend. It is the only message.
We are all Christians and human beings at the same time. This means that the Old Adam is always on the prowl, scrounging for some new Law by which to justify himself apart form Christ And he dies hard! If the assumption from the pulpit is that conversation is a one-time only event, the messages will revolve around what the Christian needs to do, rather than what Christ has done.
People minister out their own suffering not in spite of it.
Pain and suffering loosens our grip on this temporal life.
Character is demonstrated more by our reactions than our actions.
Suffering has a way of stripping all resources away from us so that in the end, all that we have is the only thing that matters: the approval of God based on the accomplished work of Jesus.
Thomas Merton once said, “The truth that many people don’t understand until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller things begin to suffer you in proportion to your fear of being hurt. Suffering exposes what we build our lives on to give us meaning, and what we hope will bring us freedom.
When Jesus is with you in suffering, you can have full assurance that you have a friend that has been though it all, just as you have. He may not deliver you form the pain and the loss. He might not get you out of the mess, but he’ll walk with you through it.
I don’t know what pain you are facing but the thing I have come to learn and am still learn Tullian points out so well in this book. When he says “Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway throughout suffering.” I truly enjoyed this book I hope you will as well. Here is the like to get it at Amazon.com.
(I was provided a free copy of this book to read in advance and provide my view of the book, I was in no way encouraged to write a review that was influenced by either the author or the publisher.)