Periodically, someone will ask me about a book or author I’ve quoted in one of my posts or sermons or just in conversations or times of ministry. I love books, as some of you know, and want to believe that heaven’s library will be an amazing place to spend long extended times of reading and learning more and more! I look forward to meeting some of the great writers in the Christian faith like C.S. Lewis and others – and asking them to explain some of the passages in their books that I couldn’t understand this side of heaven!
In the time since my cancer storm which began on December 8, 2011, I have turned my heart and mind toward understanding more about the role of suffering in the life of a believer. This has certainly affected my reading and study. I have developed a nice little library of books on the subject and thought it might be helpful to share with you just two of the titles which have blessed me with greater understanding and helped to form my “new and revised” theology concerning suffering. I’ll discuss one book today and present the second book in upcoming posts.
“WHEN GOD WEEPS: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty” by Joni Eareckson Tada
published by Zondervan, 1997
This easy-to-read book is the one I hand to anyone who is going through a time of suffering. It’s written by Christian author, speaker and expert on personal suffering, Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been a quadraplegic confined to a wheelchair for over 40 years. As if that weren’t enough, she also suffers from severe, chronic pain AND endured breast cancer a few years ago!
Tada has turned her suffering into gold for the purposes of the Kingdom of God. She shares with great transparency how hard suffering can be but how beautiful it is to find God more intimately in the midst of suffering. In this, one of her many books, she presents stories from around the world, gleaned from her decades of ministry to those who suffer with debilitating infirmities of all kinds. Her first chapter is entitled, “I’m Hurting Bad” and it begins the book with exactly what those who are suffering need — someone who relates to their suffering because they themselves know suffering AND they hold out that which every suffering person needs: HOPE. For Tada, clearly, hope is found in Jesus Christ, the Suffering Savior.
Tada is a good Bible scholar and scripture undergirds her story and the conclusions she has drawn from her years of suffering and ministry to those who suffer. The book is divided into three sections, each of which asks a pivotal question for those who are in a fiery trial: “Who Is This God?”; “What Is He Up To?”; and “How Can I Hang On?” Chapters are thoughtfully and poignantly written but are not lofty theologically, so the average person can grasp the truth that she presents. Tada gently unfolds a greater understanding of how we can find God in the midst of suffering and how we can endure our suffering knowing that He will be with us and will indeed use our suffering for His great purposes.
The book concludes with three appendices — two are scriptural studies on suffering and the last asks the question, “Can God Experience Grief?” All three are most helpful for any believer who is seeking biblical underpinnings for developing their own “theology of suffering”.
“When God Weeps” is personal, very honest, sometimes a little raw, deeply moving, and in the end, encouraging and hopeful. This is my “Go To Book” for sufferers. I recommend it highly. You can purchase it online at Amazon.com for $10.43 softbound or $5.99 Kindle version. Remember, this is a book you can hand to anyone who is suffering in any way.
The second book I am reading and want to discuss is Pastor Timothy Keller’s book, “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” This book is deep, thoughtful, and intended to not just inform, but to FORM our Christian thinking about suffering. I will discuss this book in my next post. In fact, this one is SO deep, it may take me several posts.
And if you are suffering today, remember that you have companions on the journey (like Tada and me and so many others) who understand your pain and more, you have a Savior who knew suffering and Who will never leave you or forsake you. Take His hand today and know that your suffering matters to the Almighty!
Love and blessings,
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.