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Michele MorinWarren, MaineAge: 45-54Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5Knowing God in the Midst of Our PainApril 11, 2019Michele MorinWarren, MaineAge: 45-54Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Elisabeth Elliot offers the most durable definition for suffering I've ever heard:
Suffering is Having What You Don't Want
This covers everything from cancer to a flat tire.
Or Wanting What You Don't Have
A spouse, a child, a new job.
Life on a fallen planet includes suffering of all types and intensities, and it's one thing to have a snappy definition for it, but what about a theology of suffering?
What does God have to do with our pain?
Are there lessons to be learned or is suffering just a thing to be gotten through so we can continue with the business of life?
And what about suffering in the life of the believer? It's clear we're not offered immunity or exemption from the world's woes, but search the internet for five minutes and you'll find teachers who would say otherwise and support their claims with Scripture.
In her long career as an author and speaker, Elisabeth Elliot lingered long on the topic of suffering. Widowed as a young mother, committed to a missionary calling, widowed again in middle age, and then, finally, subjected to the indignity and disappointment of dementia at the end of her life, Elisabeth spoke from experience, but more than that, she spoke from a sinewy faith that God does not abandon us in the midst of our pain.
Published nearly four years after her death, Suffering Is Never for Nothing has been adapted from a six-part series Elisabeth taught and which was recorded on CD at a small conference. Readers familiar with Elliot's message will recognize her voice in the printed page as she asserts that it has been through "the deepest suffering that God has taught the deepest lessons." (1) "And let's never forget," she continues, "that if we don't ever want to suffer, we must be very careful never to love anything or anybody." (9)
"In Acceptance Lieth Peace"
Beginning with lessons drawn from the life of Job, Elisabeth Elliot challenged believers to rejoice in the possibility of presenting our "whys?" to God, and to be ready to receive God's answer in the form of His presence with us in our miserythe answer we need more than any other we might have sought.
Then, taking her cues from her lifelong mentor, Amy Carmichael who said, "In acceptance lieth peace," Elisabeth shared that leaning into what she knew about the character of God released her from the notion that when we suffer, we are "adrift in chaos." (44) By doing the next thing, giving up our notions that we deserve a happy ending, and then saying "yes" to God, we are empowered to take the cup of suffering that God offers, in faith that He knows the end of the story.
While it seems ironic (or even masochistic) to thank God for suffering, that is exactly the advice Elisabeth offers. We do this, trusting the wisdom of the Giver who knows and attends to what we need; and we give thanks because it honors God. During her second husband's battle with cancer, God gave Elisabeth a testing ground for putting all her theories into practice, challenging her in regard to their shared suffering to:
Offer it to God as a sacrifice;
Offer yourself with it.
Deliverance in Suffering
While it makes for a much better story line for someone to be delivered or rescued out of their suffering, the truth is that often God chooses to save His people in or through their trials. The psalmist outlines this miracle:
"He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!" (Psalm 50:23 RSV)
Suffering sets the table for salvation.
Receiving the gift of suffering is the first step. Offering it back to God is the next step, and it's an act of total obediencethe highest form of worship. Loneliness, sorrow, loss, or weakness of any kind can be offered back to God like a bouquet of smashed dandelions in the clenched fist of a tiny two year old. "It means everything in the world because love transforms it." (83)
The paradox of suffering linked to glory is a theme that runs through Elisabeth's writing and teaching because it runs through Scripture. "The wilderness into pasture. Deserts into springs. Perishable into imperishable. Weakness into power. Humiliation into glory. Poverty into riches. Mortality into immortality." (104)
A biblical theology of suffering finds God there in the midst of the pain, always present, always active, as He makes beauty from ashes, because our suffering is never for nothing.
Many thanks to B&H Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Reenie5 Stars Out Of 5a very compelling, encouraging, and challenging book on sufferingApril 6, 2019ReenieQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5When I'm walking through a dark valley of suffering, I want to hear from someone who has been down that path and has come through to the other side. Elisabeth Elliot is such a guide. This book is full of faith and hope and grit and real emotion. She doesn't offer glib truths or easy words. She recognizes the very real pain we experience and points us to the one who gives it purpose and meaning.
