This is one of the best books I’ve read on suffering and the sovereignty of God: Is God Really in Control by Jerry Bridges. This book is outstanding because it is so very biblical, pastoral, and practical. You won’t find a detailed philosophical discussion of theodicy in these pages, but you will find hope, comfort, and encouragement in the sovereignty of God’s love in Christ. As always, Bridges writes in a straightforward manner that most Christians can understand – there are no ambiguous trendy adjectives (such as community-driven authenticity) nor are there lame attempts at “hipness” (such as numerous references to indie bands and organic beer). You can give this book to a 60-year-old Christian going through a trial or a newly married husband and wife grieving over a miscarriage. This is truly a book for the church.
Here are a couple of highlights from the book:
“In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense. …We must shape our vision of God by the Bible, not by our experiences” (p. 19 & 35).
“God never wastes pain. He always uses it to accomplish his purpose. And his purpose is for his glory and our good. Therefore we can trust him when our hearts are aching or our bodies are racked with pain” (p. 65).
“We must depend upon God to do for us to do what we cannot do for ourselves. We must, to the same degree, depend on him to enable us to do what we must do for ourselves” (p. 75).
“The good that God works for us in our lives is conformity to the likeness of his Son (Rom. 8:28-30). So, his good is not necessarily our present comfort or happiness but rather conformity to Christ in ever-increasing measure for eternity” (p. 85).
“In adversity we tend to doubt God’s fatherly care, but in prosperity we tend to forget it. If we are to trust God, we must acknowledge our dependence upon him at all times, good times as well as bad times” (p. 131).
This would be a great book for small group study or for personal study. There are a few helpful questions for reflection at the end of each chapter (each chapter is around 15 pages long). In fact, thinking about it a bit more, since there are ten chapters I’d recommend using it for a ten week discussion group on God’s sovereignty and our suffering. Right now at the WTS bookstore it is only $5.20. (I already ordered a copy for a friend who is going through adversity.) Even if you’re not going through a trial right now, you no doubt have been through one or certainly will go through one. When the dark valleys in life come, this book will help you keep your eyes on the Lord and strengthen your trust in his Word.
rev shane lems