Rarely will I call a book a “must read”, but I think this is one. Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian is a short book but packs a lot of truth. Of course, I wanted to read it. Having chronic headaches makes me feel like quite the “sufferer”. The fact is, though, that life is full of suffering, even those of us born to middle class American families. It may not seem as big or bad as the suffering of those in third world countries or those in our country struggling with illness or other problems, but our suffering is real nonetheless. And this book helps us to face it head on and deal with it.
Tchividjian starts by making the point, as I noted above, that suffering is inevitable and it is serious, even that suffered by middle class Americans. He next moves on to remind us that our suffering is not part of a big payback and reward system. God wants to save us, not just make us feel better.
He also introduces the ideas of the “Theology of Glory” – working our way up to being good enough for God to take away our problems – and the “Theology of the Cross” – accepting the grace God has given us through Jesus’ finished work on the cross, including the grace to walk with us through suffering.
In the chapter “Suffering Honestly”, we are encouraged to face our suffering, but not to obsess over it. In fact, Tchividjian makes the point that the more we focus on what we are learning from a given situation, the more we become inwardly focused. When we do this, we start to think about how we should respond to suffering instead of focusing on Jesus.
Our tendencies in dealing with suffering are to either moralize it or minimize it. Moralizing suffering is the Christian version of karma – if we do all the right Christian things, God pays us back by taking away our suffering. Prosperity gospel at it’s finest! (And total bunk, by the way.) Minimizing suffering is our tendency to reduce or downplay our own suffering. In both minimizing and moralizing suffering, we’ve left God and his grace out of the equation, assuming we can manage on our own. But, we can’t.
I’m not going to tell you the entire conclusion – read the book!! Suffice it to say that the final answer to everything is the Gospel. Not a few selected verses, but Jesus. Our suffering brings us closer to Jesus and teaches us a new way to view the world.
So, get this book and read it. You will be glad you did.