Pastor Tullian's ministry has been influential in my coming to a deeper understanding of the grace of God and the freedom that we have in Christ. I recommend Glorious Ruin to anyone whose desire is to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ but especially to anyone who has struggled with self-condemnation and the bondage of self-reliance. You will become better acquainted with the One source of true hope.
Tonight my four-year old daughter came downstairs past her bed-time and asked me what I was doing. I explained to her that I was finishing up a book by Tullian Tchividjian called Glorious Ruin. I told her it was a book about suffering. She gave me a blank stare. The blank stare began when I said Tchividjian, and it continued as I quizzed her on the concept of suffering. The conversation ended with her asking to listen to Disney Princess songs, which I politely complied. Don't tell Mrs. Cochran that Chloe was up so late. Apparently the concept of suffering was too much for her and she wanted to retreat into the safe, insulated magical world of Disney.
My daughter's response is somewhat normal and is a snapshot of all of humanities response to suffering. According to Tchividjian we either medicate (Chloe with Princess Music), minimalize, or moralize suffering. Thividjian's task with Glorious Ruin is to direct us back to the God of suffering. God is sovereign not just over the joys in life but the suffering too. Pointedly Tchividjian says, "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."
In Glorious Ruin Tchividjian walks us through a study of suffering in the book of Job while presenting Martin Luther's classic argument contrasting the theology of glory with the theology of the cross. Tchividjian's objective is to direct us back to the gospel. Only in understanding the gospel we truly can come to terms with suffering. Tchividjian writes, "The gospel frees us to speak honestly about the reality of pain, confident that nothing rides on our ability to cope with or fend off suffering."
I really enjoyed how Tchividjian peels back layer after layer of our questions, objections, and misunderstandings concerning suffering. As he does so he shares different facets of the Job narrative along with concepts illuminating both the theology of glory and the theology of the cross in order to refresh the gospel in our minds and the end of suffering. Tchividjian aptly says, "God in Christ cannot be reduced to a means to our selfish ends. He is the end Himself!"
Throughout this refined theological discussion, Tchividjian invokes his testimony and experiences in suffering along with valuable anecdotes from others such as Larry Crabb and Scotty Ward Smith. He blends all of this with popular culture tie ins such as Oprah and Seinfeld. Noteworthy is Tchividjian's vulnerability about his parent's marital issues and the merger between New City and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
Memorable quotes from Glorious Ruin include:
"Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is about bad people coping with their failure to do good. That is to say, Christianity concerns the gospel_"
"Christianity is not first and foremost about our behavior, our obedience, our response, and our daily victory over sin. It is first and foremost about Jesus!"
"The problems of life are large and complex; pat answers are not only inaccurate but also unkind."
"The gospel is for the defeated, not the dominant."
"Only when God drives us to the end of ourselves do we begin to see life in the gospel."
"We are not justified by our understanding of God's grace, after all; we are justified by the death and resurrection of Christ!"
"Only when we come to the end of ourselves do we come to the beginning of God. This is a common theme in the Bible - desperation precedes deliverance. Grief precedes glory. The cross precedes the crown. Powerlessness is the beginning of freedom."
"If you don't go to your grave confused, you don't go to your grave trusting."
"Christians serve an unrelenting God who graciously disallows full, lasting satisfaction in anything but Him."
"Our point of pain reveals our greatest need - our need to be set free from false hopes and to cling to the only hope of the gospel."
This riveting book brought clarity to an issue that has inflicted inner turmoil within me. Throughout life I have medicated, minimalized, or moralized suffering around me. I have insulated myself from suffering. Now, I live in it as a pastor, husband, and father. Friends have surrounded me in this past year to help me reason through this issue. Fortunately, these friends are of a higher caliber than Job's. This past year I finally processed the grief of my eldest brother who past away five years ago. My wife and I walked through the emotional and physical anguish of totaling our mini-van, praising God that no one was hurt. I experienced my first surgical experience as I had a benign tumor removed from my body. I have managed fears about my children growing up without parents or my children inflicted with disease. All because I have heard testimony of others who are walking through those scenarios now. Suffering, pain, and anguish are inescapable.
I highly recommended Glorious Ruin. Not just because this is a book that gives clarity to an issue that catches up with everyone but because this book captures the wonder of the gospel that speaks hope into our lives in the midst of suffering. Tchividjian concludes, "Regardless of what you are facing, know this: suffering is not final. Death is not the end. It wasn't for Jesus, and it's not for you_In the light of the cross, suffering and death are more than inevitable; they are good."
Order Glorious Ruin today and start reading it for tomorrow. This book equips every believer to face the impending reality of suffering. Thank you David C. Cook for my review copy of Glorious Ruin.
Read more book reviews from Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com.
What do you do when suffering comes your way? Rather than run from it, Tullian would have us learn from it. Suffering is going to happen. He wants us to be able to respond rightly to God in the midst of suffering.
Tullian preached a series of sermons on Job following a painful time in his life (the divorce of his parents after 41 years of marriage). Those sermons became the most listened to sermons he'd preached and this book is loosely based on them.
Suffering will happen. It forces us to confront the deeper questions of life and points to a deeper reality. Tullian desires that we would begin to comprehend the height, depth, and length of the love of Jesus in the midst of suffering.
He asks us to be honest about our suffering, not moralize or minimize it, hide it, or expect other to do so.
"The appropriate response to life in this world is grief and pain," Tullian writes. "In fact, nowhere in the Bible do we find God sanctioning a 'suck it up and deal with it' posture toward pain." (88) Suffering liberates us. "Only when we come to the end of ourselves do we come to the beginning of God." (153)
Will we ever understand why? He quotes Larry Crabb's comment to him: "If you don't go to your grave confused, you don't go to your grave trusting." (157) It is not the why but the Who that is important, Tullian says.
Tullian reminds us that the good news of the gospel is that God is there suffering with us, hanging on to us.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.