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4 Stars Out Of 5
Book Review: Surprised by Suffering
November 1, 2015
In "Surprised by Suffering," R.C. Sproul attempts to construct for readers a Christian perspective of suffering and death. Sproul takes effort to discuss and answer many common philosophical arguments that people bring up on the topic of suffering. The book is divided into two parts with the first addressing suffering before death and the second in regards to death and the afterlife. In the first part, Sproul establishes that suffering is a natural and necessary part of the Christian life. As followers of Christ, we are reminded that we will experience many sufferings during our lifetime. However, these trials are meant to grow and mature our faith as we learn to lean on Christ for all our needs. Sproul encourages readers to understand that no matter how difficult or harsh our lives become, Christians have two sources of comfort. The first is the sovereignty and goodness of God. We may never completely comprehend how a good God can allow evil to occur in our daily lives. However, the Bible is clear that God is both good and sovereign thus whatever happens to us is by His divine will and to His glory. The second source of comfort is Jesus Christ who sympathizes with us as He experienced the utmost pain and suffering in His earthly ministry. Moreover, Christ is not only the suffering Servant but also the triumphant King who will return and establish His kingdom, a place void of all pain, tears, and death. Thus, though we experience suffering in our earthly lives, we can gain comfort that we have a powerful, sovereign God and a loving, merciful Saviour. In the second half of the book, Sproul shifts his focus to discuss heaven and eternity. Perhaps the author's doing so may point to the fact that we often focus too much on our present temporary circumstances. Indeed, the suffering that we feel now may seem like it will last forever but Sproul reminds us that our life on earth is infinitesimally short when compared with the everlasting life that we will enjoy in heaven. In our resurrected bodies, we will no longer need to worry about parting with our loved ones or gradually losing our mental and physical faculties as we age. Christians need not be disheartened by the setbacks and tragedies in this life as we anticipate the future glory and heavenly bliss in the next.
I would recommend this book to Christians who may feel overwhelmed by the suffering that they may be encountering. This book was helpful to me as it provided a solid biblical perspective on how Christians should view suffering and death. Sproul offers a well-balanced approach that focuses on God's sovereignty, justice, and love. Moreover, "Surprised by Suffering" is not so much a manual on how to handle suffering but a call for all to take hold of the gospel. Only those who have put their faith in Jesus and have God as their Father can enjoy the comforts and assurance that Sproul details throughout the book. No matter what tragedies or chaos we may encounter in life, we are firmly anchored in the hope that is found in Jesus Christ who has secured all heavenly blessings for us. If we know Christ, we can cherish the grace, love, and peace that we experience as the beloved children of God. Furthermore, we can look forward to our heavenly home in which there will be no longer be any death, pain, or suffering.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Reformation Trust of the book in exchange for a book review.
Prior to reading this I wanted to learn more about suffering, be able to explain to others the concept of and purpose for it, and to understand how to handle that suffering when facing it head on. I had a desire to grow and learn spiritually, so I chose to read two books concerning this subject and one of those books was Surprised by Suffering. I enjoyed reading another book by Dr. Sproul earlier this year. I have also enjoyed listening to his podcast on occasion too. From those experiences, I figured Dr. R.C. Sproul would provide some valuable insight... Although I certainly learned from this read, I feel this book should have been renamed Surprised by Death or Enduring Death and its Trials of Suffering instead.
Dr. Sproul dives into death's devastating effects on humanity, animals, the planet, friends, families, and especially the dying person themselves. He also speaks of what those who are in Christ can look forward to after death. I found interesting the brief discussion of the Biblical and Philosophical aspects of the after life. And I really liked reading his Questions and Answers section too; very informative. Surprised by Suffering is a certainly a book which speaks about suffering, however I found its primary focus was towards the suffering unleashed by death. Although I feel the title is slightly misleading and some of the philosophical talk was a little dry, what this book teaches is applicable towards other forms of suffering too.
Disclaimer: Ben Umnus was given a free copy of this book by Reformation Trust Publishing, but he was neither paid for his review nor was he commanded by Reformation Trust Publishing to write a positive review. This review is the personal, written opinion of Ben Umnus. This disclaimer is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."