My experience of suffering is minimal compared to many around the world. Let’s be honest, it’s minimal compared to many people I know.
While I have seen suffering in different forms; everything from widespread child exploitation and slavery in the Middle East, to sex trafficking and its effects in Asia, to friends and acquaintances who have lost spouses, children, or been diagnosed with something horrendous. In my own life, however, I can’t really put a finger on too much suffering, that’s just a fact right now,. Something will come along some day, one can’t help but wonder when.
But, it’s not helpful in comparing my own lack of suffering with people who have suffered much. The comparison game is never helpful in any setting, and with regard to suffering it seems rather morbid. But this does not mean I cannot have empathy, sympathy, and feel the affects of what others are going through. However, in reality it is just not the same.
With this in mind, a friend of mine has written a book. I don’t know him all that well, and didn’t know his story until earlier this year. But he has written a book because he and his wife lost their first child when he was 3-years-old. Their child died in his sleep, there was nothing that could be done.
Yet out of this tragedy it is evident that Cameron Cole and his wife, and the awful sitaution they have been through, is something of a blessing to so many people. This blessing is now in the form of his recently published book ‘Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem In Tragedy‘.
Throughout the book Cameron outlines 12 truths that comfort, sustain and redeem in tragedy. These are: Grace, Gospel, Resurrection, Faith, Empathy, Providence, Doubt, Presence, Sin, Joy, Service, and Heaven.
In each chapter Cameron outlines what he and his wife experienced, what stage of grief they were going through, and how it affected them. But, he then goes on to talk about the key truths that helped them understand more of God and more of the situation.
There are left some unknowns; and rightfully so when we live under the Creator God. But each chapter finds its place in helping work through an aspect of grief, and also an aspect of what God says through his Word about this suffering, this ‘Worst’ as Cameron calls it.
Of course, suffering comes in different ways, and in different stages, and for different lengths of time. In whatever way suffering may come to me or to you this book provides excellent foundations for being able to process it without becoming bitter and angry with God (at least in the long run). It acknowledges that these emotions toward God will of course occur, but God is still here and giving hope.
“…we must remember that our stories fall under Christ’s story of redemption. Your life is but a chapter in God’s greater narrative of restoring the world. Your Worst is merely a chapter in your own story. If we allow God to write our stories and to carry us through the season of darkness and despair, he will ensure that redemption constitutes the central progression of our stories (p47)…All the promises and comforts–the presence of God, the possibility of joy, the empathy of a suffering God, the hope of heaven, the promises of redemption of the world, the availability of grace, the gospel–apply to your story. The promises of the gospel become something you can bank on. They comprise a narrative under which you can live and thrive and hope (p58).”
There is little wonder this book won the World Magazine’s ‘Most Accessible Theology Book of the Year for 2018’. It is simply a great book on suffering, a great book on the impact of the gospel in our lives in times of suffering, and a great book on the character and nature of God.
In my role as pastor I come across people suffering regularly. This is the book I will be giving to them before, during, or after whatever their Worst may be. It is a terrific book, one of my top reads for 2018.
If you’d like to listen to Cameron talk further about the book and his experience you can do so here. And you can read another review of the book here and here.