I found her example of offering up her emotions to the Lord to be very compelling. "I put my feelings on God's altar. I can't handle a lot of my emotions. And so I just say, 'Lord, here it is. You take it and You make something out of it if You can.'" (location 1009).
I was encouraged and challenged by this book. While I am not eager to experience suffering, she reminds me that God has great purposes in it, that He will be with me through it, and that He gives grace to endure to those who trust Him. This is a book I will return to again and again.
Thank you to B&H Publishing Group for providing me with an e-copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
AmyL4 Stars Out Of 5Suffering is Never for NothingApril 6, 2019AmyLQuality: 5Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4Elisabeth Elliot was no stranger to suffering. What little I know of her life story tells me that she has intimate knowledge of the harder side of life. And yet, she had joy. Her faith didn't waver. And she clung to God in the hardest moments.
This never before published teaching from Elliot focuses on how Elliot was able to navigate the hard moments of life while clinging to her faith. The content in this book was originally delivered by Elliot as six teaching sessions for a conference. Through these sessions (each turned into a chapter), Elliot seeks to untangle a small portion of suffering.
Though relatively short, this book takes a deep dive into the idea that God will always use our suffering. Elliot is quick to point out, "suffering is never for nothing." At the very least it draws us back into closer fellowship with God. And if that is all that comes from it, then suffering is for something.
I loved reading this insight into walking the journey of suffering and grief. Occasionally, it felt like something was missing from the narrative. This was acknowledged by the publisher at the beginning of the book though. Because the content is derived from audio recordings, there was an occasional discontent that seems to happen in a regular book. In those moments, I placed myself back in the context of when the content was originally taught and was able to reengage rather quickly.
While the topic of suffering and grief is not new for me, I found Suffering is Never for Nothing to be a new take on the subject. It was refreshing to hear from someone who has been through suffering and is "on the other side." There's a calm reminder that we will get through the things that cause us pain. It was a gentle admonition to lean on God and not lose sight of who He is in light of the pain.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review is my own, honest opinion.
Academy2525 Stars Out Of 5This book should be on everyone's shelf... READ IT!April 3, 2019Academy252Quality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5This book was originally a speaking series Elisabeth did for an audience. That means, that even with the edits, it reads like she is speaking to you. I found that charming! I have heard her voice on radio and podcasts so I could hear her speaking as I read. There were some editorial oddities along the way but the message far outweighs any transcription issues.
If I had money to do so, I would buy 1,000 copies of this book and give it to everyone I know who is struggling through something right now. It is a timeless message that everyone who lives will need to hear at some time in their lives. Suffering is part of the human condition. If you are a Christian you will know suffering but, as Elisabeth so eloquently says right up front
"There have been some hard things in my life, of course, as there have been in yours, and I cannot say to you, I know exactly what you're going through. But I can say that I know the One who knows. And I've come to see that it's through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons."
This is a beautiful book a book of truth and comfort. It is a book to encourage you as you face hard things. This book is loaded with biblical examples of faith during suffering. She points to the cross as the symbol of suffering for us. She shares stories from her life and from her study time with the Lord. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Kendra5 Stars Out Of 5encouraging and challengingMarch 13, 2019KendraThis book is a lightly edited (for readability) transcription of a series of conferences lectures given by Elisabeth Elliot. While the content has never been published in this form, I did recognize some of it from Elliot's other writings, occasionally almost verbatim. The book does have a different, to me more personal, feel since it was originally intended to be heard rather than read.
The book is short--just six chapters--but the content is top-notch. To summarize, suffering, defined by Elliot as "wanting something you do not have, or not wanting something you do have," is a part of all of our lives. God uses it as a message to teach us something better about him. Because of that, we can accept our suffering with gratitude and offer it back to Him as a sacrifice of praise. And through our suffering, life will spring and bring glory to God. Excellent book, both encouraging and challenging.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher (B&H) in exchange for my review.