Every now and again I pick up a little book in 10publishing’s growing series with Union Theology, like Andrew Wilson’s excellent Unbreakable: What the Son of God Said About the Word of God, and Michael Reeves’ helpful Enjoying Your Prayer Life. Recently, I picked up this little green number, Suffering and Singing: Knowing God’s Love in the Pain and Despair, by church planter John Hindley. Noting that it was a short and worshipful book on the topic of suffering, I picked it up, both for me and for those I love.
John starts his book honestly – as any of could – noting that whilst he, like many, has not suffered horribly, every human life includes suffering. This has always been the way of God’s people – the way of suffering – and John draws us to Psalm 44 and the sons of Korah, walking us gently but firmly through this Psalm, inviting us to consider the reality of suffering and even greater reality of God’s love in the midst of it. Psalm 44 has a powerful flow, a big ‘but’ that challenges us in our complacency, and a focus on the sovereign King. As someone, in a very minor way, laid a little lower with a cracked foot and ongoing mental health difficulties, John’s description of the King is wonderful:
“Our God is a king, a warrior king and a servant king, and the nature of his kingship is to rescue, save and serve his people. He is not a king seeking to lord it over those he rules, as other kings might. He is a king who sweeps into battle to save you. His victories are not won to merely prove his might; they are won as an outworking of his love for those he rules. When Christ rode into battle against sin and death on the cross, he wept for you, he bled for you and he was willing to die for he loves you”
This book, whilst deeply theological and profoundly biblical, is not a big textbook of theology or a pontificating manuscript of philosophy. This book offers, however, something powerful to the question of suffering. This is not an easy book to read – but it is a book that has truth to impart. Here is John’s exposition of the problem of suffering, with reference to Romans 8:35-39:
“That we suffer for God’s sake transforms suffering… If we are loved in and through our suffering, just as the Father loved Jesus in and through his suffering, then we are always loved. The world will point at us, as they pointed at Christ, and ask where our God is as we suffer. The answer is that he is with us, behind us and before us, giving us suffering as a mark of his love to bring us to the glory of his Son”
This is an honest book. It is, despite its difficult subject matter, a beautiful and encouraging book. It ends, as all good books on suffering as a Christian should end, with an emphasis on how our suffering will end:
“Our suffering is terrible, but our suffering will not end in a funeral. It will end in a wedding”
I ‘enjoyed’ this book. Not because it was easy to read – though it was readable. Not because it was short – though it is, and hard-hitting. Not even because it focuses so beautifully on Psalm 44. This book was nourishing, a feeding book, a soothing book. I would commend and recommend it to any Christian struggling through suffering.