There are a myriad of books that deal with both the theological and practical aspects of human suffering. Suffering is a part of the human experience and all humans are looking for answers and explanations. There are many questions that people ask in the midst of their own suffering and in response to the suffering of others. Why did this happen to me? Why did God allow this to happen? Why didn’t God stop this from happening? Doesn’t God care? There are many what and why questions to ask in the midst of suffering and they are a perfectly normal human response.

Perhaps the question that is the least asked or entertained is the who question. That is, who is with me in this suffering? This is the question Tullian Tchividjian seeks to answer in his most recent book Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free published by David C. Cook. Tullian’s main goal is to help Christians to see that in the midst of our suffering and normal stages of question asking, we must never forget that God is there with us in the midst of it all. In the midst of suffering we must remember this basic and profound truth:

The good news of the gospel is not an exhortation from above to “hang on at all costs,” or “grin and bear it” in the midst of hardship. No, the good news is that God is hanging on to you, and in the end, when all is said and done, the power of God will triumph over pain and loss. (p. 24)

While we see in Job that God does not condemn us for asking the other questions, it is only the who question that He answers. Tullian points out that the who question “is the only question God has seen fit to answer, concretely, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” (p. 25) This is good news! It is in the incarnation that God stepped into the flow of human history that He is guiding in order to write Himself into the story. He dwelt among us in the likeness of our sinful bodies and suffered for us. God suffered for us and among us in the person of Jesus Christ. This is good news! Tullian goes on to explain

The gospel is not ultimately a defense from suffering and pain; rather, it is the message of God’s rescue through pain. In fact, it allows to drop our defenses, to escape not from pain but from the prison of How and Why to the freedom of Who, We are not responsible for finding the right formula to combat or unlock our suffering. The good news of the gospel does not consist of theological assertions or some elaborate religious how-to manual. The good news if Jesus Himself, the Man of Sorrows, the crucified God who meets us in our grief. (p. 38)

Throughout the book Tullian helps believers grapple with the reality that suffering will happen since we are sinners living in a sin cursed world and are followers of Christ. He encourages Christians to suffer honestly (don’t hide the emotional response to suffering) and to take it seriously (God is working in and through the suffering). He warns against moralizing and minimizing suffering which will take away from the redemptive goals God has for us in Christ through our suffering.

The main message of the book turns on the distinction between a theology of glory and the cross. Essentially, a theology of glory responds to suffering by avoiding the pain. It puts us in the driver’s seat of determining the value or final outlook we have on our suffering. A marriage gone bad is reduced to just a marriage that was never good anyways (p. 42). On the other hand, a theology of the cross highlights the personal involvement of God in our suffering. It points us undeniably to the cross a God’s ultimate involvement in our suffering.

Glorious Ruin accomplishes its goal of turning our attention to the Who amidst our suffering – Jesus Christ. God has brought Himself into our suffering through His death on the cross and has given us a hope beyond present suffering in His resurrection. Through the cross God suffers with us in Christ. This is the good news of the gospel amidst suffering. This is our glorious ruin!

NOTE: I received this book for free from David Cook and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review. The words and thoughts expressed are my own.

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