God’s Grace in your Suffering by David Powlison
After reading David Powlison’s How Does Sanctification Work? and being refreshed by its practical, down-to-earth wisdom, I was excited to read more from Powlison. God’s Grace in your Suffering has proved to be a timely read as I confront my own needs along with the needs of those around me.
As a subject of study or discussion, suffering is often treated theoretically. Suffering is usually talked about with a sterile detachment, accounting for the presence of suffering but only from a safe distance. This book avoids both clinical detachment and self-focused sentimentality while threading its way through the relationship of faith to suffering, in all its complexity.
The slim volume manages to be meaty without being dense and benefits greatly from Powlison’s experience as a counsellor and his own experiences of suffering. I appreciated how the book avoids reductionism and honestly acknowledges the messy state of reality. The gospel is not the answer to a question, it’s the good news about a good God who enters into pain and suffering, not to pull me out of it but to walk through it with me.
Examining the foundation
Every chapter begins by examining several lines of “How Firm a Foundation” and drawing out the hymn’s biblical principles in detail. Powlison then shares his own experience of suffering and how God met him in those moments. Finally, each chapter ends by addressing the reader directly in a way I found uniquely helpful.
A workbook for your suffering
There is a lot of good advice and encouragement here for those living through pain and difficulty and the wisdom is doubly valuable because of how the book engages the reader. While practical, the book is also intensely personal in a way that’s likely to make some readers uncomfortable.
God’s Grace in your Suffering invites participation by making your actual suffering its subject, not suffering in general. Question-Response sections at the end of each chapter make this a workbook as much as a book. Readers are invited to name and address the suffering they’re living through; the approach is as intimidating as it is liberating and would work well in a discipleship or mentorship setting.
Making sense of my own suffering is very different from walking through the difficulties of my friends and family. The last two years have been a reminder that my own struggles are only half the battle, because nobody truly walks alone, or at least they shouldn’t. This book, and Powlison’s other work, is an encouragement for those who would rather avoid suffering—their’s or others’—to ask necessary questions, listen closely, and to mourn as much as we exhort.
God’s Grace in your Suffering is easy to recommend even without the added option of addressing your own suffering. The participation invited by the book, especially for readers looking for real relief, leads readers to do something—whether that’s to name their pain, seek professional help, or to lay their burdens down.
I received a copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review as part of their Blog Review Program.