Have you every asked the question, what is the point of my suffering?
I know that I have….
In 2013 I came down with a chronic illness which means I am in constant pain, I can’t sleep and my general health suffers as a result of this illness. When the doctors told me that there was nothing they could do, they can’t take away my pain, I did what every book worm would do; I dove into reading books on suffering, from Christian perspective.
The fellowship of the suffering is one of those books, it deals with suffering, our perception of suffering and some practical steps which have helped the authors as they have suffered.
My problem with many of the ‘suffering books’ that can be found on many bookshelves is that they have this kind of ‘it’ll all be ok, one day, just keep praying’ idea, whilst that is true, and I eagerly await my new creation body, it’s like giving Calpol to someone who has been shot.
It won’t help much.
One of the things that I like about this book is that the authors share their own stories of suffering, and they go beyond the physical. Often we focus on physical suffering but completely forget about emotional suffering by saying ‘it’s part and parcel of being in a fallen world’ whilst this is true we still need to care for people through their emotional suffering.
As with any book, I do not agree with everything that it says, but it is a helpful book that takes you through some of the ‘stages’ of suffering. One of the things the book does really well is that it explains how our suffering, as hard as it might be, can teach us things.
The authors pull on other materials and books written about suffering and use quotes from many different people, this is often a helpful thing because these quotes and footnotes can take you to the stories of other Christians that can leave a lasting impression on your life because of how they ‘suffered well’.
One of the things that the fellowship of the suffering does, which not every book on suffering does, is that it deals a lot with the Bible and how people in the Bible suffered. The Bible, in my mind and theology, is e first place that every Christian should go when thinking about any topic and it’s a joy to see that happening in this book more than in others that I’ve read.
If you are suffering, if you are in either physical or emotional pain run to God, turn to God and speak to someone. My wife has been my rock through my sufferings, and she continues to support me, find someone to talk to. Find a person who is willing to live with you in your pain and talk to them about the ups and downs, the good and the bad days, and call on the Lord together.
Would I recommend this book? Yes.
Does it give a whole new perspective on how to ‘suffer well’? No.
Does it point people to Jesus and encourage people to find their refuge in God? Yes.