A few months back, I found the revised and expanded version of R. C. Sproul’s excellent book on suffering, Surprised by Suffering (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2009). It’s a handsome hardcover complete with a topical index, a Scripture index, and a short Q/A at the end. The book itself covers topics like suffering, pain, death, and heaven – all in a gospel centered manner. I’m pretty sure this book would be helpful for mature high school students all the way to older saints contemplating death. I highly recommend it – and it’s only around $10 new. I’ll end the post with a few of my favorite quotes – so you can see for yourself why I appreciate Surprised by Suffering.
“This passage [1 Peter 1.6-9] shows how it is possible to be perplexed but not in despair. Our suffering has a purpose – it helps us toward the end of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls. Suffering is a crucible. As gold is refined in the fire, purged of its dross and impurities, so our faith is tested by fire. Gold perishes. Our souls do not. We experience pain and grief for a season. It is while we are in the fire that perplexity assails us. But there is another side to the fire. As the dross burns away, the genuineness of faith is purified unto the salvation of our souls” (p. 7).
“If I hope in anything or anyone less than One who has power over suffering, and, ultimately death, I am doomed to final disappointment. Suffering will drive me to hopelessness. What character I have will disintegrate. It is the hope of Christ that makes it possible for us to persevere in times of tribulation and distress. We have an anchor for our souls that rests in the One who has gone before us and conquered” (p. 35).
“Sometimes it seems that earlier generations of Christians had a higher view of God than we do. The reason for that may very well lie in the fact that they were much more familiar with pain, with suffering, with persecution, and with death than we are. Because of all they endured, they were forced to consider the hand of God in the midst of their difficulties” (p. 44).
“The bottom line is that God’s hand is in affliction. His sovereignty is manifest in the dark side of life. This is said so frequently in Scripture that it is amazing that it is so hard for us to get it. I believe that the reason for this is that we shut our minds from thinking about these things. Why do we go to the house of mirth in the first place? For many of us, a party is not simply an opportunity to have a good time but a chance to get away from thinking, to get away from considering our ‘life situation.’ We look for an escape, an avenue of pleasure that will somehow dull the fears and the aches that we carry about. But the wise person looks for the finger of God in the house of mirth as well as in the house of mourning, in all things that take place” (ibid.).”